Yoga is a wonderful tool used to promote the physical, emotional and social development of children. Classes based on Creative Yoga for Children address these fundamental needs, but also offer a substantial innovation to an already established entity. We begin our program by teaching such yoga fundamentals as poses, breathing techniques, and centring activities. Gradually, we blend these activities with those that also promote educational objectives. This is a very easy process, as the yogic and educational topics complement each other naturally.

Classes for ages ten to twelve

The main goal of these classes is to develop a global vision within the child, who at this age wants to understand how the world functions and his or her place in it. Children in this age group are able to analyze facts and generate new ideas and opinions. These classes leverage age-appropriate capabilities and will help children develop gratitude for the Earth, the universe and themselves.

In these classes children explore the following notions:

• Body changes
• Peer pressure
• Preparation for studying and the development of work habits
• Organization
• Community service
• Stress
• Reaching out beyond their inner circle of friends and family to the community

Class routine

Educational elements: Sensorial exploration and freedom of movement, choice to allow abstract concepts to be absorbed and processed, enrichment of language

Props: Create cards that each illustrate specific parts of whole entities (e.g., one card showing a whole fish and then four separate cards each isolating one specific part of that fish ( i.e. gill, fin, etc.), coloured modelling clay, yoga mats, chimes or gong, music, herbal eye pillows (optional)

Intention: Gather your class by ringing chimes or striking the gong. Welcome them to yoga and initiate a conversation about how they are all part of one big united group. For the purposes of this example, let us say you have a class of sixteen children. Tell them that there are sixteen in the class. Everyone is then one-sixteenth of the whole. Ask how many children half the group would be (eight). Ask them how many one-fourth of the group would be. Ask them to stand in groups and then cut that group in half and then in half again. Invite a conversation about fractions.
Time: five to ten minutes

Warm-up: Begin with the children sitting on their mats. Have them take three big breaths through their nose and on each exhalation ask them to say, “Hah,” blowing the breath out their mouths. Then begin a vinyasa.
Time: five to ten minutes

Connect: orchestra of “hahs.” Ask one child to start the orchestra by breathing in and exhaling a “hah.” The next child can join in on the next inhalation, so two children now breathe out a “hah.” Add in a third child and so on until finally all the children are inhaling and exhaling and repeating “hah” in unison. When this is over ask them to notice what a beautiful, big sound they created together.
Time: five to ten minutes

Activity: parts of the whole. Present a series of pictures that comprise the parts of an animal (i.e. fish) to the children. The pictures will all be the same, but each will have one part of the animal shaded in to highlight itself (i.e. one picture will have the gills shaded, the next picture will have the dorsal fin shaded, the next will have caudal fin shaded, etc.). Explain what the function of each part of the animal is. Discuss which part is for breathing, seeing, swimming, and so on. Ask each child in your group to create one part of the animal (each one of them referring to the picture for guidance) using coloured modelling clay. Once finished they can put their pieces together to make one large model of the animal. Discuss how each part of the animal works to help the creature to live, breathe, eat, defend itself, or reproduce. Point out how all the parts work together to create the whole.
Time: ten to fifteen minutes

Meditation: Ring the chimes to signal the end of the class. Invite the children to relax on their mats for a final meditation. Dim the lights and put on soft music. Have them close their eyes, letting their bodies sink into their mats, palms open to the sky. Ask them to feel how the very back of their head feels heavy on the mat. Ask them to let their breath become soft and even. Now ask the children to think of one of the creations that they made today, perhaps a fish, a tree, or a flower. Tell them to visualize this creation. Ask them to picture how colourful it is. Ask them to feel like they can reach out and touch it. How does it feel? Ask them to think about the beauty this thing adds to the Earth. After a few minutes of silence, ring the chimes, and ask the children to move and stretch very slowly, to roll over onto one side, and finally to come up into a seated position, with their eyes closed and hands resting gently on their knees. Ask them to notice how they feel.
Time: five to ten minutes

Gratitude: Ring the chimes softly and tell the children to gradually stretch and roll over onto one side. Ask them to come to a seated position and bring their hands together in prayer position. Tell them that this hand position is called the prayer mudra. Ask them to close their eyes and take a moment to silently be thankful for everything and everyone around them and for anyone else they love in their lives. Then repeat the word “namaste” to them and explain that it means that the “light inside of me bows down to the light inside of you.” Have them repeat it. End of class.
Time: five to ten minutes

Adrienne Rawlinson is a certified Montessori teacher and registered yoga teacher, with a degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She put together her program, drawing from her yoga and Montessori teaching experience, and she began offering afterschool and weekend workshops to children in her area. She currently teaches Montessori and yoga in Oakville, Ontario.

From Creative Yoga for Children by Adrienne Rawlinson, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2013 by Adrienne Rawlinson. Reprinted by permission of publisher. If you liked this excerpt, buy the book!

photo courtesy San Mateo County Library (CC-BY-SA)