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Empowering Children In Yoga

By: Mary Kathryn Craft

Yoga, like many activities, can be a new and unfamiliar experience to children. The foundation of your class and the attitude you bring to students can impact their experience. I have a few key points that I make at the beginning of each class, one being that you are the boss of your body.

Yoga translates to 'yoke', essentially the union, of body and mind. Empowering a childs mental and physical experience during class can aid social &emotional development and their formation of identity. A large part of children's experience is going with Mom, Dad or Guardian and being taken from one place to another. Yoga is an example of children having autonomy over their body. They can reach up high or down low! How far can they float their leg in Warrior 3?

Empowering the body can be felt through physical practice and breath work. Through that experience, you can then stimulate the mind. Empowering a child's mind is most accessible through creativity and imagination. Using poses, stories and activities can combine the physical and mental empowerment important for a child's positive growth. Incorporate ideas below to your class curriculum!

  1. Sun Salutation A Painting: Combine this classic Sun A sequence with imaginative movements and colors. Starting in mountain pose, imagine there's a paint brush in each hand, ask the students what colors they'd like to paint with today. Reach up high with your brushes and paint the sky, then slowly paint down and color your toes! Half lift, paint your knees. Plant your paintbrushes down and step back high plank. Cobra paint your armpits! Press up downward dog, froggy jump feet to hands. Grab your paint brushes and reach alllll the way up to the sky. Bring your hands down to heart center and paint your chest. Repeat this sequence as many times as you'd like, maybe switching out colors or shaking all the paint off to end the activity.

  2. Lions Breath: This pranayama is very kid friendly and a heat building breath practice. Set the scene for children as lions in the wild grasslands of Africa, even crawling around on their mats or incorporating cat cows. In an easy seat with hands on knees, direct students to inhale through their nose and then exhale stick out their tongue and make a loud lion roar! Repeat a few times.

  3. Yoga Story with Balancing Postures: Balancing postures are a great opportunity to introduce perseverance to children. Incorporating a creative story about flying or hot lava will enthrall children. If class permits, you can encourage students to look to their neighbor for a hand to help balance! Communicate with children that balancing postures often have 2 sides and one might be more challenging or easier than the other. Introduce compassion and patience into this conversation to allow awareness of the body and growth in yoga practice.

  4. The Power of Voice: Establish class as a safe space for children to ask questions, be curious and share their voice. I always incorporate an activity where children use their voice to speak opinion. Pass around a breathing ball or bell and have them guide the class in a breath followed by a prompt for the class to answer. Examples; Describe how you feel in your body today using weather, What do you love about yourself? What makes someone a good friend? What makes you feel strong?

Empowering children is vital to a positive physical and mental yoga practice! Build strong kids for an optimistic future.

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