From Cosmic Kids to Hey Duggee and the Yoga Badge, if you’ve got children (or even if you haven’t) chances are you’ve seen or heard of kids yoga. But is it really an activity for children or just the latest in a long line of yoga related fads?
Here at ZenKids we are passionate about kids yoga and it’s incredible benefits for children. From ZenMuma pregnancy and baby & postnatal yoga classes, through ZenKids classes for all ages up to ZenTeens sessions, yoga can be a powerful practice which supports childrens’ physical, mental, social, and emotional development, and help them as they navigate an increasingly fast paced and stressful world.
ZenKids classes are structured around the Four Cs: Community, Collaboration, Confidence, and Calm, and each class will combine a mix of asana (physical poses), simple pranayama (breathing exercises), mindfulness and relaxation, with a great big heap of fun, games and imagination thrown in too!
Like most western yoga classes the main body of a kids class is the physical practice of asana, both warm up exercises and asana games. Children thrive by challenging their bodies and learn through taking risks1. Through asana games children get to use their bodies, using up excess pent-up energy, developing muscle tone and encouraging the development of flexibility, balance, stamina, and joint strength and stability, all of which is essential for gross and fine motor skill development. These skills are refined by the muscles, brain and nervous system working together.
But what’s an asana game I hear you ask? The simple answer is just about anything! Depending on the age of the children and the theme of the class. It might be something simple like “ZenKids Say” (think Simon Says with yoga poses), or Musical Asana (instead of bumps). An asana game might involve some acro-yoga or yoga circuits. The sky really is the limit when it comes to fun! Even engaging in simple floor-based activity such as crawling is brilliant for developing coordination, through engaging both sides of the brain in activity. Through yoga asana children can also support their internal body system functions, improving cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive health. Practicing asana also stimulates development of the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, increasing children’s awareness of their body in space and improving coordination.
As well as physical health benefits, asana games are great for developing verbal and non-verbal communication skills and allows and encourages children to use their imaginations. Partner and group games allow children to practice negotiation, cooperation, working as a team, and to develop new friendships outside of school and family settings. Importantly yoga allows children to challenge themselves and take risks in a safe, supported environment.
Another amazing benefit of kids yoga is the opportunity for Mindfulness practice within a class. Mindfulness involves learning to be aware in the present moment, without judgement. Kids yoga helps teach children how to be happy in the present moment and be aware of how often we can live in the present or the past (Heffer-Cooke). Through simple breathing techniques children can learn to self-calm and self-regulate, leading to positive development of the nervous system and resulting in calmer children and in turn calmer adults
Teaching children to connect into themselves and their feelings through simple self enquiry helps them to understand what their emotions are conveying to them and how to respond to their own personal needs, allowing opportunities for self-love and self-care (Heffer-Cooke).
Children’s yoga classes help to encourage a child’s sense of success, as they achieve a new skill, complete a game, or enjoy a challenge. We can really reward this success through praise and encouragement and the children in turn will praise and encourage each other, developing confidence and relationships (Heffer-Cooke). Playing games with others, especially parents during a family yoga class, is great for developing emotional intelligence3
But how do we get children to engage in yoga classes? All ZenKids classes are age appropriate, although we find they are fun for everyone! For example a class for under-fives might be structured around a familiar story such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We would read the story and act it out in yoga poses, for example “Can you make yourself small like a little egg on a leaf?” and “Can you wiggle along the floor like a caterpillar?”. We can build on basic phonics and numeracy skills as the caterpillar starts to eat its way through the different fruits. You could add an element of self-enquiry: “How would you feel if you ate all that food?” and then act out feeling VERY full and challenging the children to see if they can rub their tummy and pat their head at the same time. Running through the class are likely to be familiar nursery rhymes, boosting neural development and fostering a sense of togetherness by singing in a group.
Classes for older children become imagination central! At ZenKids we take them on a journey, maybe to the beach or the jungle or under the sea or into space. The structure is very similar to a grown-up yoga class, with some quiet time at the beginning to help bring the childrens’ focus into the yoga space. This is followed by some warm up asana and asana games, and closes by winding down with some guided relaxation and mindfulness moments.
Just as with adults, a children’s yoga class gives them the opportunity to relax, through mindful moments, breathing techniques, and gently imaginative relaxation exercises. This is so important in a world that is increasingly busy and full of stimulation from screens, schoolwork, extra-curricular activities1
The best way to get a true insight into a ZenKids yoga class is to come to one! We’re running sessions for kids of all ages throughout the festival so make sure you come and see us in the ZenKids tent. To find your local ZenKids classes please visit www.zenmuma.co.uk
Article by Liz Ford, ZenMuma and ZenKids Licence Holder.
Liz teaches pregnancy, baby, postnatal and kids yoga, as well as vinyasa flow and yin in locations around West Suffolk.
Facebook / Instagram @lupineyoga
ZenMuma, ZenKids and ZenTeens was founded by Jackie Heffer-Cooke. Jackie is a massage therapist, hypnobirthing practitioner, and yoga practitioner and trainer. Jackie runs yoga teacher training sessions and retreats throughout the year.
To find your local ZenKids classes please visit www.zenmuma.co.uk
- Hanscom, A. (2016). Balanced and Barefoot.
- Mind, 2021 What is mindfulness? - Mind
- Markham, L. (2014). Calm Parents, Happy Kids. The secrets of stress-free parenting.