Yoga is not just for adults, but also for children! I love when I can bring my passion of yoga into my second-grade classroom. My second-graders love it too! I have found lots of little ways to incorporate yoga into our school day. If I don’t do anything yoga related for a few days, I have students begging me to put in a yoga activity. We use yoga poses, breathing exercises and mindfulness in my classroom on a daily basis. While I do these things with my students, it would also be great to do with your own children, nieces, nephews, or children that you nanny or care for.
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When I bought the Yoga Pretzels card deck, I started with the breathing exercises with my students. Each of the exercises mimics how an animal breathes. There are cute little stories to go with each one. I simply had my students find a comfortable spot to sit in the room and read them the card. I wasn’t sure how they would react, would they think it was too silly or childish? No! They loved it! We did a card a day. Every once in awhile we will go back and repeat some of their favorites. We also do box breathing before quizzes and tests. Box breathing is where you breath in for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and hold your breath for four counts. The number of counts can vary from four, but I think four is a nice number for children. If I notice that a student is having a hard time dealing with an emotion and do a box breathing exercise with just them.
After we did all of the breathing exercise cards, we moved on to the yoga poses in the Yoga Pretzels card deck. Just like with the breathing cards, each pose comes with a fun (short) story to read, along with instructions on how to do the pose. I have to say, I was surprised that they had such a hard time balancing in poses like tree and warrior 3. I think this is because they have a hard time centering themselves and focusing inward. They are so concerned with what is going on around them. With my background in teaching yoga, I was able to differentiate the poses for them. But the cards give good enough descriptions that anyone could use them to guide a child or group of children through them.
This has been the biggest help in the classroom. I read the book Sitting Still like a Frog by myself and utilize the techniques all the time in my classroom. It’s actually a book written for parents, but it is very adaptable for the classroom. It is a quick read that is filled with advice on how to help children become more mindful and deal with strong emotions. The book comes with a CD that has several guided meditations for children. The first one is the longest. I was concerned that my students would have a hard time sitting still and concentrating for over ten minutes. But they really surprised me! We don’t just use mindfulness when doing these activities from the CD. I am constantly reminding students to do things mindfully. We talk about what it would look, sound, and feel like to mindfully complete a simple task. Then they try it. We use this for walking back to their desks, putting away materials, getting started on an assignment, etc. It makes a world of a difference!
Benefits of Yoga for Children
When I use these techniques with my students I notice a ton of instant benefits. They are more focused, concentrate on their work longer, get along better with each other, do more quality of work, deal with emotions better, and are generally happier. I have teachers come into my room all the time and ask me how I make my classroom so calm. It is mainly because of these techniques that I use with my students on a daily basis.
I would highly recommend using the Yoga Pretzels card deck and the book Sitting Still like a Frog to help the children in your life with yoga techniques. This won’t just be helpful for you and them now but will help them build skills that will benefit them for their whole life.