Rise and Shine: Yoga for Every Age Group
Getting kids to do anything is hard. Sleep, hygiene, social cues and clothing choices are all areas of focus for parents hoping to have a seemingly normal child that will become a seemingly normal adult. The funny part of parenting is that the stuff that goes on inside of your kid is 10x more effective in helping them live the best life on their own than what's on the outside. Here are 6 tips to bringing yoga into your kids life from ages 3-18!
Yoga for this age group is all about play! As soon as your baby can crawl they will begin to naturally follow you around and may find themselves under your bridge pose in the middle of a morning yoga practice. That's the best place for them to be when learning to develop a mindfulness practice. Pose with your child, safely of course. Pick them up in your warrior one, put them on your belly in happy baby. Let them assist your forward fold in child's pose. This time will be fun for your child as they get to interact with you physically, just enjoying the time spent. There should be no competition on a yoga mat. Use patience and play to find joy in your practice and to inspire joy for joy's sake in your child.
Once your kid is a true kid (can navigate Netflix, has their own shows, texts occasionally) they will want a bit more on the mat than being your prop. This is the time to get your child their own mat! Have them practice next to you and make their own decisions about how to enter poses and breathe. Keeping them engaged for 15-30 minutes at this age is the goal so they learn a few key poses to rely on in their lives. With enough practice before now a child will show you they are ready to nap by hopping into a child's pose, forward fold or a downward dog. You might see a mini headstand when they are upset. At this age kids will use the emotional effects of the postures to their benefit and begin to self regulate. Try educating kids this age on postural effects by giving them their proper names. Warrior, Airplane, and Camel are all great poses with different effects that are elicited in the titles. Use them to build a story out of a sequence and remind the kids that the poses are for them.
At this age the interest your child has in pretending to be an airplane is most likely waning. Don't be fooled though. Your child's imagination is just as active as ever. This is the prime age to introduce mindfulness, the lifestyle of focusing on the moment through wellness practices. Try introducing mindfulness meditation with the Headspace app. This app has meditation practices for kids from 3-12 with topics including kindness, focus and appreciation. Teacd your child to navigate the emotional landscape they inhabit as puberty begins. It's a great way to ensure they have tools to deal with a changing body and mind and a great way to miss just a little of the angst that comes with becoming a teenager.
This might be the toughest age to keep kids interested in a yoga practice. They're too old for games and animals but often too young to value the peace inherent in a continuous practice. The best way to keep kids engaged at this age is to take them to class with you. Find something like Black Girl Magic yoga classes or Trap Yoga that incorporates some of their interests into the practice. Practicing with them for 45 minutes to an hour will give them a sense of responsibility especially if the practice comes in a studio with other adults. At this age kids want to have responsibility and want to work on themselves. Add a mindfulness practice to a sport or activity they are developing and remind them that mindfulness is to help them be their best selves. Meditation is key for this age as well considering mental health for preteens is notoriously overlooked and mishandled.
At this age your child isn't quite the child anymore. They'll soon be out of the nest and are pretty set in their likes and dislikes. This is the age where you can send your baby off to practice in a setting that empowers them. Retreats, hikes, and even the occasional class by the beach are great ways to keep your older child interested in the practice. They are eager to explore the world and assert themselves on it. Yoga being a personal practice will allow for them to be in the space they practice in without having to interact as if they know what it's like to be in the world. Get them a membership at a studio in town, near their college or to an online class and let them take it from there! You've done your best to show them the power of mindfulness. With the tools you've given they can reference their experiences and be better prepared to deal with the many emotional, mental, physical and spiritual hurdles one encounters when becoming an adult.
Remember, your focus as a parent should be equipping your child to deal with the troubles and blessings of life with lucidity and poise. We can't be there for them to make all the good decisions instead of bad. We can't be there to keep them from making stupid mistakes. We can't be there to cry their tears. We can only hope to be the small voice in the back of their heads that encourage them to be their best selves. Empower your child with mindfulness practices and that small voice becomes a list of actions, beliefs, and practices your child can carry, perfect and pass on their children as a tradition of peace.