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My daughter’s first taste of yoga was in a mummy and baby yoga class when she was just a few months old. Ever since then, she’s been hooked. She loves to shadow me as I move through my daily practice, and now that she’s older, she also enjoys attending her own kids’ yoga classes with her friends.
The benefits have been immense. Some yoga poses develop strength and balance, while others help keep you limber. Many yoga poses also help you finetune your sense of balance – plus, standing on one foot helps to build up those tiny muscles around your joints, which will keep them healthy and pain-free for decades.
What sets yoga apart from regular gymnastics is an awareness of breath – even kids can learn how to move deep on an inhale or exhale. Or to simply notice the breath while being in a certain yoga pose. Through her kids’ yoga class, my daughter has even learned a few breathing exercises that have helped her manage her moods and quiet her busy mind.
So how can you harness the power of yoga to stretch, strengthen and support your growing child? Here are a few easy poses you can do at home alongside your kid. I’ve included both the traditional Sanskrit names, as well as a catchy nickname that appeals to a child’s imagination.
1. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This classic pose starts on hands and knees, then tuck your toes and lift your bottom high. Bend your knees if needed and focus on lifting your hips while grounding your hands and feet evenly. Feel like a dog wagging its tail. If you feel playful, say “woof woof”.
2. Tree pose (Vrkasana)
Children love pretending to be a tree – keeping steady on one foot is tricky and develops their ability to focus and balance. For added challenge encourage different hand positions – kids can wave their hands up in the air, pretending that they are branches in the breeze. Show them how strength and steadiness in this pose only happens if you can bend and yield (a little) to keep your balance.
3. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
This always elicits whoops of enthusiasm – surfer pose, as it is known to the kids in class, improves stamina and strength. Pretend to be a fearless surfer, riding a huge wave. Stand boldly on your surfboard, front knee bent, back leg strong, with your arms spread wide for balance. Feel the wind in your hair, feel the water beneath your feet, and breathe into the effort. Don’t forget to switch sides when you’re done.
4. Cobbler pose (Baddha Konasana)
Or as my daughter calls it, butterfly pose. Sit with knees bent, bringing the feet together, as close to the groin as possible. Feel the hip opening stretch. Gently bounce your knees (if you are pretending to be a butterfly) or try folding over forward – notice how the stretch changes as you move.
5. Candle pose (Sarvangasana)
Do this on a folder up blanket or cushy carpet to protect your kid’s tender cervical spine. Support hips with hands, and lift your legs straight up, making the shape of a candle in its holder. Breathe deeply and evenly, focusing on keeping your body as straight as possible. This restorative pose helps to improve circulation and calm the mind – it’s a great one to practice right before bedtime.