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Yoga for Kids: Three Moves and Poses to Try

Teach your children a few fun and simple poses that foster bedtime calm, bonding, relaxation and healthy self-image, from instructor Kira Willey

Yoga: It's not just for parents! Award-winning musical artist and kids' yoga teacher Kira Willey of Fireflies Yoga studio in Pennsylvania offers upbeat kindie style background sounds, including her newest CD, Kings & Queens of the Forest: Yoga Songs for Kids, Volume 2. She gives sound advice to parents and families about the benefits of yoga with children.

"Yoga is a fun, easy way to calm children and take the anxiety out" of the hectic school year, Willey says. Here, she shares added insights – and three awesome poses and moves that are wonderful for little ones.

Bedtime routine

Yoga can play an important part in an established bedtime ritual that can help relax kids and prime them for sleep. Research says that 25-30 percent of children have problems sleeping. Build-in just five extra minutes at bedtime for you and your child to practice a yoga pose, and he'll be settled – and his body ready for a good night's sleep.

Try: Child's pose

Kneel on the floor, touching your big toes together. Sit on your heels, and rest all the way forward with your head down; your arms can rest either by the ears or back by the sides. Hold for five long breaths; then, slowly roll up. Try it with yoga track "Mama Nature," a soothing song with a narrated relaxation sequence.

Bonding time

Yoga is a fun, beneficial and unique way to bond with your child. Add to that its physical and calming benefits, and it's a no-brainer way to connect! You and your child become equal partners for yoga time, giving the harried parent/hurried child thing a rest. It takes no special equipment and can be done at any time of day. Find a few minutes after school (or first thing in the morning if you're really on top of your game).

Try: Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Simple and fun, this will give your legs a great stretch while strengthening your stomach muscles, too. Sit facing your child (child's legs go over adult's, or bottoms of child's feet press against inside of adult's legs). With your legs in a giant V-shape, clasp hands, pull your belly in and start to move forward and back. Decide where you want to go, and sing "Row, row, row your boat!" Finish by sitting up tall, taking a big breath in and out, and thanking your partner. For a fun partner-yoga song with instruction, download "The Mixing Bowl" track.

Positive body image

Yoga can help kids appreciate and make friends with their bodies. Measurable progress in a yoga practice gets kids really excited – and helps them feel positive about themselves. If you can develop a regular yoga routine with your child, even if it's as little as five minutes a day, with some consistency, you'll both start to see quick results. ("Let's count as we hold tree pose, and I bet we get to 10 today instead of 5!") Encouraging kids to have a healthy, positive sense of body awareness will serve them well throughout their lives, particularly in the often-rocky adolescent years.

Try: Body part 'yoga'

Starting with your toes, talk about what each body part does in turn, and work your way all the way up to your head. Try a yoga pose (or make one up) using each part. When we were talking about our toes, my daughter made up a pose called "Top of the Mountain:" standing tall in mountain pose, up as high on her tippy toes as possible. Try to sneak in a little "body gratitude:" wiggle your feet and thank them out loud for carrying you around all day. Have fun with it as you go through the body parts. Ask your child how we'd walk if we didn't have knees to make our legs bend? And what would our heads look like if we didn't have strong necks to hold them up and allow them to turn? For a little guidance, try the track "Stand Up."

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