Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
As yogis, we know asana and meditation can help us feel powerfully grounded and embodied, which in turn shapes how we show up in the world. These practices are important for everyone—and they are particularly crucial for kids, who are discovering who they will become on a daily basis. I often wish I had yoga in my life when I was a child; I believe it would’ve helped me show up more fully and express myself more authentically. That’s why I founded Yoga Foster, a nonprofit that empowers elementary school teachers with yoga tools and curricula for their classrooms. All too often, children—particularly those of color—aren’t always seen, heard, or respected by their parents and teachers, and they aren’t taught the skills to help them change that. Yoga can help kids take ownership of their bodies, transform how they think of themselves, and ultimately help them speak up for what they need.
The following sequence is based on a Yoga Foster lesson about courage and bravery. To keep kids engaged, I like to change the names of some of the postures. For example, Dandayamna Bharmanasana (Balancing Table Pose) can sound confusing and even intimidating, so I call it Tiger Pose. My advice when practicing with children is to be playful. In addition to changing asana names, I weave in fun cues like, “Let out a tiger roar,” to bring the poses to life. And don’t be hyper focused on form. When kids do Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), for example, it’s going to look different from yours. Just be sure they’re staying safe.
Finally, remember that no matter how much fun you make it, practicing with children requires patience and dedication. Don’t think of this as your practice, but rather an opportunity to spend time with kids. That being said, stay open to what you can learn from them. In my experience, kids bring a joy and curiosity to yoga that inspires the same in my own practice.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Kneel on the floor with your knees as wide as your hips, and bring your big toes to touch. Then, sit back on your heels. Exhale, rest your torso between your thighs, and place your forehead on the mat. Stretch your arms in front of you, palms facing down, and then rest your elbows on the mat. Relax every part of your body in this pose as you hold for 5 breaths.
Dandayamna Bharmanasana (Balancing Table Pose or Tiger Pose)
Come to Tabletop with your hands slightly in front of your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale, and lift your right arm out in front of you. Exhale, and lift your left leg out behind you, pretending it’s a tail. Now you’re a long, brave tiger. Try to maintain your balance while you swish your tail from side to side. Play here for 3 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
See also Balancing Yoga Poses
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
From Tabletop, tuck your toes under, and think about pressing your doggie tail up toward the sky, lifting your knees and hips backward. Think of your hands as paws, and spread your paw fingers wide, pressing them evenly into your mat. Move your inner thighs toward the back wall, and drop your heels until they hover above the mat. Look back between your hind doggie paws, and wag your tail side to side. Stay here for 5 breaths.
See also Dig Deeper in Down Dog
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
Take a big breath in, and come forward into Plank Pose with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your torso parallel to the floor. On an exhalation, slowly bend your elbows, and lower into Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). On an inhalation, pull your chest between your hands. Straighten your arms to lift up your torso, and bring your legs a few inches off the floor with the tops of your feet resting on the mat. Feel your shoulder blades push into your back as you open your heart toward the sky. On an exhalation, roll over your toes, pressing your hips up and back into Downward-Facing Dog.
See also 6 Ways to Do Yoga With Your Child
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge or Dragon Pose)
Take a big breath in, and lift your right leg up into the air behind you. On an exhalation, step your right foot forward between your hands. Make sure your knee is directly over your heel. On an inhalation, lift your torso upright, draw your arms (or your wings) up toward the sky, and press your tailbone down toward the floor. Exhale, and imagine you are a dragon breathing out fire as you lower your wings behind you. Then, sweep your wings forward, and place your hands back on the mat below your shoulders. Step your right leg back into Plank Pose, and push your hips up and backward to return to Down Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Walk your feet toward your hands, and roll up into Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the top of your mat with your feet under your hips, hands by your sides. On an inhalation, sweep your arms up overhead, with the palms of your hands facing one another. On an exhalation, sweep your arms back down by your sides as you hinge forward at your hips and draw your chest toward your knees. Stay in this forward fold for one deep breath, roll back up to Mountain Pose, then repeat 4 more times. Finish in Mountain Pose.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose variation or Star Pose)
Step or jump your feet out, wider than hip-width. Press your feet firmly into the mat as you draw your head up toward the sky. Press your chest toward the front of the room, sweeping your arms out on either side of you. Hold them parallel to the floor like a big letter T. Stay here for 3 breaths.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose variation, or T-Rex Pose)
Keep your feet where they are. To create T-rex arms, draw your elbows in toward your sides and curl your fingers into claws. Then, bend your knees, and drop your hips as if you are about to sit in a little chair. Draw your hips back, and pretend you have a long, heavy tail like a T-rex. On an inhalation, lift your chest up, and feel your collarbones spread wide. On an exhalation, let out a big T-rex roar, and swish your T-rex tail from side to side. Stay here for 5 breaths, then fold forward to release.
See also 4 Ways to Modify Chair Pose
Vrksasana Tree Pose
Return to Mountain Pose with both of your feet planted firmly on the floor. Press your palms together at your heart, and move your weight into your right foot, keeping a slight bend in your knee. Place the bottom of your left foot just below or above your right knee. Press all four corners of your right foot into the ground, like your body is a tree—your foot growing roots deep into the earth. Now, reach the top of your head toward the sky, and grow your tree as tall as you can. You can keep your hands in Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) at your heart, or grow your branches by bringing your arms up toward the sky. If you wobble a little, pretend you’re swaying in the breeze. Hold for 3 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Apanasana (Knees-to-Chest Pose or Rock Pose)
Lie down on your back with your arms and legs extended. On an exhalation, draw your knees into your chest, and wrap your hands under your knees. Press your back down into the mat as you give yourself a big squeeze, and thank yourself for being big and brave today. Is there something you’re thinking about that you want to remember after class? Hold it in your heart as you stay here for
5 deep breaths.
See also 20-Minute Sequence to Ease Back Pain
Savasana (Corpse Pose or Do Nothing Pose)
Lower your feet to the floor, and straighten your legs. Allow your feet to flop open to the sides. Rest on your back with your arms alongside your body, your palms facing up. Close your eyes if it’s comfortable, and just relax. Allow the mat to fully support your body. Pretend it’s a magical mat that has the ability to recharge you with energy for a new day. Remember what you like most about being brave. How would you like to be brave later today, after this class? Stay here for 10 breaths.
See also 3 Ways to Get Kids Stoked About Yoga
About Our Pro
Model and teacher Nicole Cardoza is the founder of Yoga Foster, a national nonprofit that empowers educators with yoga tools for the classroom. Community engagement makes their practice possible. Learn how you can support them at yogafoster.org.