How Your Whole (Busy) Family Can Embrace the Day with Yoga

Posted on in Healthy Living by Mariam Gates


If your family is like mine, the demands on an average day include quickly eaten breakfasts, tracking down permission slips, carpools, work, sports, music, play dates, homework—and that’s just Monday. It can feel as if we are rushing through our days and asking our kids to do the same. Even if you have created a more balanced routine in your household, it can be hard to know how to add yoga without making it just one more item on your family’s to-do list. How can we bring the ease and calm that comes from regular practice into our busiest days with our kids?

This is a crucial question, as the benefits of yoga—relaxation and increasing mental, emotional, and physical health—can make a big difference in our day-to-day lives. Everyone feels stressed at times, regardless of age, and we can hold that tension in our bodies throughout the day. In a family, modeling ways to choose patience or kindness even when moments are tough is critical. We can all benefit from adding a little space between our reactions and our actions. With a simple yoga routine, we have a way for the body and the breath to move from the fight-or-flight response to rest and renew. The practice of yoga offers a way to pause, to take a breath, to hit the reset button any time we need it. Who doesn’t need that?

The good news is that children are natural yogis. They bring a sense of wonder to life that we adults spend hours on our mats and cushions to achieve. A child experiences joy with her whole body, jumping into a pool or spinning in the grass until she collapses in laughter. She also experiences calm with her whole body, snuggling a beloved pet or reading with someone before bed. For children, whole-body living is the norm. This easy mind-body connection makes yoga a great fit for kids. Children are wired to use the mind to calm the body, and the body to calm the mind. They just need a little encouragement to do it.

Fortunately, a little goes a long way. Teaching kids their own yoga flow (and doing it with them) can give the whole family the lasting benefits of a practice without needing 90 minutes a day to do it. Learning yoga poses and breathing techniques as tools for releasing tension mentally and physically creates a whole new set of internal resources to call on. These mini-flows are designed to teach self-soothing, increase mental focus, and build confidence, and can be done in minutes. Plus, most importantly—they’re fun to do!

Try these simple routines with the little yogis in your life.

Yogic Breathing

This soothing flow focuses on the breath, brings you into the present, and helps shift your mood anytime you need it.

Sun Breath. Inhale and reach your arms out to the sides, lift them up to the sky, and then exhale and relax back down.

Tummy Twist. Twist your whole body from side to side and swing your arms back and forth.

Bee Breath. Inhale and sit up straight with your arms extending behind you. Exhale and lower your forehead toward the ground. Buzz your way down.

Wake Up Well

Try this sequence for a pre-breakfast pick-meup. It takes less time than boiling water for tea.

Volcano. Inhale, lift up onto your tiptoes, and reach your fingers high.

Ski Jumper. Exhale, bend your knees, and sweep your arms back.

Lightening Bolt. Inhale and bend through your knees. Reach your arms high.

Mountain. Exhale and come to standing, press down through your feet and stretch your spine so it is long. Roll your shoulders back and press your palms together.

Total Balance

These poses increase focus and build self-confidence. Great for transitions!

Tree. Become tall in your spine. Rest one foot on your other ankle or above your knee and then balance. Switch feet.

Bird. Focus on one point, lift your foot behind you, spread your arms like wings, and balance. Switch feet.

Boat. Lengthen your spine and lift your heels off the ground (knees can be bent or straight). Reach your arms forward.

Time to Unwind

This series of poses can move you to complete relaxation. Perfect right before bed.

Butterfly. Sit on the ground, press the soles of your feet together, and roll your shoulders back.

Cat Tilts. Inhale and look up and let your belly drop. Exhale and tuck your chin, lifting your spine high.

Child Pose. Press back onto your knees and relax.


Using guided imagery is another great resource for helping kids (and families) to relax, refocus, and feel ready for the day. The following visualization can be done in the morning or before an afternoon activity.

How I Want to Feel Today. Close your eyes and let your hands rest calmly on your knees. Grow a little taller by lifting your spine and then gently roll your shoulders back.

Take a deep breath in . . . and let a long breath out. Let your whole body relax. Feel the air as you take another deep breath in and let another long breath out.

Now, let a word come into your mind that says how you want to be today. It could be a word like joyful, kind, friendly, or curious. It could be happy, peaceful, enthusiastic, or brave. Hold it in your mind.

As you breathe in, fill yourself up with the feeling you want . . . and as you breathe out, send this feeling out into the world. Feel how you want to be today. Take another deep breath in . . . and let a long breath out. Open your eyes. You are ready for this day.

Mariam Gates holds a master’s in education from Harvard University and has more than 20 years’ experience working with children. Her renowned Kid Power Yoga program combines her love of yoga with teaching to help children access their inner gifts. She is the author of Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story and Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story.

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