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Can you practice yoga at home with kids?
Yoga is supposed to be a calming, relaxing practice right?
No interruptions, time to yourself, peaceful and full of good vibes only.
Doing yoga at home with kids nearby (or completely in the way) can certainly make that a different story.
It’s not exactly peaceful doing yoga when you have a toddler clinging to your back, a cat tripping you up in warrior 1, a dog barking at you in down dog, or a school age kid screaming about how they don’t understand their math assignment.
How do you implement a steady and calming yoga routine for yourself and/or your kids when you are at home?
And, how can you get your kids to do yoga at home WITH you?
We are currently living in the pandemic of COVID-19 here in the US, which means stay at home, distance learning for the kids, physical distancing for non family members, and lots of added stress.
It is now, more than ever, imperative to have a solid yoga at home practice. For adults, and for kids.
We need the calm of deep breathing and meditation, we need the movement to get up from desks and computers, and we need a routine.
We need to be doing yoga at home, with kids or not!
Here are some tips for how to start and maintain a yoga and mindfulness practice with kids at home
1. Tell your kids what yoga is!
Unless your kids have a yoga teacher at school, or have grown up in a yoga studio, it’s like that they don’t really know what yoga is, or why we do it.
Here are some things I always say when describing yoga to kids for the first time:
- Hatha Yoga (the movements and poses that most of us practice) was originally created a LONG time ago (5,000 + years ago!). It was created in what is now the country of India, by people called yogis. Here’s a cliff notes of the history.
- Yogis were very spiritual and were practicing meditation for many hours a day. They sat so long and their bodies got so stiff that they needed a solution.
- So, the yogis started imitating the movements of animals they saw around them, and thus created yoga poses!
- They stretched their backs like cats and cows, they wriggled their spines like cobras and dogs.
- Doing yoga poses helps keep your body and spine especially strong and healthy so you can sit and practice meditation (or just go about your daily life).
- Now, today, many people do yoga to stay healthy. Moving your body and your spine in different directions, like you do in yoga, helps you be able to walk, run, sit and go through life with strong and flexible muscles.
- Doing yoga builds strength in your muscles, and also keeps them flexible. Having muscles that are strong and flexible protects your bones from injury.
- Practicing yoga helps you focus your mind. In trying to move your body in a specific way, your brain has to think very carefully. When you focus your mind like this, it helps you to let go of other worries or distractions in your brain.
- Copying movements and yoga poses of another person also activates mirror neurons in your brain. These specific neurons help your brain build important cells that increase awareness in other people, especially their emotions. This is called empathy!
All of these are great reasons to tell your kids why we do yoga as adults, and why they might benefit from yoga as well.
Note, however, that kids yoga is not the same as adult yoga. Even if you let them join in with you doing yoga, the energy and results of doing yoga with your kids may be drastically different.
This is why the next few bullet points are especially important.
2. Establish the space for yoga mats and other tools
No matter what your home space is, make sure you set up a spot that will always be your yoga spot. I have some floor space between my desk and my piano that works just fine. I can’t have my mat out all the time, but I push in the chair and bench when it’s yoga time and roll my mat out then.
- Ideally, find a space where you can place your mat on a hard floor, but carpet works as well.
- Give your kids their own mat, if you can and have the space. It’s important for them to feel included and important enough to have their own space too.
- If you can, get a headstand bench to use for inversions. I use mine just as often to place my laptop on for live streaming classes 😬.
- Set your yoga block and strap nearby for easy access. Or use a water bottle, a book, or anything else block sized for those poses you need a little support. (One time I used a cereal box! )
- Place a journal nearby, with some pretty pens. I do a lot of bullet journaling and this one with templates and section for gratitude has saved me so much time. Plus it’s so pretty I WANT to journal every day!
- Kids can just as easy journal or color along with you! Here’s a beautiful gratitude journal for kids, and a favorite coloring book.
- Get a meditation cushion or some pillows so you can sit and meditate before or after practice as well.
- Set up a smart speaker so you can listen to calming music without having your phone nearby.
- Speaking of, unless you need it for streaming classes or playing videos, try to make your yoga space a phone-free zone.
3. Establish the time for a routine of doing yoga at home with your kids (and by yourself!)
Pick a time of day for your yoga practice.
Then pick a separate time of day for your kids and you to do yoga together. If they are old enough (10+ I would say) let them have some yoga time of their own as well!
For me, I like to meditate right away in the morning, then maybe do a little stretching on my own.
Mid-day is the best time for me to do a full class, it gets me up and moving after sitting at my computer all morning.
Kids need breaks frequently, so maybe choose a mid-morning and mid-afternoon time to do yoga with them, just for 10 minutes or so each time.
No matter what, try to keep it consistent.
Especially if you are also doing distance learning with them and working from home, a consistent schedule is best!
Kids have very regimented schedules at most public schools, so this consistency will be a source of comfort to them.
4. Set boundaries if you need to
Along with the spatial setup, and the timing of your yoga practice, it’s ok to set up a verbal/emotional boundary too.
Kids do yoga very differently than adults so you may need to talk to them about expectations ahead of time.
Let your kids know that when you are doing yoga on your own, they should respect your alone time. If you want, tell them they can join, but they can’t talk to you (or ask un-related yoga questions).
Feel free to also say you need your space and that independent yoga time is no talking/no touching.
Similarly, try not to interrupt their yoga at home time with you!
When it’s yoga at home time with your kids, respect that time: be invested, don’t use your phone, and stay with them–engaged and participating.
Kids can tell very quickly when you are not 100% there with them. Do the yoga and mindfulness with integrity and they will be there with you more actively as well!
