If you have never done yoga with children, you may be surprised to find out what poses they can do. Some children exhibit incredible flexibility; their smaller body masses make them almost capable of defying gravity. Teach children the basics first, particularly how to inhale and exhale through postures and movements to ensure that they keep themselves safe. Then, you can model simple yoga postures and help them to build up to doing a series of poses.
One simple move can help reinforce proper yoga breathing techniques and sets the foundation for eventually learning the full series of sun salutations. Show children how to do this pose and remind them to inhale during stretching and exhale during relaxation. Begin by standing up straight. Take a few deep breaths. Slowly, bring arms out wide, stretching through the fingertips, before bringing them overhead. Have children press their feet, from heel to toe, into the earth as they stretch through their backs, making their fingertips go as high as possible. On the exhale, bring the top half of the body down until your fingertips graze your ankles, toes or the floor, depending upon flexibility. Do this series of movements a few times, keeping the rhythm of rising on the inhale and lowering on the exhale.
Tree pose is a favorite for children. Begin in the same position as sunrise. Remind children not to hyperextend their legs, which puts undue stress on the knees and also makes it more difficult for them to balance during the posture. On the inhale, have children bring their hands together in front of their chest, in a prayer position. At the same time, they should slowly slide one foot up the inside of their other leg. They should bring their foot as high as possible while maintaining balance, but they should not keep their push their foot against their opposite knee. More advanced students can then extend their bent leg out like a branch while balancing.
Many yoga poses evoke animals, and some even have animal nicknames. You can start simple with the cat and dog stretch. Children lower themselves to their hands and knees. They should have their palms beneath their shoulders. On the inhale, they do a dog stretch, arching their backs and lowering their belly to the floor. On the exhale, they do a cat stretch, arching their backs and looking downward. The cobra pose has children lying flat on their bellies, arms at their sides, and pushing the top halves of their bodies upward like a cobra rising. Remind children to relax their shoulders as they hold the pose.