Question: I was doing a yoga video the other day, and my 8-year-old wanted to do it with me. I think it would be great for her to get some exercise. Is it safe for children to practice yoga?
Karen Prior replies: Absolutely! Yoga is great for kids. When parents call me on the phone and ask how to get their kids into yoga, I tell the parents that the first thing they need to do is to practice yoga themselves. We have to lead by example in getting our kids to follow a healthier lifestyle. It sounds like you moving in the right direction.
When to use caution
There are a few exercises that are not appropriate for children, and there are some guidelines you can follow when doing yoga with your children.
Inversions like shoulder stand, headstand and handstand should only be done by children when under the guidance of an experienced yoga instructor. Inversions are generally not recommended for children under the age of 8 and older in some cases. This is due to the risk of injury and also the lack of strength and body awareness that is required to safely and correctly execute the pose.
Pranayama practice is also cautioned for children under the age of 8, but you can play breathing games that are common in most children's yoga videos.
If your child is joining you for a yoga video, be sure you have previewed it. Skip the pranayama and inversions. It is likely that your child will express interest in these things; in this case, I would recommend that you seek a children's yoga teacher for guidance. Just as a good gymnastics coach tells her young gymnasts not to do gymnastics outside the gym because there is a risk of injury if you do not have proper spotting and equipment, these yoga-specific exercises should also be done in yoga class.
“Do as I do”
When practicing yoga with your child, do not try to be the "yoga teacher." Instead, be a parent and let them imitate you as a child should. I caution you on manually adjusting them or telling them they are not doing it right. This can not only cause injury but it can build up resistance to yoga and within your relationship.
Instead, if you notice they are not doing something exactly correct, ask them to "follow you" or "do what you do." If they still do not get it, then move on to the next pose. I really find that doing a yoga video together can be a great experience. It takes you out of the teacher role and everyone can go at her own pace.
Breathe and have fun!
And don't forget to relax at the end! Relaxation could be one of the most important parts but can also be one of the hardest parts. Encourage your child to rest for even 10 breaths or for the duration of one song.
Keep the practice positive and give lots of encouragement if they have a hard time doing any of the exercises. Keep it fun.
Here are some great yoga resources that can be fun for the whole family:
• OhmLand CD
Children's yoga music CD that provides a full yoga practice with silly songs from an off-Broadway musical.
• The Yoga Garden Game
A cooperative board game that is fun for 2-year-olds and 12-year-olds!
• Family Yoga with Rodney Yee
A beautifully filmed yoga video with Rodney Yee's beautiful family doing yoga. My favorite part is when each child leads a round of sun salutations in the beginning of the video.
• Yoga for the Kids in All of Us
My favorite kid's yoga video. There are lots of fun partner yoga postures that you can do with your child. Don't let the cover photo of a child in a headstand throw you off. That is a stock photo and not a pose from the actual video.
• Playful Family
Yoga by Teressa Asenica A great book that shows you how to do partner yoga postures with your children.
• Find a Children's Yoga Teacher Near You
© Karen Prior