Yoga

Yoga for Kids

Stephanie Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy

Why Try Yoga? Yoga means to Yoke or Unite. Uniting breath, body, mind, and spirit. Yoga is very therapeutic to both adults and children. Physically, it enhances flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition concentration, sense of calmness, relaxation improves and reduces anxiety. Learn more about yoga and tips to help you do yoga with your kiddo.

Precautions:

Always check with physician to see if any precautions need to be taken around performing yoga. While many kids with disabilities will need modifications, conditions that include extra/special precautions could include kids with scoliosis, hydrocephalus, post surgery/recovery from surgery, Down Syndrome, hypermobility, and many more.

Helpful Props to have available:

Bolsters, Blocks, Blankets, Stable chairs, Walls for balance. Mirrors may also help with body awareness initially, then fade out. Mirrors can also be very distracting to some kids, so note if it is appropriate and helpful or more distracting.

A folded blanket, low cushion, or fabric covered phone book can be used as a seat to elevate hips slightly to encourage healthy positioning of pelvis and prevent rounding of lower back.

Deep Breathing:

A big part of the magic of yoga comes from an emphasis on deep, conscious breathing. Deep breathing has many benefits including:

  • Increased alertness, while at the same time calming the body/mind through stimulating the Vegas nerve and thus the parasympathetic nervous system for rest and digest response
  • Increased oxygenation and health of cells;
  • Focuses the mind

Breathing Techniques

  • Lay down on back with hands on belly, allow belly to blow up like a balloon, expanding in all directions, even into floor beneath you, and emphasize letting out all the air
    • Encourage nose breathing as much as possible, warms and filters the air, facilitates deeper breathing
  • 3-part breathing: Inhale to fill belly, then lungs, then chest; then exhale from chest, lungs, then belly. Can move hands to feel the breath move into each area
Common Gentle Yoga postures to try:
  • Forward folds, seated and standing
  • CAT/COW
  • Cobra
  • Plank
  • Low Lunge to high Lunge as balance increases
  • Chair
  • Side Stretches
  • Warrior postures
  • Tree Pose
  • Downward Dog
  • Child’s Pose
  • Bridge
  • Easy side twists
  • Corpse Pose

With Body Scan:

While lying on back comfortably and warm, maybe with a blanket, encourage kids to close their eyes and scan and relax each body part, starting with toes and scanning and relaxing all the way to top of head.

Sites to Visit for examples of poses and yoga ideas:

Yoga Journal

The Kids Yoga Resource

Mind Body Green

Why Kids Need Yoga as Much as We Do

 Tips and Tools For Engagement:
  • Ensure kids are warm enough, and in comfortable clothes.
  • To increase body awareness and orientation in space, Draw pictures of postures, stick figures. Can start with dashed lines of figures for kids to trace and build up from there. Eventually draw a sequence that they will follow to link postures together. This will help facilitate a possible memorized yoga sequence.
  • Try using Yoga Deck Cards.
    • Can take turns drawing a card and performing posture
    • Hide cards around the house and perform each pose for 5 deep breaths (perform on each side when appropriate) when card is found
    • For animal postures: Make animal sounds.
      • Create a visit the zoo adventure similar to below
    • Create Adventure Sequences:
      • Example:

Warrior goes on an adventure, wake up and body scan, stretch full body, right, side, left side. Then full body stretch again; next feed the CAT/COW, then the Downward Dog, Warrior 2 to find out your path looking forward for one side (right leg forward) and back for other side (left leg forward), Warrior 3 bending forward to pick up the BOW,  don’t forget the other side; Climb the tree, and then the other side, get in the BOAT, go Under the BRIDGE, Seated Forward Fold to “dry” your toes, on belly fly in  LOCUST, then time for the  BOW,  return to back Twist to one side, then the other looking for animals (5 deep breaths each side).; Time for a rest, body scan and guided relaxation.

  • Check out Cosmic Kids Yoga on You Tube for more yoga adventure ideas and guidance
In a group:
  • Form a circle so kid can model other kids in postures.
  • One kid might take a turn assisting teacher to see if each kid is doing pose the same
  • Encourage a circled balance assist, as in tree pose- reach out to hold shoulders of person next to you.
  • As kids start to learn poses, can have them go around and show his/her favorite pose and all the others copy the pose
  • Again, as kids learn and memorize postures, try playing strike a pose and again hold for 5 seconds. Just be sure to strike the same pose on the other side when appropriate to ensure balancing out muscle work on each side of the body.
Timing:
  • Younger Kids might engage for 15-20 mins
  • Older kids might engage approx. 25-45 mins
  • To encourage holding the pose, count 5 deep breaths.
  • When balancing pose, pick a non-moving point to focus on the ground, then straight ahead as balance builds, then on ceiling when balance is strong
  • When non balancing, can have them pretend they are watching a bug crawl from one end of room to the other across the ceiling.

Overall, Be Safe and have Fun on the Yoga Adventure!

Written by Desiree Moores MOTR/L, RYT 500