According to the Yoga Hatha Padapika, there are 84 Yoga postures. Master Yogi BKS Iyengar teaches 200 asanas (poses). Supposedly, Shiva taught 8,400,000 postures but described only 32 as useful for human mortals. Within each Yoga tradition, there are unique postures and variations, which increases the number of asanas even further.
With so many Yoga poses for kids to explore, where do you start?
Think of teaching Yoga postures like teaching the alphabet. Start with a few letters and begin to build words, then phrases and eventually, whole sentences. Choose a set of basic postures to explore, then gradually add on. Sample different types of postures: folds, back bends, twists, balance postures. You’ll end up with a whole library of Yoga postures before you know it.
When introducing a posture to your young yogi, remember you aren’t just teaching a small adult. To get initial buy-in and long-term interest, you need to grab their imaginations, tickle their curiosity and build their confidence. Here are some hints to introducing Yoga poses for your kids:
- Emphasize the feeling of the posture over the form. Verbalize the sensations you are experiencing while in the posture. Your descriptions will encourage their own discoveries. For example: Ooh! I really feel this in my straight leg! My heart feels so big like this. I wonder if I can make my hands open wider? I just felt my back pop! This makes me feel so strong!
- Rather than reciting a long list of cues and directions, have your child mirror your pose. Come into your posture and invite your child to make the same shape. Don’t worry about correcting alignment (unless there’s an obvious injury-causing issue). Just let them feel their way into a pose while watching you.
- Once in the posture, have a little discussion. Ask questions like “Why do you think this pose is called Mountain?”. While in Boat pose, sing Row Your Boat. Ask what color their butterfly is while in Butterfly pose. This creative dialogue keeps children in poses a bit longer (building flexibility and stamina) and also stimulates their imaginations.
- Once a few postures have been learned, combine them into unique partner poses! How can you make a double Cobra pose? Can you somehow combine a Downward Facing Dog with a Child’s pose? Similarly, link a few poses together to create a little flow. This is how we move from learning our letters to forming words and sentences!
- Finally, make a game out of the poses. Write the poses your child knows on slips of paper and take turns choosing one at random. Both people try whichever pose is chosen. Or, allow the child to be the teacher and show the adult how to do the pose they pick from the slips of paper.
Now, the big question: Which poses should we teach our children first?
Here are the top 10 poses for kids to learn. They cover the main Yoga movements: folds, back bends, twists, standing, seated, resting, and balance poses. These are your ABCs. Use them to build your child’s Yoga vocabulary:
Stand tall with your feet on the floor. Make your legs strong and lift up your heart. Roll your shoulders back with and reach your arms along your sides, palms open.
*Inhale and reach your arms overhead for Extended Mountain or Volcano.
*Tell a story about the animals and plants that live on your mountain.
*Where is your mountain? (In the desert or jungle? Underwater?)
*What can you balance on your head as you stand in Mountain?
Stand tall and take a big step back with one leg. Bend the front knee. Lift both arms overhead. Hold for a couple breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Explore WARRIOR 1:
*Play catch with another Warrior.
*Sway left and right in your Warrior without losing balance.
*Tip forward and lift your back foot off the ground to try Warrior 3.
DOWNWARD FACING DOG
From hands and knees, lift your tail into the air making an upside-down V shape. Arms are straight and your head just dangles.
Explore DOWNWARD FACING DOG:
*Lift one leg at a time for a Three-Legged Dog.
*Bend your knees one at a time to walk your Dog.
*Inhale through your nose and howl or bark for your exhale.
*What kind of dog are you? What’s your name? Do you know any tricks?
While standing, roll forward and let your head, shoulders, and arms just hang down toward the floor. Bend your knees gently. Sway if it feels good. Be squishy.
*Pretend to be seaweed or a jellyfish floating in the ocean. Move with the waves.
*One person comes into Ragdoll and other people crawl, roll, or slither under the Ragdoll’s fingers like going through a car wash.
*Partner Ragdolls stand back-to-back as they fold forward. Reach for your partner’s hands.
Sit tall in criss-cross-applesauce. Bring one hand to the floor behind you and the other across your front to hold onto your opposite leg. Twist gently and breathe. Repeat on the other side.
*What flavor is your pretzel? Breathe in through your nose and pretend to smell your pretzel, exhaling with an “ahhhh”.
*Roll your neck gently while in Pretzel.
*Try Pretzel on the floor or in a chair (with feet on the floor).
Sit tall with your knees bent out to the side and the soles of your feet together, creating your butterfly wings.
*Flap your wings at different speeds.
*What color is your butterfly? Where do you fly?
*Sit back-to-back with another butterfly and try to flap your wings at the same time.
From your belly, put your hands under your shoulders. Press down your legs and hips while lifting up your chest and head.
*Inhale as you press up and exhale with a hiss as your lower back down.
*What does your Cobra look like? Where does it live?
*Try King Cobra by bending your knees to touch your toes to the back of your head.
Stand tall. Bring the sole of one foot to the inside of the standing leg. Reach your arms toward the ceiling. Balance and breathe. Repeat on the other side.
*Stand side-by-side with another Tree, or with a whole group of Trees, pressing palms together to make a forest.
*What kind of tree are you? Where do you grow? Do animals live in your tree?
*Experiment with your arms - bring them out wide, to your heart, behind you, etc.
Sit on your knees with your bottom on your heels. Forward fold so your forehead is on the floor and your arms along your side. Breathe and be still.
*Stretch your arms in front of you and walk them slowly left and right to stretch your side body.
*From Child, inhale and lift up into a kneeling position, arms overhead. Exhale and return to Child.
*One partner gives a gentle back massage to the partner in Child.
(You can rename this Resting Pose if you prefer). Lie on your back with your arms and legs comfortably extended, palms up. Close your eyes, be still and rest.
*Balance a pom pom or small toy on your forehead to stay extra still.
*Cover your eyes with an eye pillow or scarf.
*Place a small stuffed animal on your belly and watch it move up and down with your breath.