Weâ€™ve all been there â€“ well, more so those of us that are parents â€“ you finally find twenty minutes to yourself to relax, unwind, and get a bit of your yoga practice in. You unroll your mat, get into a gentle seated position to start and then â€¦
â€śI wanna do yoda!â€ť
â€śOoohhh can I do yoghurt too?!â€ť
Adjust phrasing as necessary, my kids might be younger than yours. But Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s a similar scenario. You imagine a nice quiet yoga practice, the kids want to get in on it, and suddenly itâ€™s not so peaceful and quiet â€¦ but, why not let them join in?
After all, we all need to start somewhere.
And start somewhere we must. Kids, and young kids especially, have a thirst for learning, an untamed imagination and (seemingly) endless amounts of energy. If you think about it, they are the perfect candidates for yoga.
But teaching your kids yoga is not all about imitating animals. As a parent you want to inspire health, character, strength and coping mechanisms in your children.
To learn yoga is to learn awareness of your body â€“ physically it can improve your strength, coordination and flexibility. Mentally it can improve your concentration, sense of calmness and a connection to the inner self.
So how do we go about teaching them?
Make it visual
Especially with young children, those that are just learning to walk and talk â€¦ it might be hard to make a connection between the word and the pose, in this way, visual learning is key.
It can also be hard for kids (at any age) to sit still, so donâ€™t take too long between poses. Make it a game, make it fun â€“ imitate nature; the rocks, trees, mountains, flowers, and also different kinds of animals with your body.
Young kids learn through repetition, doing a small amount of poses a lot of times will help kids remember what theyâ€™ve learnt. Donâ€™t be afraid to go back to things youâ€™ve already covered, it will help in the long run.
Be vocal, and when you can, turn talk into song
Talking is not always easy when youâ€™re young, and often it can be hard to understand others â€¦ make it fun instead of frustrating with some animal noises and songs. After all, itâ€™s going to be a lot easier to find your way into a tree pose by singing, â€śIf youâ€™re happy and you know it be a Treeâ€¦â€ť, or â€śOld Macdonald had a cow, ee I ee I ohâ€¦â€ť
Youth push boundaries, itâ€™s a fact that we all know and rely on â€“ have firm boundaries in your practice, just like in life; respect each other, listen when someone is talking, stay safe.
Make sure you have everyoneâ€™s attention before enforcing your boundaries, and make sure everyone is aware if they donâ€™t respect the boundaries, they donâ€™t get to practice.
Make it a game
And be sure to get in on the fun with your children! No one will want to sit out if youâ€™re there having a ball as well!
Pretend youâ€™re trapped on a deserted island, maybe you could become a boat or a bridge to get off the island? Or transform into a dolphin and swim away through the waves.
Pretend youâ€™re in a jungle, what sort of animals do we see there? Maybe a cobra, or a lion â€“ stick out your tongue and give your loudest roar! Can you bend over and touch the ground like a big gorilla? Or sit on your bottom and lift your feet into the sky like a big brown bear?
Practice what you preach
Kids love to imitate us, so if your child sees you doing yoga, they will want to copy you.
If they donâ€™t want to do all of the poses that you are doing, then let them join in on yours â€“ running under your downward dog (without touching you) as many times as they can before you move to your next pose or have them lay on your back in plank pose (adds more of a challenge for you as well!). Let them stand beside you in mountain pose or become a warrior. Breathe together.
Donâ€™t ever force yoga onto your child â€“ it will have the opposite effect that you are after â€“ and if they donâ€™t want to stick around for your whole practice thatâ€™s okay, be grateful for what they achieve this time, and the next time it might be for longer.
Different ways to engage your kids and make yoga fun
Draw that pose
Have either yourself or a child get into a pose, something simple to hold like downward dog or tree pose, and then the other person(s) will draw the pose on a piece of paper using simple lines â€“ it doesnâ€™t have to be a masterpiece. Extra points for difficult poses like Lord of the Dance or Crow!
Simon Says for yoga! â€śSimon says â€¦ stretch your back like a cat â€¦ now moo like a cow â€¦ oops I didnâ€™t say Simon saysâ€¦â€ť You get the idea.
A game like musical chairs, but when the music stops you donâ€™t sit down â€¦ you strike a pose! Whoever is in charge of the music calls out a yoga pose, and everyone else has to hold that pose until the music starts again. Use simple poses if need be.
So, go on, try yoga with your kids today. They might surprise you, and themselves!
If you need help or some ideas on how to get started with your young ones there are plenty of resources online, and simple books aimed at making yoga easy and fun for kids. There are even kidâ€™s yoga classes if you want to get out of your living room (or wherever you happen to practice) and get your kids involved, you might even meet some new yoga parent/children buddies!