Fun Ways to do Yoga! by Gopala Amir Yaffe
Kids learn through having fun. If your yoga class is not fun, you will not have a class: either the kids won’t come back to your class or they will disturb your class… so dude! Loosen up a bit and make yoga FUN!
- Magic Animal Sack. This is the best tool for teaching yoga to kids under 3 years old; it creates
a class structure which keeps them engaged throughout. Toddlers cannot easily imagine the
animals – they need to see them!
Get a big sack (or even an interesting pillowcase will do) and fill it with all kinds of animal toys or
animal beanbags (you can get them very cheap at www.orientaltrading.com). Go around the circle and let each kid in his turn put his hand into your magical sack and take out a toy. Then, of course,
do the pose or poses of this animal with the whole group.
After all the toys are out, you can do poses using the toys.
One of my favorite things is to wear my magician gown and hold my magic wand and to use yoga magic to turn
the kids into the animals that they pull out of the sack. This can be used with older kids as well.
- Yoga Story. We are fascinated by stories. It’s an easy way to focus the kids and keep the yoga class interesting.
A yoga story is especially good with toddlers who really need something concrete to follow; in their
case it will be good to actually show them the pictures in a book as you do the poses so that they
can connect it all together (the name of the animal, the way it looks, and the corresponding yoga
You can use a book, that has lots of animals in the story or other possible yoga poses,
and then do the poses every time you meet an animal or an object in the story. You can also retell a story in your
own words, or invent a new one, and dramatize it with yoga poses.
Kids over the age of three can already invent stories by themselves. Sit in a circle and start telling a story, letting the kids take turns, adding another piece to it. Every time that an animal or anything
else you can do as a yoga pose comes up in the story (which can be anything if your imagination is fertile), the whole group can do the pose. If you want the story to have more of a structure, you can
suggest a topic (like going to the zoo or to the amusement park, going on a picnic, traveling in Zimbabwe…).
And to make sure that you have a pose in everyone’s piece of the story you can let each kid pick an animal from a sack full with animal toys, animal cards, yoga cards, pictures etc. and combine that
animal in his part of the story. Another way to do the same thing is to ask the kids to mention in
their part of the story their favorite animal, food, way to travel, thing to do, etc.
You’ll find a sample of a yoga story in the class section.
- Around the Globe. An easy way to do a class if you didn’t have time to prepare a new class plan is
to use a globe. I first go around the circle holding the globe and pointing at the spot on the globe where we are now. I tell the kids that there is a big world out there, with many different countries,
and many different people with different languages, food, customs, animals etc.
I put the globe in the center of the circle and I invite each kid in turn to come and spin the globe.
After the globe is spinning fast, I ask the kid to put his finger wherever he wants on the globe –
this is where we’ll be traveling next of course! With each kid’s choice I lead the group into a traveling pose in order to get there, and one or two poses from the place we have arrived to.
So we might fly to Egypt on an airplane pose and see there a pyramid pose and a camel pose…
From there we’ll travel to where the next kid points to.
If the kids are very little and they don’t know what the globe is, you can ask them what do they
see at night when they look at the sky? Stars and planets of course. Well, we live on a planet as well, and our planet is round like all the other ones and it is called the Earth. The globe is how our planet looks like to people who live on nearby stars.
- Go on a journey. For kids 3-9 year old this is the main tool I use to structure the class. For a full description and suggestions for places to go to on your yoga journeys, please look at the Themes Chapter.
- Sing and Move. Do a series of yoga poses following songs like “Old McDonald had a farm” while singing or listening to them. It’s a wonderful practice as it combines many modalities of learning and interacting. Check out the Sing and Do Chapter of the Yoga Poses section!
- Yoga Games. Yoga games are a must in every kids' yoga class, and sometimes for a change you
can make a whole class out of yoga games. I do it sometimes if the class is planned to be outdoors
or at some event that will not provide us a quite space to focus. It is also good to do when the kids
are just having a hard day and games are the only way to get them to do yoga. If you planned a beautiful class, but it’s just not working with the kids today…you can always resort to yoga games!
Games with yoga cards are also a wonderful way to spend an hour doing yoga.
- Follow My Body. This is a great way to warm up and to bring the focus to the classroom.
In a circle, all of the kids need to follow the movements of the teacher exactly. There is no talking.
The teacher can lead the kids through a sun dance and other movement flows and even add the
sound of deep breath or animal sounds for the students to mirror. You can also let one of the
students be the leader.
You’ll find samples of Follow My Body sequences later in the manual.
- The Wave. Have you ever seen how people in a soccer game do the Wave? We do the same in yoga.
In the circle, the teacher does a pose or makes a movement and the person on her right does it,
and so the pose flows around the circle, each person doing the pose one after the other.
