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The Littlest Yogis

Body Awareness Can Help Young Children Cope with Changing Skills

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Article by Rachel C. Murphy

Photography by Joel Schneider

Originally published in Northland Lifestyle

Om, om, ommmmmmmm. That sound represents destressing and focusing on our inner selves for many practitioners of yoga. What do children have to destress from? Plenty! As their bodies change and grow, yoga-inspired exercises can help youngsters stretch and learn to utilize their bodies in healthy ways. That's one reason by instructor Niki Larrea started the Kids Kula. 

Her workshops for children ages 3-6 and 7-10 and 11-13 regularly take place at the KC Yoga Center, now located at 8741 N. Stoddard in Zona Rosa, but she also travels around to preschools and school groups. Her lessons are simple and tailored to the age group--her experience as a preschool teacher is evident as she connects with one of her students, Will. 

Will and Niki showed us a series of exercises that incorporate traditional asanas into kid-friendly activities that help to stretch and strengthen while also keeping their attention. And no need for fancy equipment; Larrea says that you can buy most of what you need at 5 Below or the Dollar Store. For her demonstration, she used circles cut out of an inexpensive yoga mat as well as craft supplies. Even your child's favorite stuffed animal can get in on the action! Here are a few movements to get you going on you and your child's home om. For more information or to find one of Niki's classes, visit TheKidsKula.com.

Movement one: Place a pile of soft fuzzy balls on the floor. If you don't have balls, use a wadded up tissue or paper towel. With your collection in front of you and your child, have them try to pick up the balls one by one using only their toes and fling it behind them. Using their toes helps to strengthen their feet, which is necessary as they grow quickly and spend lots of time in shoes. 

Movement two: Grab a pile of stuffed animals. Place a pile on the far side of you and the far side of your child. Lay your arms out in a 'T' formation to stabilize as you use your feet to pick up each stuffed animal and transfer it to the other side of your body. This version of twists can help aid digestion. 

Movement three: Take a walk through the farm. Every kid knows Old MacDonald Had a Farm, so use it to inspire movement. As you walk in place, have your child suggest animal names and find a pose that matches. Some easy ones are downward facing dog, cobra, and cat/cow.

Movement Four: Sit back to back with your child. Take turns breathing in deeply, leaning against your partner's back as you inhale. As you exhale and they inhale, lean forward, creating a seated seesaw motion. This helps both of you connect to your breath and encourages careful listening. 

Movement Five: Namaste. Honor the work that you have done together! Ending your practice or play time with a bow sets a tone of respect for you and your budding yogi. 

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