Practicing yoga can help kids learn to enjoy exercise, improve confidence, and even increase a their ability to concentrate. The key is to keep it fun and light, and not to practice for longer than the child is interested. Children love poses with names that make sense to them or invoke a sense of play and fun--like Downward Dog, Cat/Cow, Boat, or Bridge. Here are a few examples of yoga poses for kids.
Be a Dog: In Downward Dog, the hands and the balls of the feet are on the ground, heels stretched back and hips raised. Elbows are straight and head is dropped so that the neck is relaxed. You can either get into this pose from a standing position or from all fours. After Downward Dog, you can drop your hips toward the floor and extend the toes out so that the tops of the feet are on the floor, arms still straight and head up, facing forward. This is called Upward Dog.
Be a Cat, then a Cow: Come to all fours on hands and knees. Arch the back and drop the head, releasing the neck--this is Cat Pose. Then, drop the belly toward the floor and look up, arching the back in the opposite direction. This is Cow Pose. Alternate, holding each posture for a few seconds: "Be a cat... now be a cow... now be a cat... now be a cow..."
Bridge: Start by lying on your back. Bring the bottoms of your feet to touch the floor so that your heels touch your bottom. Let your arms lie straight beside the body, palms down and fingers spread. Now lift your hips as high as possible, using your hands and arms for support. Keep the neck relaxed. To add a strengthening component and a little fun, pretend to be a drawbridge. "Raise the drawbridge... now lower the bridge. Raise it again!" Just remind your children to go slowly and gently to protect little necks and backs.
Boat: The Boat pose requires two kids--which doubles the cuteness factor. Ask your kids to sit facing each other with legs crossed and hold hands. Now tell them to put the soles of their feet together and watch the hilarity ensue. Once they have their balance, in the final posture both kids should be leaning slightly back, with arms straight, feet touching, knees at a 90-degree angle, and calves parallel to the floor.
These poses encourage balance, flexibility, and self-control. They're challenging enough to be engrossing for adults but easy enough for children to enjoy over and over. It doesn't take an expert to teach a child yoga--all it takes is a little time, a little love, and a sense of play. Your children will reap the benefits for a lifetime.