Teaching children Yoga is both easy and difficult. Easy because of obvious reasons. Children are naturally flexible and they love to twist and tumble and can easily throw up their legs or plant their hands on the floor and attempt a shoulder stand. The thought of doing a headstand is entrancing. And they will think nothing of the number of times they fall just so they can balance on their heads.
For these very reasons, it’s extremely important that they be guided on how to safely horse around.
Now here comes the difficult part. Do you think they are going to sit around quietly listening to boring instructions?
Chances are they will zone out as you try and instruct them. So, you will have to find ways to engage them and get them interested in what you are saying. All the serious stuff that you know you must impress upon them will have to be camouflaged.
So how best to teach children?
First and foremost take their age into account. The younger they are, the more difficult it will be to get them to be serious about postures. However, since most Yoga poses resemble familiar shapes and animals, the easiest way to get the 6-10 age group interested is by weaving the poses into a story and keep moving them along through different shapes.
Children entering their teens are best suited to begin Yoga on a serious note. If one is able to engage their interest, then Yoga could develop into a lifelong commitment for them.
Just as for adults Yoga offers a number of benefits to children. Some of these pertain to improved concentration and focus, better memory and eyesight. For older children trying to juggle exams with extra-curricular activities Yoga can help channelize the stress they are bound to feel. Yoga can also help in helping children manage their emotions better. Feelings of inadequacy, frustration, anger can all be channelized when they are guided to focus on attaining a pose and trying to maintain it.
Slipping in some deep breathing after they have gone through a sequence of complex poses is the best way to introduce them to Pranayama practices. A final few minutes spent in meditation and then a relaxing Yoga Nidra in the corpse pose (Shavasana) are bound to help them feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
A very simple Vinyasa sequence for children
Here’s a simple sequence that is effective for both beginners and those seeking to build a regular practice. Vinyasa refers to a sequence of postures that flow into each other.
If you are leading the group of children as a parent or as an instructor, do ensure that all the children are using high-quality Yoga mats that have a good grip. And see how you can introduce a fun element into the sequence by narrating a story with the shapes being formed or by stirring a competitive spirit in the group.
So let’s start.
Stand up tall on the mat. Take a couple of deep breaths. Here’s what that should look like.
Chest expands, collar bones move up, and finally the stomach too expands. Then exhale. Belly goes in, chest goes down and so do the collar bones. Get younger kids to fill their bellies and balloon them out, before giving the belly a pretend prick to get all the air whooshing out.
Now stand up tall in mountain pose or Tadasana. Who is Mount Everest here?
Begin with hands by the sides, before raising them up over the head. Neck must be in neutral position.
From this position, slowly start folding forward from the hips to bring the arms down so that the palms touch the ground.
From here, bend the knees, and let the palms of both hands spread out flat on the mat, before walking the palms out towards the head of the mat. We are now in Adho Mukho Svanasana or downward facing dog. Keep breathing.
From here, move the palms forward so that the body is balanced in a straight line from head to toe on one’s hands and feet. Neck is elongated, with eyes looking down. Who can hold this plank variation longest? (Now go ahead and award the one who drops down to the belly first!!!)
Lie flat on the belly. With palms by the sides of the shoulder, raise the head and neck in Cobra or Bhujangasana. Which cobra is the deadliest?
From here one could ask the children to drop the elbows to where the hands are situated. With palms either extended in front of the mat get into a Sphinx pose, or just cup the chin, elbows propping up one’s head and shoulders. Both poses give the neck a good stretch.
Come back down and take a break in Makarasana or Crocodile pose. Here one crosses both arms to form a cradle for the head. Turn the head towards the palm that one has placed on top. After a minute, switch palms and turn the face in the other direction. Breathe.
Now ask them to turn onto their backs. Slide the feet towards the buttocks, knees pointing upwards. Rest the palms of the hands by the hips. Slowly lift the buttocks off the mat in bridge posture or Setu Bandhasana. Who will achieve the taller bridge? The one who is able to arch his or her back better. Make sure you take note that their knees and feet are aligned in a straight line without an exaggerated bend in the knees.
Slowly lower down and extend the legs to rest in Shavasana or corpse pose.
Now bend the knees and bring them towards the chest. Wrap the arms around the knees and lift up the neck to touch the nose to the knees in Pawanmuktasana or the wind-relieving pose. Translating the name of the pose should get everyone giggling.
Now extend the legs and rest the arms by the sides. Close your eyes and relax.
Pratimoksha Enlighten Yoga Center Dubai offers Yoga for children and teenagers. Get in touch with us for more information.