You can play with this for an hour – it’s super fun! You can do it with one pose going around the
circle, like frog jumps (don’t forget to say “ribbit” as you jump), bridges, wheels coming up and down,
do a sun dance or any other sequence that flows nicely. Start slow, changing the pose only after it completed a whole circle, and then change poses more rapidly. You can also connect with your neighbors by combining group poses in the flow.
Use your imagination, invent new poses, and let others be the leaders too.
- Mirroring. Standing in a circle with your palms together at your heart, make eye contact with
someone across from you and point your Namaste palms at each other to connect as partners.
After partnering with someone across the circle, each couple starts to move, mirroring each other’s movements. One partner lead a bit and then the other, but the goal is that they will be in sync so
that they lose the sense of leader and follower and just move as one. Use yoga poses, but also
decorate them with other movements that come to you. See if you can stay focused on your bond
with the other but also be aware of your part in the movement of the whole group.
It’s much better to do this super fun exercise with some music.
- Creation. Sometimes it’s fun to have the kids do the work for you and create the class themselves. They get to connect to their own creativity and imagination, and most importantly, teach their own inventions to others (how often do kids get to do that in school?)! In Creation, we divide into groups and invent new sequences or new group poses.
You can start with groups of two standing one in front of the other. Each partner takes turns creating
a unique sequence of 3-5 poses while the other mirrors her. The partners repeat each sequence a few times.
Then we divide into groups of three or four. Each group invents a new flow of 3-5 group poses – it’s even better if we invent totally new group poses! After all the groups have mastered their own sequences they show it, each group in its turn, to the rest of the class and they teach the whole class how to do it.
The same can be done by dividing the class into only two big groups or having the class as one big group. A really fun thing to do with bigger Group Creations is to go around the circle and divide the group into A’s and B’s (you just pass around and touch the heads of the kids saying A and B alternately). And while the A group is doing one pose the B group intertwines into it with a different pose, and you can do it as a flow too using a series of poses – beautiful flower-like Mandalas or
shifting kaleidoscope poses can be created in this way!
You can have a topic for the creation, either a pose-based one like balancing or connecting using
your feet or the tops of your heads, or a visual one like creating different flowers, yoga monsters, yoga machine, dinosaurs etc.
You can also choose 3-5 yoga poses and ask the pair or group to find a new way to connect to each other in each pose and to link the poses together in a sequence.
Another way to start creating is to give each pair or group a beginning pose and an ending pose.
They can create whatever they want in between using yoga poses, dance, acrobatics, drama, or anything else. They can then teach their new creation to the rest of the group.
When you guide your group into doing creations limit their time so that they can be more decisive under this sense of urgency – 10 minutes for each creation section is enough. You will be amazed by the inventions!
You’ll find a sample of a whole class based on Creation in the Class Plans section.
- Obstacle Course.This is one of the most fun ways to do yoga, but it is a bit time-consuming (depending on how elaborate your obstacle course is going to be). Set it up before class.
You can create the obstacle course from whatever you have in the class room and in your yoga
suitcase (I usually use everything I have in the class room and in my yoga suitcase).
I always first demonstrate how to go through the obstacle course and then the kids go one by one. Have the kids count to 10 or wait until the person in front of them has reached a certain station
before they start the course. You can have the kids walk through the obstacle course more than once.
Make your obstacle course age appropriate. When your group is already familiar with the obstacle course concept, you can ask each kid to create a station.
The obstacle guide: Another way to go through the obstacle course is blindfolded with a guide to
lead you. You can divide the group in half and have the blindfolded half wait outside while you build
the obstacle course and explain it to the leader group. Then, each leader holds the hand of one blindfolded kid and leads them (verbally and physically) through the obstacle course.
When switching groups, it is best to change the obstacle course so that the second group will not
know what to expect.
- Class with a Topic. For older kids (7 and up) or family yoga, it’s fun to build a class around a more abstract topic like courage, concentration, friendship, love, support, truth…
For example, if the topic is Trust, you can start the class by asking all the kids around the circle to mention one or two people who trust them. You then use poses and games in the class that involve trust, like balancing poses, partner or group poses, partner acrobatics or flying yoga, the trust circle game, etc.
If the topic is Creativity, you can ask the kids at the beginning of the class to mention something they have created. Then, in the class you can do Creation Yoga (see # 5 above), Mandala painting, etc.
The Recycling Class is an example that you will find in the Class Plan section.
- Partner Sequences. Another great way to do yoga is of course to do it together! For full description and some fun partner sequences check out the Partner Sequences chapter.
- Human Mandala. A Human Mandala is great for opening a class, warming up, and getting a bit
more comfortable with each other. It is also a good way to bring a group back together and back to focus. In the Human Mandala we simply stay connected as a group in all the poses throughout… the possibilities are endless!
We start the Human Mandala by sitting knee to knee, and we start moving from there, coordinating our movements with the group and with the breath. Human Mandalas can be very simple and short
to fit little kids, or very intricate or even acrobatic to keep teenagers’ interest for half an hour or
more; in fact it can become the whole “poses” section of the class.