3 Ways To Get Your Child To Try Yoga

Imagine your hyperactive 5-year-old figuring out how to focus, your shy 9-year-old gaining self-confidence, or your two-year-old skipping that  temper tantrum. In what parallel universe does this happen?

In a yoga class for kids, says Lauren Chaitoff, founder and co-owner of Yogi Beans, a child-centered yoga studio in New York City. Assuming every parent wants calm, attentive children, we asked Chaitoff and Laura Toolin, a yoga teacher and therapeutic yoga instructor, based in Massachusetts, who used to teach classes to children, how to encourage kids to practice yoga. They offered three simple tips to get you started:

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1. Introduce It Early

Yogi Beans takes children as young as six months in its “Babies and Moms” classes, and two- to four-year-olds in the “Me and My Bean” classes. In the former, the parent stretches the baby and puts it in different yoga poses. In the Me and My Bean classes, the teaching revolves around the child but the parents are invited and encouraged to do the poses as well, says Chaitoff.

If you practice yoga yourself, consider doing it at home. If your child shows interest in what you’re doing, invite him or her onto the mat, suggests Chaitoff. Then demonstrate Downward Dog or Cow pose by asking your child what kind of sound the animal makes.

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2. Don’t Force It

Imposing yoga on your child is a number one no-no. That’s a surefire way to discourage him or her. “You model yoga and if they’re willing and interested, you can share it,” says Toolin.

Another no-no: Expecting your child to hold poses as long as you do or focusing too much on form. “Make it fun and have it be an exploration of their bodies and of feeling joy,” says Toolin.

3. Sneak It In

Think of yoga as more than just poses on a mat and you’ll find dozens of ways to incorporate it throughout the day. Try these ideas from Chaitoff:

  • “Do a breathing exercise before you go to school,” she says. “Hold hands at the door and take three deep breaths together and say things you’re thankful for or say ‘I love you.’”
  • Ask your child to come into flamingo pose when you’re trying to put on their shoe or stand in tree pose while brushing their teeth. If you’re reading a picture book that is filled with animals, suggest making the shape of the animal.
  • Establish a nighttime ritual of a few animal poses like cat and cow, and down dog, snake and a cobra before they go to bed. Or, sit cross-legged back–to-back and take five deep breaths together and feel each other’s back.
  • For toddlers, put a favorite stuffed animal on their bellies and invite them to watch their bellies rise and fall. “Hold hands and lie down and take deep breaths as their stuffed animal goes for a ride,” she says.

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Health writer and editor Mary Bolster, the former Executive Editor of Yoga Journal, lives in Connecticut.