"Don't sit still!" Why kids yoga is different than you think.

Often times when I tell people that I teach children's yoga I am greeted with a couple standard responses:

Sometimes it is:

"My little one loves yoga! She is always doing downward dog and handstands!"

But often times the response is:

"I would love my child to do yoga, but there is NO way he can sit still."

Here's the thing: Kids shouldn't be sitting still. Ok, that's not totally true. Stillness is great. It's important for all of us, when we are learning and practicing body awareness, meditation, mindfulness, pranayama (fancy yogi word for breathing exercises) to find stillness in the body. To notice the sensations, to become aware of our bodies and our breath. 

However, a kids yoga class is NOT going to look like an adult yoga class. Why? Because as much as we think they are, children are not mini adults. They will not and should not be forced into a 45 minute yoga class where they are moving through a series of yoga poses.

 

Kids need to play. They need to move, experiment, make noise, dance and run. In schools, children are asked to sit many hours throughout the day. They are also expected to be "on" all day long- to behave, participate, be calm and be still. As an adult, I know how exhausting that would be for me, let alone a 5 year old who is still developing, growing, learning and with boundless energy for days.

A children's yoga class allows kids to play, to move and to enjoy relatively unstructured freedom with their bodies and their minds. But, just like time I made macaroni and cheese and snuck in broccoli*,  the play/fun/joyous freedom is interwoven with serious and meaningful development work.  (*side note: don't mix broccoli with mac and cheese. Don't. They find the broccoli. Kids are smart. And also broccoli sucks in mac and cheese.)

So while my yoga students are playing one of their favorite games like yoga freeze dance and from the outside it looks like pure chaos, they are learning a ton of great skills. Balance, musicality, body awareness and control, and how to find stillness with their body and breath when they need to.

 Relaxation, strength building, story time and partner poses using cooperation and team work are just some of the parts in a kids yoga class.

Relaxation, strength building, story time and partner poses using cooperation and team work are just some of the parts in a kids yoga class.

Cooperative games, partner poses, reading stories, integrating yoga with crafts, creative movement, journaling, puppetry, imaginary relaxation adventures, music and more, allows children to build a ton of important social and emotional skills and gross and fine motor skills, as they PLAY. 

So don't stress if your little one doesn't sit still. I have news for you, they aren't supposed to. And that's ok. It's the true work of their childhood. And what could be more important than that?