Kids Yoga Encourages Children to Discover the Art of Relaxation

Here’s the second part of the a letter I received asking about the sometimes difficult part of a kids yoga class: relaxation with kids.

Dear Aruna,

After completing my yoga therapy course I stayed in Bangalore for a couple of days and I went to teach kids yoga at my friends daughters kindergarten. 4-5 year olds, we did a “yoga safari” letting the kids imagine what animals we ran into. It was really fantastic, they loved it! The total time was around 30 minutes.

What is the ultimate time frame for small kids verses older kids? 4-5 year olds 30min? 7 year olds 1 hr? The relaxation part was the most difficult, I tried doing simple Yoga Nidra but it was not very successful.

Anna Bervander, Singapore

The Ultimate Time Frame for kids yoga classes is answered in this post here.

But what about the part Anna threw in at the end about how the relaxation was the most difficult? Does relaxation with kids have to be hard?

Why Won’t Kids Relax?
Here’s a little trouble shooting guide that you can consider when you’re wondering why the relaxation isn’t going too well and also what you can do about it:

  • The Kids Are Not Tired: Usually at the end of an active yoga class we want to relax! So if they aren’t relaxing why not add another pose onto the end. Especially a pose that helps a person sleep and works the central nervous system – like table pose. After a minute of this pose the kids are happy to lie down.

    Also consider the time of the class. Some kids may have napped in the afternoon and are now coming to class – so they just slept. If the class is in the morning, they just woke up.

  • They don’t want to relax: Certain kids don’t like to be told what to do. If you say to someone, “Relax” they often respond, “I’m not tired.” I give a choice during relaxation. I often play a song and invite them to either lie down or join me in meditating to the song. If you try to tell kids what to do without giving them a choice or explaining why they would want to do it, you will run into problems.

    Children don’t follow along like an adult class would. If they don’t want to do something they will straight out tell you – NO! So let them get to know what is good for them, let them decide and consider it your job to find a good way to explain the benefits so they want to relax. As they get to know you and trust you, you can explain more and more how it’s good for your body, it rejuvenates, it just feels good and comfortable. But until they want to relax, I suggest letting them sit and meditate. Often my toughest customers will start of refusing to lie down, then half way through the song they will quietly repose.

  • They’re not comfortable relaxing with strangers: In a first class like Anna had – kids aren’t sure who you are and the whole experience of yoga may be new to them. Some people won’t be comfortable closing their eyes and resting with strangers (both kids and adults). They will only be comfortable resting when they feel safe.
  • They just ate a birthday cake: You may not believe what some kids eat. The food they are taking in may make their minds very active and relaxation won’t be easy for them. Consider this topic as a theme for a future yoga class if you have a regular group and maybe the kids will start to try different food choices.

Many teachers insist on Corpse pose during relaxation time. Personally, I don’t spend too much time getting the children into corpse pose when I’m with a new group of kids.  I let them relax in any position at the beginning. In future classes I’ll teach corpse pose as a pose first then use it in relaxation.

Eventually, I’ll also introduce relaxation with no music and/or guided imagery relaxations.

You Can’t Teach Everything About Yoga In One Class
There are so many topics to introduce to kids in yoga, I know I can’t teach them everything in one class! So if you are going into a one time class, keep this in mind. What are the main points you really want to introduce.

If you try to tell them too much they may get overloaded. If kids relax in corpse pose that is great. If they turn on their side or their back – I feel this is not the most important thing to correct as it can distract the whole group and spoil a peaceful mood with corrections and directions. I’m happy as long as they are quiet and peaceful whether they are sitting or reclined.

Aruna Humphrys

P.S.  Check out our upcoming workshops and Kids Yoga Teacher Training courses here. I’d love to see you there to give kids the gift of yoga.

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  1. Many of the poses, such as Downward Dog, Upward Dog, and Plank pose, build upper-body strength .
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  2. I used your tip on Tuesday Aruna – the one about getting the kids to stay in table pose as the last pose of our set. It was a class with ages ranging from 7 – 12 years. About half of them were resting at the 30 sec. mark of table pose. By a minute – everyone ready for relaxation!! Such a great tip. THANKS!!

  3. @ Yogi Clare Bear – yes – there are some great guided relaxation that the kids will ask for.

    @ all – after writing this post, I just came across the term "Sukh Nidra" or Easy Rest/Sleep in one of my yoga manual. One can rest on the belly or any easy pose.

  4. that is a great idea for teaching corpse as a pose first.

    i've found that a guided relaxation is helpful, because it gives the "wired" kids something to do, but still allows a relaxation for those that are willing or able.