There's never a dull—or quiet—moment in Kate Roades's yoga classes for kids. "Oh, it's never silent," she says, adding that chatting, laughter, and audible groans are the norm. Just recently a little student quipped midpose, "I am not a cobra, Teacher Kate, I am a seal." Roades's enthusiasm and accepting attitude during moments like these make her a great teacher—giggling is OK in her classes, as is saying a pose feels funny. She's learned plenty of tricks teaching at It's Yoga Kids, the San Francisco studio she opened with partner Michelle Wing in early 2006.
How can parents who want to practice with their kids follow her lead? First, says Roades, know that your child might not be hooked right away. Like adults, kids want to be good at things, and yoga can seem strange at first. "By the third time it's usually not so foreign," Roades says. She also encourages incorporating positions that your child already knows (like sitting cross-legged) into each session to build confidence. Once they are in a pose, tell them how many breaths they will stay in it, to help them feel safe. Finally, limit practices to 30 minutes or less and use language they'll enjoy and understand.
Most of all, says Roades, make it fun, and your children will begin to feel stronger and calmer in their daily life. "Giving children the tools to feel confident is priceless," Roades says. "Teaching kids how to relax and deal with their emotions is incredible."
Before You Begin
Set Up: Find a quiet spot in your home or yard to set up your mats.
Communicate: Chat with your child about yoga. Let her know that it's a physical practice and that breathing deeply is important. Listen to her concerns and ideas. As you practice, compliment your child on her efforts. Create a sense of lightheartedness, and convey that yoga is meant to feel good and be fun!
About the Sequence: During the sequence, remind your child often to breathe deeply through her nose. Hold poses for about 2 to 5 breaths. And check in every so often by asking her how a pose feels or where she is working hardest.
After You Finish
Rest: Lie together in Floating on a Cloud Pose (also known as Savasana, or Corpse Pose). Encourage her to close her eyes, be still and calm, and pretend that her body is floating on a cloud. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.
Connect: Give your child a hug and thank her for practicing with you. Get her feedback by asking her what she enjoyed the most. Be open to your child's response.