Yoga for Children

Dear Diane, When I practice my yoga at home, my two kids always imitate me and want to follow along. I'd like them to learn it safely. Is it OK to take them to my yoga class or do they just have

Dear Diane,

When I practice my yoga at home, my two kids always imitate me and want to follow along. I'd like them to learn it safely. Is it OK to take them to my yoga class or do they just have to do kids yoga with children of their own age?

— Yoga Mom

Dear Mom,

Good for you! Getting kids involved in yoga at an early age can be the best thing that ever happened to them (and you). Children learn most of what they do from what they see, so parents who promote taking time to balance the body, mind and spirit raise their family with skills most people don't get 'til they're adults.

So I totally agree: Yoga is the perfect activity to do with the whole family. When you do a class all together, they learn that it's more than just exercise and physical movement.

For their bodies it improves strength, flexibility, coordination and better posture. It's gentle and non-competitive.

Many children past 8 years old nowadays can't even touch their toes or have chronic backaches from carrying heavy book bags.

For their minds they can actually feel and cultivate the ability to relax, concentrate and be quiet and still. When I teach yoga at elementary schools, most hands raise when I ask if their heads are filled with noisy thoughts they don't like.

For their spirits they can get in touch with the ability to self love and nurture by noticing their feelings and using their breath to keep that energy moving. It's usually in childhood when we stop breathing deeply, and experiences (often unpleasant) get stuck and not released until (expensive) therapy in adulthood.

Yoga is suitable for children of all ages and physical abilities. But since you didn't say how old your kids are, here are some guidelines: Infants 3-9 months can come to baby-and-mom classes exclusively for them. Children 5 and under usually don't have the attention span for a 60-90 minute adult class. They'd need to work with you at home.

There are many great videos for kids out right now. For this age group I recommend Yoga for the Kid in All of Us, which includes humor and fun postures parents do with the child and is available in the CYS bookstore.

For children 6 and older, ask your teacher if your child can come with you. A basics or new beginner class is usually safe: mixed or intermediate levels wouldn't be the best place to start them out. At CYS, I ask if the parent thinks the child has a level of "maturity" to follow along in an adult class without being distracted or bored, especially in a 10-15 minute relaxation at the end.

The best advice is to try one class and see how it goes. Talk to the teacher with your child before and after class, then go home and practice what you learned together. Enjoy!



DIANE UTASKI ANSWERS YOGA QUESTIONS in her columns; send questions to [email protected]. Find more info at www.cincyoga.com.

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