I have always been fascinated by children’s ability to explore and see the wonders of life from a completely different perspective to that of ours – adults. It seems to me as if children are wearing a special pair of glasses which allows them to know and see that there is more than one way to taste life. Children are the big explorers of the world and they carry this kind of enthusiasm with them in everything they touch, see, smell and hear. All we have to do is sit back, watch, learn and give them the opportunity to keep on doing what they do best.
It is inspiring to see a toddler walking up and down one stair, practising, mastering the same movement over and over again, almost as if she knows that it will help her to move on in her journey of exploration.
I truly believe that children do yoga from the first moment they start to move.
Have you ever seen little babies lifting their head up starting to explore the horizon above floor level? King Cobra pose was there way before the ancient yogis gave the asana its name Bhujangasana. When toddlers are ready, they start to crawl, then cat pose, downward dog, slowly exploring their way to stand up, forward bend, and before you finish saying “Sun Salutation”, they manage to complete a whole sun dance of their own.
This is why I feel that rather than introducing yoga to children, we should help them maintain what is already there, even if it is hidden or maybe even forgotten. Therefore, my new title would be: “5 ways to maintain your child’s yoga practice at home”.
Keep your own practice visible
I used to have my yoga mat always hidden in my bedroom and the only time my kids probably saw me practising yoga was in their dreams while they were sleeping. The best way to teach our children is by example. Show them what to do – don’t tell them what needs to be done. By simply moving the mat and the whole yoga practice to the living room, I offered my children the opportunity and the possibility to join me whenever they wanted and whenever they were ready. Yoga is there for them to use it if they choose to.
It is mostly inviting and pleasant to know that there is an extra space next to you. It is a silent invitation. When you want to encourage your child to join you in your yoga practice, see if you can create another space for them next to your mat. It will offer them an opportunity; an opportunity to join you. They might just want to climb on top of your back or crawl under you when you are doing Bridge Pose, but after a while they might enjoy the fact that there is a special space created just for them.
Make it fun
Yoga with toddlers and young children is fun simply because they are fun. They look at the world from a totally different perspective. Explorers of the world, remember? When they decide to join you, just let them be and let them do anything they like. You can turn into tremendous trees, cars, awesome aeroplanes, flowers, superheroes. You can become animals on land or sea creatures swimming in the deep, blue ocean. The sky is the limit. Then you can both create yoga games, breathing games, make up stories together relating to the yoga postures, and even do partner yoga. Any movement can turn into a yoga pose and it will be a wonderful opportunity to make up new poses with new names which will be wonderful for their language skills. Let them teach you a new pose, you will be amazed to see that their creativity has no boundaries. How inspiring is that?
At such a young age, I love to let children explore their body awareness by themselves (I will offer posture adjustments to children over 8 years old). It is incredibly valuable for toddlers and young children to explore and to develop body awareness without us acting as a thermostat for their abilities. Children should get the opportunity to explore and expand their body limits and to know what they can do and what they would like to practise on. Take Tree Pose for example. We are all familiar with the traditional Vriksasana – Tree pose – but if you will offer your child the opportunity to show you her own variation to Tree Pose, a new door might open for both of you. After all, there are many different types of trees in nature. Following that, your child will be very curious to see how your tree will look like and the party will just begin.
Feed their curiosity
Children love to ask questions. Yoga practice can become a safe environment for them to come up with any questions that pop up into their creative minds during their joined practice with you. These questions can later be used as a springboard to a whole new adventure and conversation about life, about breathing and even about the way they experience the world around them. Nourish these moments and feed their curiosity by raising questions about how yoga makes them feel, where in their body they feel their breath when they do a certain pose, which yoga pose is their favourite or even start a gratitude practice with them by asking them if they can name 3 things they are grateful or thankful for.
Enjoy the magic of practising yoga with your child and remember there are no right or wrongs. Begin your journey with Ayala Homossany’s Enchanted Wonders A-Z cards. Each unique card combines a yoga pose with a unique illustration and some carefully crafted questions – the perfect starting point to embark you and your child on a journey that will be as exciting and varied as your child’s imagination.
Read more: yogamatters.com