Why Kids Should Do Yoga, and How to Practice as a Family
Although yoga is often depicted as a serious meditative practice done by adults or a fun-and-games activity for kids, there’s tremendous value in getting everyone involved, says Amber DiPietro, a NASM-certified trainer and E-RYT 500 yoga teacher. Especially these days, there’s so much to gain from yoga, for kids and parents alike.
“Yoga has an abundance of benefits whether you’re practicing solo or as a family,” she says. “It reduces stress and anxiety, improves focus and concentration, and can also lower blood pressure, improve sleep, increase energy, and provide muscle strength and flexibility.”
Why Is It Good For Kids To Do Yoga?
Yoga is good for the whole family. Research has indicated that in addition to the benefits DiPietro noted, yoga (for kids and teens alike) can boost self-esteem, memory, and mood. Teaching kids mindfulness and yoga can improve their quality of life.
That can translate to improvements in overall well-being and better stress management and behavior. Other research has connected a consistent yoga practice to improving symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, including inattentiveness and hyperactivity.
Teens can reap these benefits as well. A study on yoga for kids in high school found that after just a single class, participants showed decreases in anger, depression symptoms, and fatigue.
Of course, all of these advantages extend to adults as well. Doing yoga as a family creates the opportunity to get some quality time where everyone can connect, DiPietro says. You may even get to know each other a little better.
“As a parent, you get to see how your child learns and persists, and your child sees the power of a healthy lifestyle,” she notes. “Simply practicing breath exercises and finding synchronicity can grow a stronger bond.”
The Best Yoga Poses for Kids
A great intro to yoga for kids and the whole family is with a short, level 1 class on Yoga52. These can offer some excellent yoga poses for beginners, and you can choose the duration that can fit into everyone’s schedule. For example, do a 30-minute class but break it down over three days so you do just 10 minutes at a time.
That way, you can establish consistency and get into the habit of doing yoga together. A few yoga poses to try first include:
- Start on all fours, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees hip width or wider. Bring your big toes together.
- Exhale and sink your hips back toward your heels. Rest your belly between your thighs and your forehead on your mat.
- Extend your arms out in front of you (palms down, to stretch the whole back) or along your sides (palms up, to stretch between the shoulders).
- Stay for a few breaths up to a few minutes.
Inhale: Cow pose
- Get down on all fours, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your back flat, your gaze toward the floor, and your neck long.
- As you inhale, lift your tailbone and chest toward the ceiling while dropping your belly toward the mat.
- Keep your shoulders away from your ears, shoulder blades broad across your back, and your head in line with your torso.
- Exhale into cat pose.
Exhale: Cat pose
- Start in cow pose.
- As you exhale, round your back, tuck your tailbone, and curl your chin toward your chest.
- Keep your shoulders and knees in place.
- Inhale into cow pose.
- Repeat this flow for up to 10 breaths, or longer if desired.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
- Start on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips, and wrists a few inches forward of your shoulders. Point your fingertips forward and spread your fingers wide.
- On an exhale, tuck your toes, press into your hands, straighten your arms and legs, and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width apart.
- Rotate your shoulders outward to avoid scrunching them. Keep your arms straight, and engage your biceps to keep your elbows from locking out. Look back at your toes and keep your ears in line with your arms.
- Hold the pose for 1 minute.
How to Progress in Your Family Practice
Whether you’re doing yoga as a family, as a parent-kid combo, or seeing your older child or teenager trying some solo yoga practices, it’s likely that as you get more comfortable with yoga, you’ll want to keep adding poses.
“When you’re ready to up the challenge, you may want to try some higher-level Yoga52 classes,” says Brent Laffoon, a Yoga52 trainer and one of the world’s most respected yoga instructors. “Even if you and your kids can’t do every pose or sequence, it’s fun to explore different options,” he says.
Plus, you can tweak the poses, make and even invent some of your own based on basic yoga poses. Being creative as a family is just one more way to make yoga “for kids” into a joyful activity for everyone.
“Spread your wings a little,” says Laffoon. “Make sure you’re keeping up the level of enthusiasm and enjoyment, and putting in a bit of challenge can do that and keep it fresh.”