As parents of a curious toddler, my husband and I are always looking for fun, active things that we can do as a family. We try activities that don’t involve screen time, buying lots of equipment or driving for hours. Yoga has become a natural fit for us.
Family yoga is an interactive practice that we can enjoy together. It’s non-competitive and healthy for our minds and bodies. We can do it anywhere and use our imaginations. And we can each participate at our own levels. For example, my husband is a human pretzel, I’m stiff as a board and our daughter has a short attention span. It’s not perfect, but we give it a go!
Watching our daughter laughing and acting out animals warms my heart. I feel good about the idea that I am hopefully guiding her to lead an active life and develop coping strategies to manage the challenges in her life.
There are many “right” ways to practice yoga. It is an ancient practice that includes breathing, meditation, physical postures, character education, and relaxation. Enjoy the benefits of yoga by making up your own practice that works for your family.
Ten ways to start practicing yoga as a family:
1. Start small. Practicing yoga for five minutes a day is better than an hour a week. Look for ways to take “yoga breaks” with your family throughout the day. For example, a physical break might be to reach up high and then bend to touch your toes. Next, step back to Downward-Facing Dog Pose, and lastly, relax back into Child’s Pose. Stay there and take a few deep breaths. Keep it simple.
Our daughter in Downward-Facing Dog Pose at the park.
2. Incorporate yoga into your life. Think of yoga as a lifestyle, not just something that you practice in a class once a week. Imagine your child doing a breathing exercise to prepare for a test at school. You could schedule regular volunteer events as a family, or your children could donate their birthday gifts to a child in need. Organize family quiet time to reflect and rejuvenate.
3. Be safe. Choose a space clear of potential dangers. Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and practice barefoot—or not. Do whatever works for your family, but please be safe.
4. Be creative. Kids yoga is not as formal as adult yoga. Encourage your children to use their creativity and invent their own poses. Asana (physical postures) were invented centuries ago by people living in the mountains of India who mimicked their surroundings. The purpose is to have fun with movement, which naturally increases their body awareness.
5. Take it with you. Wherever you go, take your yoga practice with you—to the park, on holiday, to the campground or to the beach. On our recent trip to the Botanical Gardens, our daughter spontaneously dropped into a plank, cobra pose and dog pose. It’s a great way to build strength and flexibility on the go!
Our daughter in Cobra Pose at the Botanical Gardens.
6. Be flexible. Create the structure, communicate your expectations and suggest a topic for your family yoga experience. Then allow room for spontaneity. Cater to your children’s needs and interests. Some days, your children might be in the mood to practice yoga for thirty minutes or more, and other days, they will get distracted after five minutes. Follow their lead, and they will come back for more.
7. Consider their different learning styles. Think about how your children learn best. Do they prefer background music? Would they like to see the poses demonstrated first? Do they want to see pictures of other children practicing yoga? Would they do best by creating the poses themselves, or do they need to practice one-on-one at first? Your child will love the yoga experience if he or she feels safe, successful and engaged.
8. Choose a topic. Basing your yoga session on a particular theme or topic helps children to build connections, integrate their learning, engage in meaningful experiences and have fun. You could “act out” a book, play a kid’s yoga video, pretend to go on a yoga adventure or read a yoga-inspired book. Get your children involved in the planning of your family yoga experiences.
9. Re-live your trip. Our daughter loves re-enacting our zoo trip through yoga poses, which help to build her memory skills through physical activity. Her favorite animal yoga poses are giraffe, elephant, tiger, and bear. Think of ways to re-live your family fieldtrips through movement. Add music and props, too.
Our daughter in Elephant Pose at Crissy Field in San Francisco.
10. Create a ritual. Just like brushing your teeth, build your family yoga practice into a daily or weekly ritual. It might be lighting a candle in the morning, having a few minutes of quiet time, practicing a breathing technique, talking about what everyone is grateful for at the dinner table, or engaging in physical postures together. Our daughter knows that “yoga time” means bringing out her little yoga mat and getting out her yoga books. Then we end every yoga session in a resting pose. Take time to rest and relax.
For more inspiration with sample yoga sequences, check out my articles and free resources on the Kids Yoga Stories website. I would love to hear about your family yoga session. Feel free to email me at giselle at kidsyogastories dot com.