5. Try new poses with your kids. Here are some great yoga poses to do at home with kids
As a kids yoga teacher, I’ve come to accept that there are lots of great yoga poses for kids. In fact, many of the poses you would do in an adult yoga class work great for kids!
The main difference is how you approach the pose, and also what the poses are named.
Half the skill of doing yoga with kids is being creative with names of poses.
You can tell silly stories with poses, you can make up new poses or shapes.
You can match a pose to each letter of the alphabet! There are so many fun ways to do yoga with kids.
Here are some great simple yoga poses to do at home with kids of any age.
Cat and Cow
(Can you come up with Warrior 4, 5 and 6?)
Baby Cobra and King Cobra
Dragon and Monkey
Another fun part of doing yoga with kids can be making it rhythmic and repetitive, like in a Yoga Flow (similar to a vinyasa flow for adults)
They will learn the poses quickly, they will get moving and do more poses in a short amount of time. This yoga flow is an excellent way to help kids who are active and full of energy do yoga with you.
It also takes the guess work out of what poses to do! The whole sequence is laid out in a slideshow, and you can also print them for creating sequences of your own.
Get the pose images and tons of tips for how to do a Yoga Flow with your kids here.
6. Do some partner yoga poses with your kids
Partner poses are so much fun to do at home with kids. It’s a great way to help encourage kids to try yoga with you for the first time, or to get reluctant kiddos to try new poses.
Many partner poses are just two poses put together to support each other and help one another stretch or balance more.
Make sure to preface going slowly, taking deep breaths, and being supportive (helpful). It’s not a competition but a way to work together.
Here are some of my favorite partner poses to do with kids:
Sit face to face with your partner, legs straight out and feet touching. You can do this with legs together, or in a seated wide leg forward fold. Reach for each other’s hands, and stretch back and forth like a seesaw! Go slow and take deep breaths to help each other stretch.
Stand face to face with your partner and hold your hands up in front of you at shoulder height, pressing your palms into your partners’. Press one foot into your other leg, either your calf or your thigh and balance with the support of your partner! Option to reach your arms as high as you can.
Sit facing your partner with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, toes touching your partners’. Reach for their hands, and try to keep your back straight. Press your feet into one another and lift one leg up, then the other so you are both doing boat pose!
Stand facing your partner and reach one hand straight up. Press your palms into your partners’ and take a small step back. Reach your other hand for your foot and press your foot back, leaning forward slightly into dancer, supported by your partner! It may help to do dancer one at a time, with the other person standing firm and tall as a support.
Stand on your knees, side by side with your partner, about two arms width away from each other. Put one leg out straight to the side (away from your partner) then place your opposite hand on the floor. Reach your other hand up and over in an arch towards your partner and make a rainbow by connecting your hands.
Heart (Reverse Warrior)
Stand next to your partner with your left/right feet connected at the outside edge. Step your other foot away, sideways with your toes pointing away from your partner. Bend that knee deeply. Reach your arms out at shoulder height, hold your partner’s closest hand, and reach your other arm up and over, back towards your partner. Ben your elbows and bring your hands down a bit to make a heart shape.
Stand facing your partner and hold their hands. Step back so your arms are almost straight. Bend your knees like you are sitting in a chair. Keep your arms straight and lean back slightly to support one another!
You can also play a game where you name a pose, or draw one from a pose deck, and then try to figure out a way to connect the poses! Create new partner poses and new ways to support each other. (Game described in this post)
7. Be creative with yoga games for your kids
Kids love games. One of the best ways to get kids to try yoga with you is to make it a game! I have tons of resources for kids yoga games all over my site. Here are the best games for at home.
- Yoga Memory
- Dice Game with Yoga Poses
- Yoga Pose Spinner Game
- Twister Yoga
- Create Your Own Yoga Board Game
- Fortune Teller Yoga
- Partner Pose Create
- Yoga Storytelling
- Jenga Yoga
Or, if you don’t have a printer at home, you can use some of them on an iPad in the viewable PDF.
8. Do a live stream yoga practice, either for adults or kids!
If you are doing live stream classes or even pre-recorded yoga classes for yourself, maybe let your kids join in! Depending on their age, they may be able to just do a few poses, or even the whole thing. I’ve seen toddlers, kindergarteners, and school age kids join my peers in live stream classes lately and it is fun for everyone to watch them do their best!
If you need to establish boundaries though, make sure you establish those beforehand. Let them come and go perhaps, and make it easy for them to feel welcome.
Here are some live stream classes that I love:
9. Try some yoga videos on YouTube
If you don’t need or want the accountability and schedule of a live practice, or if you need a little change, there are plenty of yoga videos and audio recordings out there.
Here are some great yoga videos for kids.
Kumarah Yoga on YouTube (new and adding more daily through this pandemic!)
Alo Yoga for Kids (they have quite a great list of yoga for kids videos, most around 5 minutes)
Yoga videos for adults
Up Yoga recorded classes (Baptiste Power Yoga)
10. Go easy on yourselves
No matter what the world and this virus are doing, make sure to take it easy.
Yes, do yoga and mindfulness with your kids.
Do yoga on your own.
But don’t stress if you aren’t, either!
If you suddenly became a stay-at-home parent, a work-from-home parent, a homeschooling parent, and a daycare parent all at once, you’ve got enough worries.
Do what you can, do what feels good, but don’t force it.
Yes, make the time. But also be ok with letting that time go every now and then.
Also, remember that kids yoga is not the same as adult yoga! (remember these 5 myths of teaching yoga to kids?)
Even if you let them join in with you doing yoga, the energy and results of doing yoga with your kids may be drastically different.