8 Kids Yoga Myths

A dictionary meaning of the word myth is — “a widely held but false belief or idea.” Ultimately ideas are yoga myths or not, only in the eye of the beholder. But I’d like to challenge some common misunderstandings about kids yoga.

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Adho Mukha Svanasana (tunnel of downward dogs)

Here are eight ideas that I typically hear from parents that I would consider yoga myths in the world of kids yoga:

1. My kid is not flexible enough to do yoga.

I hear from parents, about their children, and from adult students that they’re not flexible enough for yoga. This one is the misunderstanding that I run into the most often. Yes, over time many experience increased flexibility from doing yoga, but it’s not a prerequisite.

Doing yoga poses has many benefits within the process, one of which is gaining increased flexibility.  But as an example. let’s compare two yogis doing a forward bend (Uttanasana).


Uttanasana (standing forward bend)

“Yogi A” uses blocks under her hands because she doesn’t touch the floor. And “Yogi B” folds forward more completely, turning her ribcage upside down with the crown of her head comfortably pointing toward the floor without strain.

Each of these yogis experience similar benefits from the pose.  It’s not as much about how far the yogi bends, it’s more about the alignment in the pose and the relative range of movement. For example, focusing on just one aspect of the pose, each yogi is stretching their hamstrings. The relative movement achieved with their personal full extension of their muscles provides the benefit – not the ultimate length that’s achieved. It’s likely that the beautiful photos of yogis bending in seemingly impossible ways contribute to this misunderstanding, however, just know that yoga works for all flexibility levels. That’s one of the benefits that fits everyone.

Furthermore, the less flexible folks can actually be less prone to certain injuries because their bodies give them some natural limits that the more flexible yogis might need to discover on their own. There’s no need to be flexible to do yoga!

2. My child is too hyperactive to do yoga

One common benefit of yoga is that many experience a calming effect. Due to this fact, some feel that their children are too hyperactive to do yoga.  However, a child might find that the opposite is true. The calming effect on the nervous
system that yoga can provide might be a good reason for some children to find yoga.  Again it’s a relativity thing.  Similar to the range of muscle movement (in number one) being the important factor providing benefit, it’s the relative range of the calming effect that provides the benefit. For example, a child who begins in a perceived hyperactive state and ends in a more typical active state might be achieving that same benefit as a typically active child ending a yoga session in a more perceived calm state.  It’s the relative change that is the important factor, not the overall perception of where others want that child to be (or behave). The nervous system holds the imprint of the change even if those outside the child’s body can’t see it as clearly through behavior.

3. My child can’t focus enough to do yoga.

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Upavistha Konasana (seated wide leg pose)

We have a bit of a relativity theme going here, but it applies to focus as well. Some children can sit and build puzzles for a seemingly endless span of time and some can barely sit long enough to open the box to begin.  The idea of “I am where I am” applies here. There’s no good or bad, there’s only the perception of such. And though it is true that yoga can eventually result in an improved ability to focus, it too is not a prerequisite. Some young yogis do a Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) for 3 seconds and then need to get up and run around their mat before they are ready for another. This child still gains benefit from the 3 seconds in dog even if it might not look the same as the child who can remain in Dog for 30 seconds. Growth is measured by looking at a particular skill in the beginning and comparing it to the skill after a period of time. So if this young yogi moves from doing Downward Dog for 3 seconds at the beginning of a 10-week session up to 8 seconds at the end of this time, then growth in the pose and benefit for the child has been achieved.

If you come across a yoga teacher who expects your child to do things the same as all other students in your class, it might be helpful to find a new teacher.  Yoga should remain outside the tradition of trying to get children to conform to the same robot-like conformity that is still expected in some settings. Yoga is personal. Its benefits are illustrated in personal ways.  Avoid comparing your child to others and enjoy comparing your child today to your child a year ago. Growth has occurred – whether it fits the norm or not (inside or outside of yoga).

4. My child cannot do yoga because of physical limits.

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Supta Virasana (reclined hero’s pose)

Ustrasana (camel pose)

Ustrasana (camel pose)

Whether your child is a fully able-bodied child or a child with some limits, the benefits of yoga can be experienced by most. One of my beloved young yogis who is limited physically was limitless in her determination to experience the joys and benefits of yoga as she achieved each. We together found one or more aspects of each pose that would be perfect for her to work on in that particular session.  For example, when working on the sitting forward bend (Paschimottanasana), one session we focused our attention on lengthening her calves, in the opposite direction of her high tone, extending through her inner heels and pulling her toes toward her shins. In another session we would focus on pressing her thighs into the floor. In yet another session we would work on lengthening from her hips up through her chest taking her shoulders away from her ears. This is similar to focus changes in fully able-bodied adults from session to session, but we broke it down in a child-friendly way for her to experience results.

5. My kid is an athlete and would not like yoga

Though yoga is growing in popularity in the States, there can sometimes still be a perception that athletes are not the “yoga type.”  Again, the opposite can be true. Athletes in many different sports have enjoyed the multitude of benefits from yoga due to the simple fact that yoga can provide a positive soothing balance for the sometimes overused muscles and emotional energy that the stream-lined goal focus within each sport can invoke. In addition, the breadth of focus in yoga, meaning the broad range of positive effects on the body, might assist the athlete in preventing injury.

6. Some kids are just not the “yoga type.”

Again, there still exists this idea that a person is either the “yoga type” or not but it’s simply not true. Virtually everyone can benefit from some time to deliberately chill while focusing on ones’ body in space.  Each child or adult experiences yoga in his or her own personal way.  There’s no “type” of person more likely to find benefit. The only aspect necessary is the willingness to give it a shot. And the only necessity to continue is the desire to do so.

7. Yoga is not for boys or men.

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Ananda Balasana (dead bug pose)

This is slowly changing but still remains an underlying belief for many. Yoga classes typically have more women than men, but as men continue to discover the benefits of yoga and these next generations begin yoga as kids, this will eventually fade out. As with most biases, children learn these from adults. Boys, themselves, come into this world as natural yogis. But a myriad of societal influences can eventually persuade boys that there are some things that boys just do not do.  This yoga myth will eventually fade and your family can be a part of this change. Boys can benefit greatly from yoga as mentioned in the characteristics outlined in the other myths in this post.

8. As a parent, I should know yoga before introducing my child to it.

As outlined in 6 Tips to Dive Right into Kids Yoga, there is simply no experience necessary to begin yoga – as an adult or as a child. Every single person is a beginner when starting something new. Your yoga instructor (a live person or through a book) will guide you through beginning yoga. So just dive right in!

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2015.
Posted in Benefits of Yoga, Education, Kids Yoga at Home, Parenting, Sing Song Yoga, Yoga in Schools.
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