Yoga is not just for stressed out soccer moms looking for a little exercise and escape. There are many therapeutic benefits of yoga that can nurture the bodies and minds of young children. This includes strength and flexibility, concentration, creativity, emotion management, and the ability to follow instructions. Studies show self-regulation, mindfulness, and overall performance of 3 to 5 year-olds develops faster when yoga is incorporated into an educational setting. Here are so sure-fire strategies to incorporate yoga in to your early childhood classroom:
Mindfulness is being brought in to more and more classrooms as a way to teach student to focus attention and regulate emotions. This can be taught to young learners, too. You may want to consider creating a daily silent moment to teach kids to regroup and reflect. This will be difficult for some students, but easy for others. It does not have to be a stressful silent moment. Have fun with it and go with the flow. See who can be quietest longest, then ask them to share what they saw during the silent moment.
It is hard for preschoolers to pay attention. Especially if you try to teach them adult yoga poses with Sanskrit names. Instead, put yoga in their own context. Many yoga poses have animal names. You can also call other poses something that has meaning to a youngster. You can then tell stories or read books and have the students do the corresponding yoga poses whenever the word is said. Simple instructions and a brief demo is all that’s needed to get children connected to poses that have meaning.
Freeze Dance Yoga
Most young kids love to dance and to play games. These can be combined into a fun yoga lesson. Once the students know a few yoga poses, they can do a freeze dance yoga-style. All you need to do is play some music and let them get their groove on. When the music stops, shout out the name of a yoga pose and the students will then have to freeze in that pose.
While most adults would love a midday nap, nap or quiet time in a preschool classroom is full of anxiety and restlessness. This can be calmed with a bit of yoga breathing and a guided relaxation. Have the children deeply inhale and exhale. As they slowly exhale, they should imagine themselves getting more and more comfortable. Then, in your most calm voice, guide the children through a full body relaxation. Slowly cue them to relax each part of their body. They should tighten the muscles first, and release the as they breath out. Move from their toes to the top of their heads. Playing calming music as you do this may help stimulate the relaxation response.
There are endless possibilities for incorporating yoga in to your preschool classroom. All it takes is a little creativity, and maybe a yoga class or two.
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