As part of my New Year's resolutions to get up and finally lose this baby weight, I've been doing Jillian Michaels' "Yoga Meltdown" DVD. My six-year-old daughter woke up and decided to join me.
As I'm grunting and sweating, all I hear from her is, "Yoga's such a great way to start the day," as she moves effortlessly into tree pose. "This is so easy, Mommy," she says during downward dog. "Don't worry, Mommy, the more you do it, the better you'll get," as she moves into warrior pose. Meanwhile, I'm shaking and stumbling my way through it.
She's been doing yoga since she was 3 and loves it. Her preschool teacher told us parents that they'd be doing yoga in class before naptime and that if we'd like, we could continue the practice at home so the kids could feel really comfortable doing it. Ever since then, my daughter has been an intense yogi, wanting to practice whenever and wherever she gets a chance.
I didn't realize that yoga for kids was a real thing until recently. A recent article in Yoga Journal says the number of schools offering some form of yoga instruction in their curriculum has risen dramatically in recent years, mostly as a way to offer an alternative form of physical education and also to improve the focus of children who are living in an increasingly test-driven world.
In 2003 researchers studied of the effects of yoga classes among students in grades K through 8. The students showed improvements in self-esteem, flexibility, strength, and relaxation. Yoga can help by giving them the benefit of learning self-control and how to relax by breathing deeply.
Lynda Meeder, a school counselor, said that having yoga classes available at her school has been invaluable. "It brings a sense of calm to the classroom," she says. "Kids are so stressed out. They tell me this is the one time they have to relax."
Yoga's gaining in popularity because it’s easy to learn and modify to your particular activity level. It’s also cheap—all you need is open space and bare feet. It doesn’t take long; you don’t have to go anywhere to do it.
Sounds good, right? If you want to add yoga to your child's routine, here's what you need to know:
1. Practice your poses in an area that's clear of sharp points and tripping hazards. A trip to the ER is not relaxing at all.
2. Always do yoga barefoot on a mat, a rug, or grass to prevent slipping and to soften falls. Wear comfortable clothing.
3. Make sure both you and your child stay within your comfort level during stretches. Rest when you need to, and stop if you feel any pain.
4. Limit yoga to about 5-10 minutes. It will be too frustrating to try to get a child to concentrate for much longer and the last thing we want is more frustration!
Here's a few poses that should be easy for you and your child to do together!
Pose #1: Butterfly pose – This pose opens your hips and your lower back. It can be difficult to lower the knees toward the floor, but you will be able to work up to it. Ask them to close their eyes and pretend they are a beautiful butterfly. Have them “flap” their laps like wings.
Pose #2: Downward dog – This is one of the classic yoga poses and it has a multitude of benefits. It stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, hands, arms and legs and also – a huge bonus for moms – helps alleviate fatigue! It is okay if the heels of your feet don’t reach the floor at first – as you stretch and lengthen your muscles, you’ll find this pose easier to do.
Pose #3: Child’s pose – The ultimate in relaxation poses. It's designed specifically to combat stress and fatigue, which makes it easy to see why this one is so popular. Ask your kids, “"Did you feel your knees pushing on your belly? This pose helps your belly digest food better!"
Pose #4: Corpse pose – End with this relaxing pose. (Make sure you don’t fall asleep!) It seems deceptively easy (it’s just laying on the floor, right?), but it takes concentration to truly let your body relax and let your back, hips, legs, and chest sink into the floor. As they do this with you, ask your kids to focus on their belly rising and falling. Teach them how to breathe in slowly through their nose and out slowly through their nose.
You can also make up your own yoga poses with your child. Try a snake pose, where you slither like a snake or an elephant pose, where you use your arms to make an elephant’s trunk. Let your imagination run free!
When you are done with the yoga poses, come to your feet and say “Namaste” to each other. It means, “The light in me recognizes the light in you.” Or, in other words, “we are all special.”
Tara Pringle Jefferson is the founder of TheYoungMommyLife.com and the author of Make It Happen: The Young Mommy Guide To Creating The Career You Crave. Follow her on Twitter or check out her blog for her insights on what it means to be a mom, wife, student, writer, and about three other labels she’s too tired to remember.