You’ve heard the old adage that a family that prays together stays together. I would extend that to say plays together, sweats together, does yoga together…you get the idea. The more we model healthy habits, the more comfortable, more confident and willing our children are to follow in those footsteps. Children really do want to be just like their parents–they just don’t want you to know it. And this extends into wanting to do the things they see their parents doing, including yoga.
Does a 5,000 year-old practice of moving meditation even appeal to kids? The answer: yes!
Children are naturally free in their bodies. Yoga is just another way to move and be playful. It is adults who muck up the fun by being so serious and insisting poses look a certain way. We have to unlearn all of the ways we have limited ourselves. We must follow our children’s lead and be freer, like them! Over thousands of years, yoga practitioners took cues from nature and created poses to emulate the peaceful or wise aspects of these revered animals. Children also love imitating animals–since so many yoga poses are named after animals, it’s super fun for kids. Take turns being a Dog, Crow, Eagle, Gorilla, Frog or Pigeon.
We become inflexible over time, mostly in our minds, and are certain that we “can’t do this” or “don’t do that” because we have “inflexible hamstrings” or a “bad back”. Spend some time practicing with your kids and they will likely want to show you this back bend or that split and a hand stand that turns into a wipe out and subsequent giggle. A fall on the face in crow pose is a good reminder that simply trying is enough and falling is not failing but perfect timing for a family laugh. Yes, yoga can be strengthening, spiritually uplifting, centering and meditative for many, but most of all it SHOULD be FUN!
Practicing yoga with your children becomes less about teaching your children something and more about unlearning limitations and messages we have about our bodies. Yoga allows us to simply be in the moment, slow down and connect with our children.
A few practical tips on how to keep yoga fun for the whole family:
- Start with a shorter class or give your children an option to relax in an easy pose at any time on their mat during a full-length or longer class.
- Practice yoga at home with a family yoga video or Yoga Pretzel Activity Cards.
- Read children’s books about yoga to pique their interest. Kerry Lee MacLean has written Moody Cow Meditates, Peaceful Piggy Meditation and Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda.
- Follow your children’s lead and let them try poses that will feel successful–at the same time don’t be afraid to show off and inspire them with what you like to do! Take turns trying poses and teaching each other.
- Do yoga outdoors. Try it with Wellfit Institute or other local studios on paddleboards.
- Start the day fresh by doing a few poses in the morning and ending the day with meditation.
The more we get in the habit of listening to our bodies, experiencing our own energy and being mindful, the healthier, more centered and peaceful our lives will be!
By practicing yoga as a family, you will benefit by likely feeling more connected with each other and you will be a role model, changing the world one peaceful, healthy, happy family at a time.
(Namaste literally means “I bow to you” and loosely translates to I honor the divine light that is in you and also in me).
By: Jill Wheeler, M.A., LPC, Therapist, Life Coach, Leadership Consultant, Writer, Yoga/SUPyoga Instructor, Adventurer, Athlete, lululemon athletica ambassador and Owner of the Wellfit Institute. Connect with Jill on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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