Yoga For Children & Youth

By Brenda Bakke, MEd, PT, CYT, © Copyright 2008.

Yoga Has Helped Kids With

  • It is worth trying with practically every childhood & youth challenge.
  • Always consult your physician before beginning a Yoga program.

Yoga Helps In The Following Areas

Spirit: Yoga allows children to connect to their inner spirit, be in tune to their energy and develop mindfulness and self-awareness.

Body: Yoga helps develop controlled movement, exercises every muscle and joint throughout the body, improves posture and balance, develops speech and respiration, tones internal organs promoting better digestion, circulation, respiration, and joint formation.

Mind: Yoga helps children to calm the mind, while teaching them to concentrate, become clear-headed and alert. Yoga provides tools for self-regulation (alerting and calming) in order to live in harmony with ourselves and with others.

Emotions: Yoga helps children develop self-awareness, release tension, work through their fears and be more in control of their emotions in order to effectively express them. Yoga fosters creativity and imagination.

Social: Yoga is non-competitive, develops self-esteem and confidence, and can be done with partners or in groups. It promotes cooperation, teamwork and family unity.

Brief Description Of Yoga

  • Yoga means union, a joining of the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga for children is an actively engaging way for children to develop their physical, mental, and emotional health. Through Yoga, children learn how to relax, focus their energy and develop poise, strength, balance, and flexibility.
  • Yoga helps the child create connections in body, mind, and spirit by developing mindfulness and self-awareness.
  • The therapeutics of Yoga provides a methodology to improve mental and motor skills in children with learning and developmental disabilities.

Success With Yoga

  • Linda, a 5 year old with a right-sided weakness, had difficulty with bilateral hand skills. With the practice of Yoga she has made big improvements with balance and the use of her right side and is now able to use both hands more effectively.
  • Ralph is a 2 year old who is developmentally delayed and has extreme sensitivities to touch and loud noises. Yoga has helped him calm down and to learn to fall asleep easily.
  • Julia, a 17 year old, had William’s Syndrome - a genetic developmental delay with some learning and motor disabilities. She was very stressed and experienced headaches and backaches. She had steel rods in her spine to correct Scoliosis. After a few months of practicing Yoga, she was able to learn to relax, feel comfortable in her body and she had fewer headaches.
  • Billy, a 10 month old baby with Downs’ Syndrome, has been doing Yoga since he was 2 months old. His mother feels that he is making great progress in muscle tone, attention span, awareness, and motor skills and is close to meeting his developmental milestones. He’s a very happy baby.

Yoga Is Appropriate For Ages

  • Birth through adulthood

Children & Youth’s Reactions To Yoga

  • It’s play and it’s fun.
  • It helps them relax when they do it at school.
  • They notice their bodies getting stronger and they have better balance.
  • They can take responsibility for doing their exercises.

Extra Care Is Needed

  • Extra care is needed with children who have Down’s Syndrome. Evaluation for the presence of a condition called Atlanto Axial Instability must be made.

Contraindications: When Yoga Should Be Avoided

  • Medical consultation is necessary when using Yoga with children challenged with seizures, shunts, cardiac, or spinal problems.
  • Any chronic medical condition or orthopedic condition should have medical consultations.


  • Yoga is thousands of years old. It is an ancient science from India.
  • Yoga is a system of physical and mental exercises meant to synchronize the mind and body, promote health and well being, and increase awareness of self.
  • There are many different schools of Yoga.
  • Children’s Yoga should focus on Hatha Yoga - which addresses the physical/structural level.

Basic Concepts And Components Of Therapeutic Yoga

  • A therapeutic Yoga program for children will integrate mind, body, and spirit.
  • Yoga is an actively engaging way for children to develop their physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Therapeutic Yoga is appropriate for all ages and all developmental abilities.
  • Yoga improves balance, strength, and flexibility through postures, breathing, visualization, imitation, and play.
  • Yoga stimulates and strengthens the nervous system, which benefits the spinal column by keeping it healthy and flexible.
  • Yoga is gentle and noncompetitive.
  • Yoga techniques and methods vary for children, depending on their unique and individual needs.

