Russell Simmons

Family Yoga

Yoga is such an important part of life for many people, it’s no wonder parents would like to share the benefits of yoga with their children.  Children today are busier than ever with school, structured activities, homework, sports, and other interests. Most young children are constantly engaged and connected thanks to an over-abundance of screen time.  Factor in less time for recess and unstructured play and it’s no wonder today’s kids are more likely to be stressed, anxious, and pressured. When children are given the tools to calm themselves, relax their minds, and reconnect with the world around them, they benefit physically and mentally.  Children who practice yoga regularly have increased physical awareness and improved flexibility and strength.

But how to get your children to practice yoga along with you?  If the last thing you need is one more class or event to fit into your schedule, the good news is you can introduce your children to yoga at home.  Because kids can be resistant to Mom or Dad’s ideas and may not always feel cooperative, here are six tips to help your children love yoga so you can successfully create a fun and healthy routine for the whole family.

  1. Make it easy for the whole family to be a part of your yoga routine.  Instead practicing yoga when the kids are sleeping or out of the house, bring the yoga mat into the family room or back yard.  Practice yoga where the kids can see you and join in — or not. If your child follows along for a couple of poses before running off to color, read a book, or play with trains, that’s absolutely fine.  You are setting an example and showing your child that yoga is an important and enjoyable part of the day.
  2. Make it fun!  Young children in particular love repetition and silliness.  Turn yoga into a game or challenge to keep kids engaged and interested.  Many poses are named for animals and provide the perfect opportunity for playfulness.  Meow while in Cat Pose, make a fish face in Fish Pose, and bark like a puppy during Downward Dog.  Ask your child if she can count to ten while holding a Tree Pose, then count backwards from ten while in Chair Pose.  Play fun music and open yourself up to laughing with your child!
  3. Let your child lead.  Everyone likes to be in charge from time to time, and children are no exception.  Ask your child what his favorite poses are and incorporate them into your family yoga sessions.  If your child wants to throw in a cartwheel or a handstand, tell her to go for it and join in. The goal is to create an experience the child will want to repeat in the future.  Yoga should feel like recess, not school.
  4. Keep it age appropriate.  When doing anything with children, it is so important to manage your expectations based on the child’s age.  Your two year old is incapable of behaving like anything other than a two year old, while your eight year old can stay focused much longer and follow more complex directions.  Know your audience and tailor the experience accordingly.
  5. Choose your timing wisely.  Even on their best days, children have much less self control than adults.  Skip nap time or wait too long between meals and you’re just asking for a rebellious, whiny meltdown.  If your child has a difficult time winding down at bedtime, it might be a good time to go through some meditative, relaxing poses.  Extra energy to burn off after school? Focus on athletic poses set to fun music with plenty of improvisation and laughs.
  6. It’s not personal!  If, in spite of your best efforts, your children show lackluster interest in participating in your yoga routine, don’t take it personally.  Keep at it, welcome them when they want to join in, and don’t criticize when they don’t. Look at the endeavor as a long term project and keep the mood relaxed and enjoyable.  Even if your child doesn’t fully participate each time, he or she is learning from watching you prioritize your health and well being.