I was about to lose my cool. My phone rang at 11 PM as I was about to turn off the lights and go to bed for my much-needed nightcap. My friend Lina was frantically calling me after her son’s preschool teacher asked her if she can teach yoga for the preschool kids. I didn’t understand why she was panicking because I love teaching kids yoga.
“It’s kids! I don’t know how to teach them yoga! You know I also don’t like kids much,” she exclaimed.
For a yoga teacher, she wasn’t calm. I know you all expect us to be calm and composed. But there are times when we aren’t, and it’s normal (more on this in another blog post).
As a kids yoga teacher, I’ve dealt with kids of all ages and many types of children—from neurotypicals to children with autism and children with ADHD. If you are in the same situation as Lina, don’t fret.
By the end of this post, I’m going to make sure you will learn how to teach preschoolers yoga. I’m also going to include breathing exercises, yoga games, and relaxation guides that are preschooler-friendly.
Guidelines for Teaching Preschoolers Yoga
Teaching yoga to preschoolers is very different from teaching kids from other age groups and adults. Like other children, they have a short attention span. They need lots of encouragement and validation from their parents and teachers.
They are also naturally curious and love to explore their senses. As such, here are some guidelines on how to teach preschoolers yoga.
Be Mindful of Time
As you may have known already, preschoolers have a short attention span like most children. But their attention span compared to grade-schoolers is shorter. The average attention span of preschoolers aged three years old is 5 minutes, while it’s 10 minutes for those who are four years old.
Throughout the year, this can become longer. With this in mind, plan your classes accordingly. Preschool yoga classes usually last 25–30 minutes. But do not have the kids do the same thing throughout the whole duration of the class. Break down the classes into parts that they can do for 5 to 10 minutes.
Start with Basic Poses
Just because children can do a Hanumasana without breaking a sweat doesn’t mean you should teach them that. Advanced yoga poses require a higher range of motion, mental concentration, muscle strength, and endurance. Children are naturally flexible and can extend their tendons and ligaments much faster than adults.
However, since their bones are still supple, they are more prone to injuries. Preschoolers’ sense of body awareness is also not fully developed yet. If they get hurt and do dangerous movements, they may not notice it right away.
Avoid too much pressure on their little bodies. Start with basic poses that they can do and enjoy.
Take Advantage of Their Curiosity
Preschoolers are natural explorers. Take advantage of their curiosity to make a fun and engaging class that will further develop their curiosity. Doing this will help build their sensory function, which will help them in processing, learning, and storing new information.
Let them explore what their bodies are capable of doing by teaching them yoga poses and different breathing exercises.
Avoid Using Complicated Terms
In an adult yoga class, you can use Sanskrit words and give elaborate verbal cues. Avoid doing this in preschoolers’ yoga classes. Their vocabulary is not as vast as adults yet, and they will only get confused.
You can use anatomical terms for body parts, but always show them which body parts you are talking about.
Always Demonstrate the Poses
Because preschoolers’ vocabulary is not as vast as adults yet, they will not follow verbal cues effectively. Consistently demonstrate the poses. Children are master mimickers. They will imitate what you are doing.
Avoid Giving Physical Adjustments
Yoga asanas that adults can do easily will not look the same when children do them. Do not give them physical adjustments, as their bodies are still developing. Let them know they don’t have to do the asanas perfectly.
Furthermore, let them adjust the asanas by themselves based on their comfort and skill level. Preschoolers will appreciate this as they are now more independent.
Preschoolers, like younger and older children, like to play. They learn best when they experience concepts firsthand. Yoga is an excellent way to develop two senses, such as body awareness and proprioception.
Include games that incorporate yoga poses, pranayama exercises, and even meditation.
Repeat the Same Poses
Preschoolers like to do things repeatedly. It gives them a sense of security and routine. Avoid changing your yoga lesson plan every class. Repeat it four to six times. If you feel that they are bored, change the sequence of the postures.
You may also change the names of the asanas based on the theme of the class. For example, in my spring yoga class, we change Child’s Pose to Seed Pose.
Sample Preschool Yoga Lesson Plan
Now that you know the basic guidelines to teach yoga to preschoolers, here’s a sample preschool yoga lesson plan you can follow.
Have the children sit down in a circle. Introduce yourself to the whole class. If they already know you, start by asking them how they are doing. This way, you can build rapport and trust. In this part, you can introduce the theme of the class if you’re following a theme.
Children can also benefit from a pranayama exercise. Use pranayama exercises that are nature-themed. My kids’ favorite is the Flower Breath exercise. To do this, have the preschoolers sit in their most comfortable position.
