Often we are asked what our children’s yoga classes actually look like. What are we teaching? Are we just practicing movement? Where does the mindfulness come in? Do kids actually calm down?
Below is an overview of the five elements that we consider essential aspects of any child’s yoga experience. Activities that explore these five elements are supported by the structure of an opening and closing ritual that remains the same in every class. This consistency offers children the predictability that helps contribute to a sense of safety and reliability in the class.
Connect activities foster connections for children internally and externally. They help students make sense of their own emotional experiences, and also ground them in an awareness of their environment and the needs of others. Connect activities are primarily based in mindfulness practices, and incorporate facilitated discussion. The emphasis is on connection to yourself, to others and to your environment.
The breath is one of our most powerful tools for self determination, and teaching children that they have some control over their own emotional and energetic state is an empowering lesson. Breathe activities help children learn to reduce anxiety, stabilize energy and create a sense of safety and peace in the body.
Yoga poses may be used in a variety of ways as tools to channel student’s energy, improve their health, build their confidence and for many other purposes. A central tenet of our program is that no child will ever be forced or pressured into any posture that they feel uncomfortable with for any reason. The emphasis in our movement practice is on exploration, not competition. While we encourage students to work towards achievements, activities are designed to ensure that all children experience many more successes then failures.
Children are often asked to focus, and rarely taught how. Our focus activities are designed to allow children to experiment with what it means to focus, and repeatedly practice noticing when their mind wanders, and bringing it back to the task at hand.
All students of any age will benefit from learning to relax and restore. Our children are exposed to an overwhelming amount of sensory stimulation, are chronically sleep deprived, and generally have no idea how to calm themselves down. Relax activities provide the opportunity to rest both the body and the mind.
Jennifer Cohen Harper is an educator and author, who works to support all children and teens in the development of strong inner resources through the tools of yoga and mindfulness. Her goal is to help kids, and those who care for them, thrive in the world regardless of circumstances, and navigate the many challenges they face with a sense of personal power and self-awareness. As the founder of Little Flower Yoga, Jennifer brings embodied mindfulness programming and education to schools and community organizations nationwide, serving students, families, educators, and mental health providers.
This article first appeared on LittleFlowerYoga.com, and is reposted with permission from the author.