Most of us know the benefits of yoga, and would like to rope in our whole families – kids included – to reap the same benefits. Or perhaps you just need another wholesome activity to keep the children occupied, while helping them stay healthy. But how soon can they start learning? What kind of yoga poses are suitable for kids? Yoga instructor Gina Goh answers these questions, and more.
Q: At what age can kids start learning yoga?
Gina: With parental support, even toddlers can learn yoga. But expect the duration to be short as toddlers have a short attention span and tend to wander off from yoga activities.
I find that kids aged four or five years old are at the ideal age to start attending kids’ yoga classes. But every child is different, so it is best that parents make the assessment themselves or let their kids join a trial class first.
Q: What are the benefits of yoga for kids?
Gina: There are so many! Here are some of them:
– Physical benefits: build strength with dynamic activities and yoga sequences, improve posture with the practice of yoga poses, and develop body awareness.
– Mental benefits: sharpen focus with balancing poses, reduce anxiety through breathing techniques, and develop mindfulness.
– Other benefits: learn about teamwork in partner work, inspire creativity through participation in yoga storytelling, and boost confidence when they overcome challenges.
Q: What are the benefits of doing yoga together as a family?
Gina: Doing yoga together will draw family members closer, and help them engage and understand one another better. Not everyone will move at the same pace, so you will develop patience and empathy. This leads to stronger family bonds and the creation of many happy memories that they can revisit and do again.
Q: How often should a family practise yoga together?
Gina: Whenever the family feels like! Even five or 10 minutes of kids’ yoga or family yoga is good enough. Better some than none!
Q: What kind of yoga poses or classes are suitable for young kids?
Gina: Most yoga poses are fine, except for inversions for very young kids as they lack physical strength and adequate spatial awareness. Kids in general are very flexible and they may over extend themselves without knowing it, thus causing injury. Their parents or the teacher must be around to assist when kids want to try fancy but challenging poses for at least the first time.
Q: How do I start looking for suitable classes?
Gina: I believe it will be helpful for parents to first understand what kids’ yoga or family yoga is, then explain it to their kids. Watching related yoga video clips online can help to prepare kids to get a sense of what to expect. Don’t force kids to attend a class if they don’t want to, despite your best intentions.
Q: What should I be mindful of during these classes?
Gina: Do not force yourself into any pose that you are highly uncomfortable in. If your child is shy or refuses to participate during class, let him sit by himself and watch the class in session. Encourage him every now and then to rejoin the class. Be open-minded and leave your inhibitions at the door. There are no winners or losers, nor marks or grades to attain, in kids’ yoga. There is nothing to pursue, so just be present in the moment.
Q: Do you have any other insights or tips to share?
Gina: Kids’ yoga is very different from yoga for adults. The latter is structured and the attention is on specific areas such as alignment, form and breath work. Kids’ yoga is all fun and play, with yoga elements weaved into each class filled with activities such as games, storytelling, music and art.
Other things to keep in mind: Eat at least an hour or two before class. Let the teacher know if you and your child have any health issues or recent injuries, so they can advise if you should continue, or pay extra attention to you or your child. Wear pants with some stretch, bring along a water bottle, and get ready to open your mind to new ways of engagement and fun.
About Gina Goh
Gina (@ginatacklesyoga) believes yoga is for everyone, big or little. She received training at Union Yoga Ayurveda to teach hatha yoga to adults before exploring kids’ yoga with Rainbow Yoga. She is currently teaching at Living Yoga and HometeamNS (Bukit Batok).
Have some questions about yoga for kids? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org!