Then, ask them to bring their wrists, thumbs, and pinky fingers together. Ask them to imagine it’s their favorite flower, and it smells so lovely. Then, cue them to inhale and smell the flowers, exhale to blow the flowers, and share the fragrance of the flowers with the world.
Use basic yoga poses. You can use the English names. But they will remember the poses better if the names are animals or objects they see regularly like flowers and fruits. Here are some basic poses they can do:
Come to your hands and knees. Hold the pose for three cycles of breath.
Cat and Cow
From the tabletop, inhale as you look up and bring your belly down. This is Cow Pose. As you exhale, bring your chin close to your chest and round your spine. This is Cat Pose.
From Tabletop, step one foot forward and bring your hands up.
Come down to a squat with your hands together in front of your chest.
Stand tall with your hands on your side.
From Mountain, bend down and bring your hands flat on the ground. Step both of your feet back and reach your buttocks up high. Imagine yourself as an upside-down letter V.
From Mountain, bring one foot to the side of your opposite leg. Then, bring your hands up.
Kneel with your knees as wide as your hips and bring your big toes together. Sit on your heels and bring your forehead down.
From Mountain, open your legs and arms as wide as you can.
Sit down and bring the soles of your feet together.
From Mountain, shift your weight to the right foot. Lean forward and let the left leg float at the back. Extend your arms forward.
Sit down on the ground. Bring your legs and arms up, balancing on your buttocks.
Lie down on your stomach and bring your hands beside your ribcage. Inhale and press the ground away to bring your chest up.
From Mountain Pose, bend your knees like you’re sitting on a chair. This pose is called Chair. To do the Kangaroo or Donkey Pose, let the kids hop.
Kids love playing games. Play also develops sportsmanship, encourages creativity, stimulates their cognitive development, and helps them learn concepts better. Yoga freeze dance is an easy and fun yoga game preschoolers can do.
Here’s How to Do the Yoga Freeze Dance:
- Ask the preschoolers to gather around.
- Play some music and encourage the kids to dance.
- Pause the music and call out a yoga pose. The children should do the yoga pose and hold it until the music plays again.
Guided Relaxation Through Stories
An excellent way to let the children cool down is to read a story. Let them sit down or lie down while you read the stories. Most preschoolers can’t lie down in Savasana quietly, so it’s best not to do it and do a guided relaxation.
More Yoga Games, Breathing Exercises, and Guided Meditation for Preschoolers
To teach yoga to preschoolers, you need to teach more than just yoga. You need to let them play and have fun to stimulate all of their senses, which can help them develop lifelong skills. Here are some more yoga games, breathing exercises, and relaxation guides appropriate for preschoolers that will teach them more than just yoga.
Yoga Box Surprise
- Fill a box with each preschooler’s favorite toy.
- Cover the preschooler’s eyes with a scarf or your hands.
- Let the preschooler pick a toy from the box and guess what it is.
- If the preschooler gets the correct answer, the other preschoolers will create a yoga pose based on the toy he picked. If he gets the wrong response, he will make a yoga pose based on the toy.
Pass the Yoga Ball
- Have all the preschoolers form a standing circle with one of them holding the yoga ball.
- As the music plays, the preschooler with the yoga ball must pass it to the next preschooler. When the music stops, the last child holding the ball must do a yoga pose and keep it until the music plays again.
Plus One Yoga
- Let the children form a standing circle.
- Pick the first player and let him do a yoga pose. Everyone will follow.
- The next player will add a new pose, and everyone will do the two poses.
- Continue until each preschooler gets to add a new pose and you have a yoga sequence.
Breathing Exercises for Preschoolers
Pranayama is an essential part of yoga. Here are three pranayama exercises that preschoolers will love.
Use bubbles to teach deep belly breathing. Prepare a container with soap and water. Ask the preschoolers to inhale deeply and exhale slowly to blow big bubbles.
Ask the kids to breathe like a bunny. To do this, guide the kids to inhale by taking three sniffs and exhale through their mouths once.
Birthday Cake Breath
This breathing exercise is perfect if someone in the class is celebrating their birthday. To do this, have the kids imagine they have a birthday cake in front of them. Then, ask them to inhale deeply and exhale by blowing the candle slowly.
Suggested Stories for Guided Relaxation
As a guide, I like to read stories to the kids so they can wind down and relax. Here are some yoga stories you can read to them:
Rachel’s Day in the Garden by Giselle Shardlow
Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story by Mariam Gates
The Grateful Giraffe: A Kids Yoga Feelings Book by Giselle Shardlow
You Are a Lion! By Tae-eun Yoo
Preschoolers also like to sing songs during guided relaxation. One song I recommend is the Om Song by Karma Kids Yoga. You can find the lyrics to the song and the video below:
Om Song by Karma Kids Yoga
Rub your hands
Sit up tall
Take a deep breath