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SO you want to teach yoga to kids and get them to slow down, right?
Well, what happens when kids are just naturally too fast?
When they move at the speed of light and are jumping or bouncing or talking so fast you can’t even get them to take a breath that doesn’t sound like hyperventilating?
Well, obviously, these kids need to do yoga to help slow them down.
But it’s really, really hard to go from fast like a cheetah to slow turtle in the blink of an eye. Or even in a couple minutes.
Or sometimes even in a whole class period. And I’m sure, almost impossible before bed.
What you need is the right routine. You need to match their quick pace and their loud voices to start, and then with a few minutes of repetitive, weight bearing, crossing the midline poses, start to get them to slow down.
What you need is to teach what I call a Yoga Flow.
Yoga Flow is what I’ve named my “call and response” yoga routines that I do with almost every single class of grade school children that I teach. (That’s 15 different classes a week). It’s a fast-paced yoga routine that follows the basic outline of a sun salutation.
We do a yoga flow routine several times through right at the beginning of class, and by the last time we either slow it down substantially or add in some trickier balance poses and then I start to cue breathing.
Grab the mindful breathing pages FREE from my resources library, plus lesson plans,
I have used yoga flow routines with preschoolers, too, though we go a bit slower to make sure they get all the body parts in the right places. And I usually don’t start with it when I first meet a class. (Though now that I have figured out the economy of language I am more confident at starting with this with the first or second class of teaching)
Pre-teens and teenagers would most likely find my call and response yoga flow engaging too, though they may not want to repeat the pose names, they might just listen and copy the moves.
Check out my post on Yoga for Kids According to Child Development for more tips on teaching to kids of different ages, from babies to teens!
Why Yoga Flow?
Why make kids copy the pose names and repeat everything I say and do? Lots of reasons:
- They have to use their voice for a purpose instead of interrupting me
- They learn the names of the poses quickly
- We all move and get warmed up right away
- I introduce new and challenging poses in the middle or near the end to keep them interested and motivated
- The routine of coming in and starting almost immediately with the same thing is comforting and keeps them from getting distracted by other things
- It keeps them accountable because it’s much easier to notice who isn’t following along when we flow together in a sun salutation for several minutes
- They are generally quite tired after an 8-10 minute flow and are able to do some breathing activities to calm down. Then they can listen to directions better.
So what is a Yoga Flow?
Basically, we stand in a circle and I say a pose name out loud while I do the pose. The kids copy the pose and repeat the pose name nice and loud. This call and response and copying the pose moves pretty quickly at the beginning of the flow and can slow down as you repeat the sequence or want to try newer, trickier poses.
I tell the kids, “Copy the moves that I do, and say the pose names after me.”
It is rhythmic, I make it like a chant or a song, and I say it in a very compelling, loud and teacher-y voice.
I even change my tone and make silly voices from time to time to make it even more interesting. To make the yoga flow super successful, I keep reminding
- only say the pose name, not anything else
- use your breath instead if you get tired
- only say the pose names if you are actually doing the poses
- stay in the circle the whole time
Most of the time I am leading the kids through a modified Sun Salutation yoga flow. A common sequence that I use is here:
- Crescent moon (both sides)
- Up dog
- Down dog
- One foot up (
three legged dog)
- Step it forward
- High crescent
- Warrior 1
- Warrior 2
- Reverse [warrior]
And that’s the basic start-up routine. We do that whole yoga flow, both sides, usually once or twice, pretty face paced. Then after that, we start to slow the routine down.
Slow it Down
So, once the kids are into the routine and copying all the moves you do and repeating the pose names after yoga nicely, then you can start adding in new poses and trying some trickier balances.
Here are some places I might do that:
- [Knee down]
- Dragon (arms up in low crescent lunge)
- Monkey (half monkey pose)
This next pose sequence is harder because they need to be able to see you, and it also requires a lot better balance skills.
This works best for 3rd grade and up. I usually go through high plank à chaturanga à crocodile with them so that they can lay on the floor and watch me while I model it.
- High plank
- Side plank
- Wild thing
A balance I will add near the end of the yoga sequence starts with high crescent and goes as far as I think they can balance with me.
This one can go fast like at the beginning, or you can start slowing it down and make it last twice as long.
- High crescent
- Warrior 3
- High crescent
- Warrior 2
- Half moon
- Warrior 2
- Star pose
- Falling star
- Falling star (
- Star pose
- Jump the other way (turn to face the other direction in the circle
- Warrior 2 (still towards the middle,
other knee bent)
- Half moon
- Warrior 2
- high crescent
- warrior 3 high crescent
Bring in Mindfulness
One last way to help kids slow down as they do these sequences and yoga glow with you is to pause only briefly every now and then to interrupt yourself and bring kids’ awareness to something specific.
The way this works best is by really changing your tone. As you are leading them through the fast-paced yoga flow sequence, you should be speaking in a loud and engaging teaching voice, with lots of energy.
When you pause to point out something for them to be mindful of, change your tone.
Drop your voice level down a few notches, speak lower and more calmly. It’s almost like interrupting yourself with a different, calmer personality.
It will catch the kids attention, they won’t feel the immediate need to repeat what you said (probably) and they will listen to the change in your voice.
Here are some things I will say to bring mindfulness to the yoga practice:
- Notice how my foot is under my knee
- I see that Angelica has her arms stretched way apart and is keeping them straight
- One of my hands reaching to the ground, the other is lifting all the way up
- I can feel my quad muscles working hard because my leg is bent
- My arms are straight
- If I close my mouth and breathe and I can feel my heartbeat
- My foot is pointing towards the bell [in the middle of the circle]
- Shoulders are down
Notice that these should be short, quick, non-judgmental, and NOT phrased as questions. If you ask a question (even if you think it’s rhetorical the kids won’t) they will start talking again.
I am mostly just commenting on my own body and by doing that, kids will notice something similar or different in their own body and often adjust to match me. This is a quick way to check alignment, but also to just bring kids brains into focusing on their own body.
Some kids may comment after your comments, but if you start right up again with the call and response, it should probably get lost.
Check out some other easy ways to bring mindfulness to your kids’ day in this post here.
The WILL TO REPEAT what others are saying in a nice sing-songy voice is very strong in most kids.
Finally, I often go back to the beginning sequence and just start to take it much slower. Inside of having them repeat each pose name, I’ll do the poses for them to copy more slowly.
With each pose, I’ll instead say, “inhale…. exhale” and I tell them to close their mouth and breathe through their nose and just listen. It starts to work after a few reminders.
I slow my own voice down, I start speaking quieter, and I change my tone to a softer and calmer one.
So, there you have it! One of my most successful ways of teaching kids yoga to preschool through elementary age and preteen kids! I have been very proud of this discovery and I love sharing it with others.
I sent a voice-recording example of this type of flow to my email list so if that’s something you’d like to have, sign up for yoga lessons below and email me to request the sample! I’ll be doing a few more examples in the next few days, too, so stay tuned.
Thanks for reading!!
Here are some other Tips and Tricks for Teaching Kid’s Yoga.
Also, check out this in-depth post on Teaching Yoga to Active and Energetic Kids
Make sure to grab an outline of what my active classes looks like by joining the FREE resources library below!
Lots of good info for ya here! Let me know what else you need 🙂
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