While school districts debate the definition of Namaste, our younger generation is living through their prime years for absorbing information and instilling lifelong healthy habits.
If it doesn’t fall on the curriculum, it is the responsibility of you, as the parent (or guardian), and the rest of society, to teach your children everything else they need to know before entering the world beyond the classroom.
Luckily, we have the internet.
If your child asks “What is Yoga?” are you able to give them a complete or personal answer?
In the nature of yoga and expressing myself honestly, and as a quick disclaimer: I am not a parent. However, I do teach yoga to children, and am utilizing technology to share the various techniques I have learned.
By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you will have the tools you need to begin teaching your children yoga as you watch your personal journey unfold.
As I suggest in the beginning of class, and as you start your day, set an intention.
My intention is to share different techniques so people around the world can incorporate yoga into their daily lives. I hope providing resources and simple tools will encourage healthy, peaceful children and happy home lives.
Here’s a few reasons why you might want to teach your children yoga:
- Yoga teaches tolerance, self acceptance, and;
- Embraces inclusion.
- Boosts emotional intelligence and creativity.
- Introduces mindfulness practices.
- Encourages healthy habits.
- Enhances concentration.
- Provides a variety of calming techniques.
- Develops strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance.
- Instills discipline.
- Reduces impulsivity.
- Promotes self-awareness.
- Supports positive mental health.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
— Viktor Frankl
5 Ways To Teach Your Children Yoga Every Day
If your local studio doesn’t offer a Kids Yoga Class yet, or if your busy-schedule has kept you from making it to one regularly, take a deep breathe. I see you, I hear you, I appreciate you taking the time to learn techniques to teach your children yoga.
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Take another deep breathe. You may want to read that again.
Yes, you are capable of teaching your children yoga.
Yoga is a continuous journey, and if you choose to share it by teaching yoga to your children, it will unfold a new layer of your relationship. Please respect your child’s boundaries on their mat, and offer them a safe and sacred experience.
1. Teach your children to show up as they are
I recently received a piece of advice that has since changed my life. I was mentored to “teach from where you are”, and now I am encouraging you to do the same.
You don’t have to wait until you’ve completed 30 days of Yoga, or finish reading the Bhagavad Gita, before you start sharing your practice.
Illustrate to your children how to step onto your mat each day without any expectations.
Your yoga mat is there to support you; it has distinct boundaries that offer stability, comfort, and a space for release when you need it. Your yoga mat never criticizes or judges your practice; it encourages progress, not perfection. Teach your children what your mat has taught you.
Your children may simply witness you closing your eyes and catching your breath. Yoga can help you teach your children how to manage their emotions.
As you begin to maneuver through postures and discover the strengths of your individual body, it can illustrate to your children to do the same. Your bodies will be vastly different from one another, which could open up discussions on the power of positive self-talk.
2. Teach them to ground
- Ground yourself first
- Stay on the ground
- Repeat (as often as necessary)
Especially if you are using this time to practice for yourself, it is important to ground before you teach. You will be a better yogi, teacher, and dare-i-say parent from it. The more often you complete the exercises, the easier they will be in the future (tossing life-lessons around like free candy at a parade right now).
Consider finding a way to distract your child while you take this time for yourself. For example: set them up with a mindful art project, or use their nap-time as your down-time.
Learning how to ground
There are numerous ways to ground. For example:
- Listen to a guided meditation
- Visualize energy flowing through your chakras
- Move your body to your favorite Yogi Playlist
If your child doesn’t seem to be interested in the techniques above, don’t be too surprised. (That was just an extra treat for you).
Here are some tools to teach your children yoga while grounding:
- Read a children’s yoga book together
- Take a mindful barefoot walk
- 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
- Practice Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and imagine your roots growing into the earth
- Chant mantras
Making positive suggestions to your child about when they can utilize these tools in their daily life will be extremely beneficial to them (i.e. before tests in school, during meltdowns, after waking up from nightmares).
3. Show your children how to use their resources
Your scrolling finger can be a powerful tool when it is used mindfully. Articles claiming they will teach your children how to lead healthier lives are resources that support Yoga Philosophy without directly stating it.
If you are unfamiliar with the Yoga Sutras, or Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga, here is a simplified version to act as a guide as you begin to teach your children yoga:
- Yama: Moral code- be kind to others (non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy, non-greed)
- Niyama: Moral code- be kind to yourself (cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, surrender)
- Asana: Postures practiced in yoga class
- Pranayama: Breath-work
- Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana: Concentration
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi: Enlightenment
“For those who have an intense urge for Spirit and wisdom, it sits near them, waiting.” — Patanjali
4. Encourage them to ask questions
Whether or not you were familiar with the philosophy of Yoga before this article, questions may have arose when the “peaceful practice” started getting banned from being taught in schools.
If your child’s friends start chanting OM, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, after school one day, do you know what they are saying? Will you ever know if you don’t ask the questions for yourself?
(Hint: it means “Peace”)
It is natural to ask questions; it fosters learning and supports the growth mindset.
If your child’s questions ever become too much, remember to take a few deep breaths, and then start asking some of your own:
What would Butterfly pose look like to you? How about Warrior? Crow? How does your body look like when you feel scared versus calm? Which foods make you feel healthy and strong?
5. Lead by example
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced yogi, I encourage you to start having a home practice.
Make an effort to practice consistently; if you don’t own a yoga mat, use a beach towel. Perhaps you spend twenty minutes laying on your back in Savasana listening to a guided meditation today, and tomorrow you crank up the Indian Mantras Yoga playlist and sing along once you can.
Even if you don’t step onto your mat at all, you can still teach your children yoga.
Practice the 4 Paths of Yoga
Here are some ideas for executing each of the 4 Paths of Yoga with your children:
1. Bhakti Yoga — “Path of Devotion”
Decorate a space in your home dedicated to meditation, create a home-altar to represent a loved on, set aside time to honor your faith, practice devotional rituals such as singing or chanting, express gratitude, discuss sacrifice and self-discipline.
2. Karma Yoga — “Path of Action”
Selfless service to others, set positive daily intentions, volunteer at the local food bank, discuss empathy and suggest making friends with the new student at school, talk about what Karma means to you.
3. Raja Yoga — “Royal Path”
Practice Patanjali’s 8 limbs of Yoga to maintain a healthy balance in your lifestyle, set healthy sleeping and eating patterns, use good time-management while planning, practice a variety of breathing exercises, meditations, and postures.
4. Jnana Yoga — “Path of Knowledge”
Set aside time for various studies, focus on each of the senses, teach your children about climate change, exercise the brain with memory games, discuss intuition.
A varied practice will teach your children to go with the flow of life, if they haven’t figured that one out already.
Look within; but also around.
Educate yourself on the world around you, and learn about different cultures. Teach your children to respect and nurture their bodies. Teach your children to become the best possible versions of themselves. It is then, that you will have taught your children yoga.
A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history
— Mahatma Gandhi
How does teaching your children yoga differ from your personal practice? Share your story with us in the comments below!