By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
What is the purpose of kids Yoga warm-ups? Yoga for kids is an excellent way to increase flexibility and get exercise. Another benefit to children is the fact that many of them retain nervous energy, and Yoga can help settle that energy, and help them grow focused and relaxed. This is of added importance, in a time when too much television and unhealthy eating have caused an increase in obesity and attention deficit disorders, such as ADHD in children.
Yoga warm-ups serve at least two purposes. First, warm-up exercises work as a prelude into more focused Yoga sessions. As a result, warm-ups can be more fun and relaxed, catching the attention of children, and serving to transition them into a quieter session of poses. Second, warm-up exercises are especially important for loosening joints and limbering up cold or tight muscles. Getting the blood circulating, and the muscles responsive in young bodies, can help prevent pain or injury in poses.
Nine Tips Kids Yoga Warm-Ups
1. Weave a narrative or story into a session of kids Yoga warm-ups. Doing so catches kids’ attention and captures their imaginations. Story-telling can also help them make connections between what they are doing with their bodies and how that relates to their wider world.
2. Encourage kids to laugh during warm-ups. This should be a time when kids are releasing energy and settling down, so making it fun will go a long way toward helping them achieve this. It will also keep young people from getting bored and causing mischief. Making jokes, or exaggerating exercises and explanatory gestures, keeps the atmosphere relaxed and fun.
3. Use creative stretches and easy poses during warm-ups. Jiggling, standing on tip toes, palm stretches, side twists, rag doll poses, and downward-facing dog poses all serve as easy, limbering exercises that kids can start with.
4. Get everyone involved. Sing songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” or get kids to suggest new lines for songs or stories, to encourage universal participation.
5. Kids Yoga warm-ups should last for five to ten minutes.
6. Remind kids that Yoga breathing is always done through the nose, unless allergies or colds make that impossible.
7. Even though this should be a fun time for the kids, the instructor should stay vigilant about the safety of children. Remember that a child’s joints are looser than an adult’s, so ensuring kids keep a slight bend in their elbows and knees can prevent over-extended joints.
8. Children cannot hold a Yoga pose for as long as adults can, so encourage shorter poses and more repetitions, which will keep them from getting tired or losing balance.
9. Finish the Kids Yoga session with one or two quiet breathing exercises. Telling a story, or having kids use their imaginations, can help them leave feeling relaxed rather than hyper-active. It can be easy to focus on the physical benefits Yoga can have for children, but they should come away feeling more relaxed and at ease than when they arrived.
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