Did you know kids can do yoga, too? And like adults, they can reap many of the same benefits--increased body control, flexibility, stronger muscles, centered minds, and balanced moods. Best of all, yoga is a fun way to bond with your child while gently stressing the importance of taking care of your body. Try these seven easy yoga poses with your little yogini (a child who practices yoga) and turn yoga into a family affair.
Face your yogini on all fours (on your hands and knees). Wiggle your puppy tails and get ready for a stretch and a doggy walk. Lift up your tails towards the sky so your legs straighten out and press your heels down to the ground. Bark like a dog as you stretch your body out, and then take a walk around the room pretending to be a dog. (Your preschool puppy can even walk under you!) Come back to all fours and pant with your tongues hanging out, begging for pretend puppy treats. Take a rest and then play some more.
Cat & Cow
Get down on all fours facing your yogini and play a game of hide-and-seek using the Cat and Cow poses. In this game, the cat hides from the cow. With your backs rounded and relaxed, hide your faces as if you are a scaredy-cat pretending to hide from the cow. "Meow" as you pretend to hide. Now, change your shape into the Cow pose by slowly arching your spine and making eye contact with your child. "Moo" and ask, "Where is that cat?" Repeat the two poses while meowing and mooing.
Snake & Cobra
Lay on your stomach facing your yogini. Talk about pretending to be a snake, which has no arms or legs. Place your arms behind your back and slowly lift your snake heads and chests up off the ground as your wiggle and hiss. Rest your heads and chests on the floor. Next, grow into a big cobra by placing your palms near your chest, pressing your hands down into the ground, and lifting up towards each other. Smile, wiggle, and hiss.
Stand up straight and tall facing your yogini. Talk about pretending to be a tree with crooked branches that grow together. Lift up one leg and place your foot on your inner thigh of your standing leg like a curved branch attached to the trunk of a tree. Hold hands with your child and lift them up towards the sky like the branches of two trees growing together. Try to balance while pretending that the wind is blowing your branches. Ask your child, "What kind of tree are you?" and talk about what it would be like to be a tree. Lower the leg and do the same pose standing on your other leg.
Lie down on your back next to your child. Talk to your little yogini about bridges, what they look like, and what goes under or over them. Talk about different bridges--railroad bridges, drawbridges, and bridges you've seen together. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat onto the floor, near your bottom. Hold your child's hand that is closest to you and get ready to rise up like a drawbridge. As you press your feet into the floor, lift your hips upwards. Hold this pose as you imagine that a boat is passing under the bridge. Lower back down and repeat. This time, pretend there's a car driving over the bridge. For more pretending fun, pass a toy boat or car under and over the bridge using your free hands.
Jodi B. Komitor is the founder and director of Next Generation Yoga in New York City and is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga with Kids.