By: Erika Prafder
At times, we all need someone or something to lean on. Reaching out for and accepting support—in its many forms—is a great life skill to impart to children.
Kids’ yoga offers an opportunity to introduce this concept, particularly through the use of props.
For both kids and adults, such aids can be used to make certain poses more attainable, to assist in flexibility, to strengthen the core, and for restorative yoga work.
For teachers or parents using props, bear in mind that, upon seeing such out-of-the-ordinary objects, kids’ curiosity and playfulness is heightened.
“Kids can become very distracted initially and want to do their own thing with props,” says Susan Verde, kids’ mindfulness and yoga teacher. “Knowing this, it’s easier to accept and to stay calm if things get a bit out of hand. To preempt possible chaos, “I tell the children ahead of time that we are using a prop and why and then give them two minutes of free time to explore it, advising them how to do so safely.”
When you’ve finished using props, encourage kids to return them to where they belong in a respectful manner. And, if used in a studio, tell young yogis that others in the community utilize the gear as well. Knowing this should instill accountability and a pride in children and a desire to treat them with care. With that in mind, here are four props to help kids with their practice.
Straps can be great for those who are less flexible, as they can accomplish a deeper stretch or ease you in to a more complex asana. Laying on your back, loop your strap around your foot and gradually pull your leg towards your head to stretch and lengthen.
Blocks are effective for enhancing your posture in a seated position. Breathing is less inhibited also, when the spine is elongated and not hunched over. “For challenging poses like Half-Moon or Extended Side Angle, kids can put their hands on a block on the ground and balance more easily, and as a result, they gain confidence,” says Verde. “In a group, you can sit in a circle in boat pose and pass a block around with feet only, which strengthens your core and leads to many giggles. In Plow pose, you can pass the blocks overhead for an extended stretch. This works great as a bonding activity, too.”
Blankets are wonderful for padding up during Camel, Hero’s or Pigeon pose, too, providing just enough cushion for your legs and hips. To open up the chest or heart, you can roll one up bolster-style and lay back on it. In savasana, “Kids love to cover themselves up,” says Verde. “It helps to block out what’s going on around them. The calm and protective feeling a blanket offers, especially for a child who has suffered trauma, helps kids to find stillness more easily at the end of a class.”
The feeling of weight on your body can be pleasantly grounding and help foster a connection to the earth. “Some kids have more trouble than others being still or feeling connected to their bodies and their environment,” says Verde. “Sandbags on your feet during Legs Up the Wall pose help to make that connection and increase focus and sense of strength. In savasana, sandbags laid across the upper thighs are again grounding, and can help children to calm their minds and bodies and relax.”