How to practise yoga with kids

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Photo: Danielle Burns

Susa Bernard uses animal sounds to appeal to children’s playfulness.

(More photos below the text.) 

Susa Bernard comes from an athletic background: her father was a professional hockey player and she was classically trained in ballet. Five years ago she discovered yoga and loves it for its versatility and ability to tone, stretch and provide mental focus. Bernard recently became a certified yoga instructor and held her first session in September 2019.

The yogi recently visited moms and tots at Take-a-Break Drop In at the Jeffery Hale Pavilion to give a workshop about the why and the how of doing yoga with young children. Bernard opened the talk with a question to the moms, many of whom had infants in their arms, while volunteers looked after the preschoolers in a separate room.

Why do yoga? One mom answered, “Because it feels good!” But who can find the time? Mothers with young babies have to work around the clock and when a mom is tired, self-care can be the first thing to go. Bernard pointed out that yoga, unlike other fitness activities, can be done at home instead of in a gym, important for parents who might not have family nearby to babysit. And equipment isn’t a prerequisite. A yoga mat is inexpensive and recommended, but a towel on the floor can also work.

Bernard also said that kids who start exercise early are more likely to be active for life and cited a personal example: her father had her wearing skates as soon as she could walk. “Kids are natural movers; it’s in their nature.” Bernard knows; she also teaches English to children who are constantly wriggling or adjusting their clothes. But kids will learn patience while building up a tolerance to holding yoga postures, and they don’t need to hold a pose for minutes at a time. “Start with five seconds and build up to 10,” suggested Bernard. Yoga can be a bonding activity that parents and children do together without the need for technology. Parents need to put down their smartphones to pay full attention to their body and their kids.

How to do yoga? Of course, if you are a yoga enthusiast it will be easier for you to include your child. But kids shouldn’t be forced to complete the entire session. Having fun is all-important. They might go play with some toys and wander back to their mat later. Or go to the bathroom, as one toddler needed to do three times in 30 minutes!

Bernard also suggested using simple language as opposed to Sanskrit words. It is certainly easier for you and your child to remember a phrase like “downward dog” than “Adho Mukha Svanasana.” In fact, many yoga poses use animal names: e.g. cat/cow (arching and rounding one’s back on all fours). With children, Bernard uses images to bring poses to life: “Say ‘Hello, sky’” (while reaching up); “Now ‘Hello, earth’” (while touching the mat). And kids can also make up their own names for poses. YouTube has many free videos to guide you. Bernard suggested aloyoga.com for videos. Take-a-Break moms like Cosmic Kids Yoga.

Bernard teaches adults Power Yoga (to work up a good sweat) at Chalmers-Wesley United Church, 78 Rue Sainte-Ursule. The winter session started at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 13 with a free class for prospective yogis. Bernard believes that it is important to “try out new teachers to see if their style of yoga suits you” because there are many kinds of yoga (Hatha, Vinyasa and Yin yoga, to name just a few). Go to SusaSparkleYoga Facebook page for more info.

Namaste.

 

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Four-year-old Hailey (right) and her little brother, two-and-a-half-year-old Miles (centre), practise yoga with their mom and dad at home.  Photo by Danielle Burns

 

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Instructor Susa Bernard (seated, left) recently spoke to Take-a-Break Drop In moms about how to do yoga with children.  Photo by Danielle Burns