A question I often get asked is, “is it important for kids to worry about alignment in yoga?” While you never want kids to do something totally dangerous (I am dreaming here), alignment is not the focal point for a kid’s yoga class and really, it is not important for them to have “perfect alignment”. Why? Because…
- Kids (in general) naturally do what feels good! Teaching kids for the last couple of years in various locales (St. Mary’s Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida, and Hampton Roads, Virginia) has shown me that kids are more body-aware than most adults. They tend to have great instincts about how they move, why they move that way, and when to stop. When they are in a class environment or otherwise are being remotely mindful, they move in ways in which they feel the most benefit, physically and mentally. Now, impulse control is another issue! Just because most kids, most of the time know (and do) what is good for their bodies, it doesn’t always mean that they aren’t tempted to do not-so-good things! It is important that we encourage their awareness by asking them questions about their favorite movements and poses and it’s important that we have strict boundaries about potentially dangerous behavior, such as flips and horse-play. Yoga class is for yoga 🙂
- There’s not a lot of asana in a typical class. You heard that right! In a kid’s yoga class, we sing, dance, play games, do crafts, etc. while teaching the three main components of Hatha yoga. They are meditation, breathwork (pranayama), and asana (poses). About 35-45% of the class is poses, they are not held long, and we teachers demonstrate how to do them. We talk with you and encourage you to rock your pose the way that feels the very best! We avoid poses that are very definitively not child-friendly, like peacock, headstand, breath retention, scorpion, etc. Because we space the class with intervals of play, we reduce the chance of injury and boredom.
- Alignment is arbitrary anyway. In some circles, yoga alignment is key and is the absolute focus of the class and of one’s yoga success. While it is true that there are certain poses where alignment matters more than others (some warriors, tree), alignment is pretty arbitrary because we are individuals with individual bodies. Without an X-ray, you can’t see where your bones and connective tissue touch and therefore, it is extremely likely that one person’s downward dog won’t look like their neighbors-and for good reason as it may be literally impossible or else cause pain! Even with the aforementioned poses where alignment is a tinge more important, there is always room for flexibility (pun intended) so that the individual can discern if it feels right.
In effect, for growing kids who (we) want to learn about the wholeness of yoga, alignment is pretty low on the priority list. We teach it in an organic way when the need arises based on the event, the pose, and the kid. A good rule of thumb is “If in doubt-don’t do the pose at all”. We teach them to honor their bodies by listening to pain and to what feels good. Yoga is about connection-especially kid’s yoga. We encourage them to connect everything, including what they feel and what they do! So no, kids do not need to worry about alignment.
All the light,