Kidding Around Yoga recently spread its happy tot karma at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center, introducing children and parents to their transformational children’s yoga training. “Kids have said to me, ‘I found myself; I remember who I am,’” explained Haris Lender, founder of Kidding Around Yoga and 16-year veteran of her craft.
Lender’s instruction is geared toward helping children self-sooth with breathing instruction, relaxation techniques, stretching and strengthening, and imagination. She feels that all children should be practicing yoga daily. “Kids take on the stress of their parents,” she said. “They need this more than we understand.”
Here are her best tips to help little yogis connect to their inner selves.
Meet children on their level: “They don’t always know how to follow the rules,” said Lender, who allows kids to make a lot of noise, jump around, and speak out of turn.
Use mindful techniques: It’s important to give kids some time to “just be” when they are free from competition, academic pressures, and busy schedules. Lender explained, “I love it because parents show me videos of how they snuck up on their kids sitting in their bedrooms meditating.”
Talk to kids during a pose: If it is a boat pose, for example, she suggested asking children what kind of a boat they are and then allowing them to play out being a canoe, kayak, sail boat, or pedal boat. Meanwhile, they will not notice that they have been holding a pose for 45 seconds and have been strengthening their core muscles.
Make it playful: It’s taken Lender years to perfect her series of original kids’ yoga songs, which teach kids about acupressure points, peaceful living, and practicing on their own. She also includes games and activities that focus on relaxation, balance, and movement.
Follow traditional yoga routines: Offer children everything that would be in an authentic yoga class. “If you forget your meditation, or your pranayama, they are not going to float out the door,” she says. “And if kids aren’t floating out the door, then we haven’t done our job.”