9 Ways to Get Kids Off the Couch and Onto the Mat


9 Ways to Get Kids Off the Couch and Onto the Mat

By: Lisa Truesdale

The other day, when I was entering the rec center for a class, I passed a woman who was just heading out. She had a long blond ponytail, and over her shoulder was a purple yoga bag with her mat strapped underneath. Following close behind her was her adorable “mini me”—a little girl, about 5 or 6, with a long blond ponytail, toting a rolled-up pink yoga mat almost as big as she was.

It was sort of an “Awwwww…” moment for me, because it was just so cute the way the daughter looked just like a smaller version of her mom. But I suspect it’s also a sight that isn’t that unusual these days, because yoga for kids is a growing trend in the fitness industry. Kid-focused yoga organizations and studios are popping up all over the place. I found “mommy and me” (or “daddy and me”) yoga classes on just about every fitness-center schedule I could find when I got home later that day. Schools are even starting to offer yoga in the classroom and during P.E. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Health experts believe it mainly has to do with much less active play for kids and much more couch-surfing and video games. Gone are the days when kids could head outside to play in the morning, run around all day and not come back until dinnertime—and it shows.

As a proven leader in the yoga industry, Gaiam recognized the need for products to help kids get interested—and stay interested—in yoga.

“Research shows us that yoga helps build concentration, coordination, and mindfulness,” says Susan Haney, SVP and GMM at Gaiam. “Yoga is a fun way to children to develop these important skills in a creative, non-competitive environment.”

In July, Gaiam announced the release of their new Yoga for Kids product collection, and it was an instant hit. The yoga mats are sized just for kids (and easier for them to carry), and they’re splashed with bright, engaging colors and patterns. The colorful water bottles make staying hydrated more fun. There are also yoga socks and headbands, backpacks that can hold a mat, and Stay-and-Play Balls that promote healthy posture.

Because not everyone can make it to a class, Gaiam also released two special DVD programs just for kids ages 5-10, both led by children’s yoga expert Jodi Komitor. “Outer Space Blastoff” lets little ones virtually visit the planets of the solar system through yoga, with fun activities like “warming up like the sizzling-hot Venus” and “standing tall and still like the volcanoes on Mars.” “Dino-Mite Adventure” features dinosaur-related activities, like curling up like a dino egg then hatching and growing into a roaring baby brontosaurus.

Besides enticing your kids with fun and colorful yoga accessories, here are some other proven methods for getting them off the couch and onto the mat with you:

  1. Lead By Example. If they see you practicing regularly—and having fun doing it—they’ll want to get in on the action, too.
  2. Teach Breathwork. Proper breathing techniques are important for yoga and also for calming down and staying centered. Try this: Get a feather and see how long your child can keep it afloat with just their breath.
  3. Follow Their Lead. You don’t want them to get bored, so if they don’t like a pose, or are frustrated that they can’t do it, find another. There are no rules about which poses they have to do or for how long.
  4. Get Wild. Many poses are named after animals, so let kids do their own silly imitations of the animal during the pose. They can bark like a dog, meow like a cat, moo like a cow—and make up their own sounds and movements for quieter animals like the cobra and the camel.
  5. Challenge Them. Try a “freeze game” where kids have to hold a pose until the music stops; grab their favorite stuffed animal and see how long they can balance it on their arm, head or back; or designate a “pose of the day” each evening at bedtime and see if they can maintain the pose while brushing their teeth, combing their hair, etc.
  6. Reward Them. We make deals with ourselves when we reach certain fitness goals, so it’s okay to also reward kids (within reason). After a focused (and fun) yoga session, let them choose the park to go play at, the healthy snack to eat or the story to read.
  7. Make Up Names! Teach them a pose they don’t know the name of, and let them tell you what it reminds them of. Even if they learn the official name of the pose, they’ll have fun referring to it by the name they chose.
  8. Make Up Stories! Write down a series of 5-10 poses with animal and nature names that you can do together. Then help them make up a story about the sequence.
  9. Better Yet, Let Them Make Up Their Own Poses! Have kids tell you their five favorite storybook, TV or movie characters, then help them make up poses based on the personalities of those characters. For instance, a pose depicting Elsa from Frozen with her arm outstretched, turning everything to ice, or a series of poses showing how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles emerge from their sewer to fight crime.

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