The benefits of yoga for adults and children are well-documented. According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga is not only a great way to relax, but
Yoga also helps:
- Increase flexibility
- Increase muscle strength and tone
- Improve respiration, energy and vitality
- Maintain a balanced metabolism
- Weight reduction
- Cardio and circulatory health
- Improve athletic performance
- Protect from injury
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce insomnia
Yoga for Kids
With children, many experts agree that yoga also helps improve concentration and manage stress. However, if you ask the 3rd grade students that I work with, they would tell you:
- “This is stupid/dumb.”
- “I’m not doing that.”
- “I hate this.”
- “Can’t we do something else?”
When I’ve worked with younger kids, I loved using Cosmic Kids Yoga from Youtube. While the host is a little too preppy for me, I love how she engages kids into yoga by combining the poses with stories. As much as I appreciate and rely on Cosmic Kids, she has an age-restriction. Once kids move past 2nd grade, Cosmic Kids is for “babies.”
During a week of relentless rain, my client’s third grade class had a week of indoor recess, and the teacher and I were willing to try anything to let these kids enjoy recess, release some energy, and leave the classroom intact…not an easy order with classroom of 21. By the end of the week, here was my summary:
- Cosmic Kids was a bust.
- Go Noodle dances got them too hyper.
- Storyline online engaged the kids, but they burned zero energy.
As a last resort, I asked the teacher if I could try some breathing activities with her class since she had two of my clients. She said “you can try anything.”
I positioned the kids around the room and immediately heard grumbling. We ignored it. As I was waiting for all the kids to enter the room, I realized that this would be beneficial for this class if they would only give it a try, but it would be difficult for them to give yoga another chance. In that moment, inspiration hit. Make it a game!
Simon Says Yoga!
For the next twenty minutes, I guided the whole class through different yoga poses as a Simon Says game, and they LOVED it! We followed the normal rules of Simon Says, so there were certain moves that “Simon didn’t say.” If the kids mimicked me at that time, they were out until the next round. We were able to play three rounds in a 25 minute recess. While I did many yoga poses, I also incorporated some fun, simple exercises as well, like marching in place, flapping like a chicken, and rubbing their bellies and heads, etc.
By the end of recess, we stretched, took deep breathes, and, overall, had the most relaxing indoor recess that I’ve ever experienced. When the timer went off, the normal complaining about having to return to classwork filled the room, but the class soon transitioned back on task. We have played Simon Says Yoga several times this year, and the kids still love to play it. My client can also survive indoor recess without a meltdown. Win-Win!
As a class or as a therapy group, this game can easily teach kids a new coping skill without them even realizing it.
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(Disclaimer: All the yoga pose icons come from The Noun Project. The creator of each pose icon is listed under each individual icon.)