Children naturally gravitate to yoga because of its interesting pose names, possibilities for fun challenges and ability to help them relax. To help kids enjoy the benefits of yoga as much as possible, teach activities in a non-demanding manner, keeping a list of alternate games in mind in case students get bored. Also, because most kids' yoga classes are between 30 to 45 minutes long, brief activities (about five to 10 minutes per game) are best.
Kids love to learn new yoga poses. Try going on location as a tool to teach new asanas. For example, teach poses that relate easily to a child's daily or familiar life. Use Downward Facing Dog (body in inverted letter 'v' shape--hands on ground, stand on balls of feet) as the base pose. Move to Cat and Cow (start on hands and knees--round the back toward the ceiling for Cat and press the belly to the floor for Cow), then to Dead Bug (lie on back, reach hands between the legs and grab ankles). Chair (from standing, bend knees then sink hips back--reaching for an imaginary seat), Tree (from standing, bring one foot to the inside of the opposite leg--above or below the knee, then raise arms toward the sky like branches) and Pigeon (like splits but with one leg folded out in front of the body, shin parallel to the top-edge of mat as much as possible) make great additions to the list as well.
For adventurous kids, use Locust (lie on stomach, lift feet and chest off the floor then raise arms out to the sides or out in front of the body) as the next base pose, but call it "Super Kid" instead. Have children fly around the world to new locations like the desert, where they learn Crow (place hands on floor, knees on back of the upper arms then try to get both feet off the ground), Camel (stand on knees then bring hands to each side of the lower back--press elbows toward each other and bend upper body slightly back) and Cobra (lie on stomach, bring elbows to each side of the chest by the ribs--pull shoulders away from ears then lift chest off the ground by using lower back muscles). They can even fly into the ocean to learn Dolphin (like Downward Dog but with elbows on floor instead of hands), Fish (lie on back--slide hands, palms down, under the hips then arch the upper body toward the ceiling and bring the crown of the head lightly to the floor) and Turtle (start in straddle with knees bent, then slide arms under the knees and reach arms around the body, trying to clasp hands together behind the back).
Children might enjoy a yoga class where they can make up their own yoga poses. Give kids a moment to think of a new pose that they want to teach, then let them demonstrate and teach it to the other kids. Or, call out made-up pose names like Moose, Venus Fly Trap or Half Hippo Half Bird, for example, and then let the kids get into what they think the pose should look like.
Children also like storytelling linked into a yoga class. Read or tell a story and have students get into relevant yoga poses along the way.
Playing Yoga Games
Many common playground games are useful in a kids' yoga class setting. Adapt Four Corners, for example, with each corner working as a station for a different yoga pose. Kids have to hold the pose until the teacher calls the next number.
Use a variation of Freeze Tag in a similar way. Children run randomly around the room. The yoga teacher calls out, "freeze!" Kids must get into a yoga pose of their choosing or the teacher can call one out. Watch students and tag the first person to lose their balance as the next "it". Games such as Duck, Duck Goose, Simon Says or Mother May I adapt easily to a yoga class in similar ways.
Many instructors like yoga pose card decks, which often include game ideas. For example, have students sit in a circle. Give one card to each student. They do the pose, then pass the card to the next kid. The cards pass around until everyone finishes all the poses.
Use partner yoga poses to teach kids balance and cooperation. Kids can lean their foundational sides (the side that the body is balanced on) next to each other in Tree or Standing Pigeon (stand on one leg, then cross one ankle just above the opposite knee--sink hips toward the ground). Get kids into Warrior III (from standing, raise one leg back, then lean forward until the torso is parallel to the ground) and have them reach arms straight out until they can hold the hands of their buddy. Let them bring the bottoms of their feet together during Boat Pose (body makes a 'v' shape: start seated with knees bent and feet on floor--keep the back straight, then lean back until feet come off the floor), or perform twists back to back with kids reaching one hand to their opposite knee and the other to their partner's knee.
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