August 27, 2011

Kid’s Yoga: Bring in the Boys! ~ Shakta Khalsa

Photo: Sean Dreilinger

Besides teaching tens of hundreds of children’s yoga classes myself, I’ve spent a good amount of time observing hundreds of my adult students teach children’s yoga. For the most part, their creations contain a plethora of sweet and relaxing images – butterfly yoga, swaying trees, stretching to greet the sun, etc.

However, in the back of my mind a question began to form: what about children who relate to stronger, more forceful imagery? What would boys think of this? Would they even do it?

Children are good at bringing to the foreground what’s in the back of the mind. So, no surprise that some time later my godson, Jackson, looked me in the eye and said, “Shakta, you have rainbows and flowers and birds, but what do you have for us boys?” I completely got it! It just so happened that at that time I needed some moves for a dance track on a children’s yoga DVD I was creating.

“Okay, give me a good move for this line, ‘full of radiant power,’” I said.

The immediate response from Jackson—he jumped into an archer position; as his arms shot up the sides of the head, his body poised like a power ranger and he bellowed, “radiant power!”

So as life would have it, sometime later Jackson was playing with his Transformers in the backseat of the car as we sat together for a long ride.

“Look, Shakta,” he said as he held up a contorted action figure, “he’s doing bow pose!”

Photo: Gustavo Vargas

Immediately my creative brain lit up, and the two of us began the inspired planning of the yoga warrior cards, a yoga game in which Transformers demonstrate poses with names that any young warrior can relate to: frozen iron (front platform), crouching tiger (squats), skyscraper (tree), starship (extended lotus).  All poses can be done with dragon breath (strong breathing through the mouth or nose).

So remember, yoga doesn’t have to look peaceful.

My experience has shown that when it comes to children’s yoga, let their bodies show you what they need. They may need a bit of running around to settle the nervous system in order to focus. They may need to make booming and crashing noises. Doing dragon breath may be just what they need in order to engage with the yoga and let go of some tough feelings.  Contrast the soft, slow “peace and love” yoga with the focused warrior spirit. Life calls for both yin and yang. When we balance the yoga scales, we bring in the boys. And then…let the fun begin!

                                                              Yoga Boys Just Want to Have Fun!
  • *What’s cool: Power Rangers, Star Wars, Legos®, Transformers, robots, knights and dragons, dinosaurs, volcanoes, supernovas, swords (light sabers?), virtual worlds.
  • *Self-competition:  “last week we did this exercise/pose for 20 seconds, let’s see if we can double that this week!”
  • *Focused breath: dragon breath during the yoga and a deep breath to end.
  • *Less is more: communicate in brief and add humor.
  • *Poses that inspire strength and focus:  archer, warrior, down dog to up dog, front and back platform, bow, wheel.
  • *Most of all, look for what’s going well and be a cheerleader for that.
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Shakta Khalsa has had two big loves for over 35 years—children and yoga.  She’s the founder of Radiant Child Yoga, a mother, and author of five yoga books, including Fly Like A Butterfly.




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