Description Of A Typical Session

  • A session begins with Pranayama (breathing exercises) to increase the flow of vital energy throughout the body. Yoga teaches us how to move with the breath and how to use the breath to connect the mind and body and develop a sense of calmness.
  • Mantra – the vibration and vocalizations from music and sound activities help to warm up the body, focus energy, develop concentration, and increase breath support. Motor skills are improved by adding imitation in the form of clapping, hand, and body movements.
  • Asanas (physical postures) are steady, relaxed, and done without discomfort. Asanas may be static or dynamic. Using the breath is a key component during Asana to help the body stay relaxed and focused while performing the movements. Physical postures improve body awareness, balance, strength, and coordination as well as increase confidence and self-esteem.
  • Relaxation allows the body to receive complete benefits of the Yoga session. May include foot and/or body massage, creative visualization, and guided meditation. Relaxation ends with bringing awareness back into the mind and body.

Fees/Costs In 2007

  • Depends on the geographic area and experience of the teacher. Generally, $75 to $100 an hour for individual, therapeutic instruction and $10 to $15 for a group class.

Average Time Per Session

  • For infants, 30 to 45 minutes
  • For two and older, 60 minute sessions

Recommended Length Of Time Between Sessions

  • One to two times per week is recommended. However, it’s great to do it more often when parents understand the program and are able to develop a home practice with their child.

Suggestions To Make Yoga More Effective

  • Be supportive and patient; give Yoga a chance to work.
  • Be creative and explore ways to engage children.
  • Parents are encouraged to do Yoga with their children.
  • Teach children to appreciate and respect their body.
  • Be simple with directions and use visualization.
  • Provide a suitable, quiet space to do Yoga at home.
  • Be joyful! The goal is to teach children that exercise is fun.

Other Methods That Complement Yoga

  • Massage therapy
  • Expressive arts therapies
  • The Feldenkrais Method®
  • Tai Chi and Martial Arts for older children
  • Aromatherapy
  • Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other similar therapies

Nature And Length Of Training To Be A Practitioner

  • Adapted and therapeutic Yoga training
  • Completed adult Hatha Yoga training in order to demonstrate a strong foundation in Yoga
  • Ongoing advanced training is strongly advised.

Special Training Needed To Work With Children & Youth

  • The more advanced training the teacher has completed, the better.
  • Additional training in related fields such as physical, occupational, or Massage Therapy is helpful.

Certification/Licenses Held By Practitioners

  • This will vary between practitioners.
  • Should have a minimum 200 hour Hatha Yoga certificate.
  • Advanced training in Yoga for Children

Professional Associations To Contact For Names Of Local Practitioners

  • For a directory of certified teachers, contact: Yoga Alliance®; 7801 Old Branch Ave., Ste. 400; Clinton, MD 20735; Ph: 877-964-2255 (toll free); Fax: 301-868-7909; Website: http://yogaalliance.org/teacher_search.cfm)
  • International Association of Yoga Therapists. Website: www.iayt.org

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Practitioner

  • Make sure your practitioner is patient and compassionate.
  • Practitioners should have a good knowledge of child development, including anatomy and physiology.
  • The best practitioners must have many years of Yoga practice.
  • Make sure your practitioner is involved in ongoing training.

Leading Clinics, Centers, Practitioners

  • Bakke Yoga and Physical Therapy Services; 23606 5th Ave.; W. Bothell, WA 98021; Ph: 425-485-1554; Fax: 425-485-1554; Email: bbyogakids@verizon.net
  • Relaxing Resources; Ph: 206-612-6201; Website: www.relaxingresources.com; Email: mary@relaxingresources.com
  • The Samarya Center; 1806 ½ E. Yesler Way; Seattle, WA 98122; Ph: 206-568-8335; Website: www.samaryacenter.org
  • Radiant Children’s Yoga Program; Website: www.childrensyoga.com; Email: info@childrensyoga.com
  • Yoga for the Special Child®; 2100 Constitution Blvd, Suite 125; Sarasota, FL 34231; Ph: 888-900-YOGA (toll free); Fax: 941-925-9433; Website: www.specialyoga.com; Email: info@specialyoga.com

Resources, Research Papers, Books, DVDs, Websites

  • International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) displays research papers, articles, and current studies on a variety of medical conditions and diseases. Website: www.iayt.org.


  • Sumar, Sonia; Leonaro Dinis; Jeffrey Volk; and Adriana Marusso. Yoga for the Special Child. Special Yoga Publications, 1998.
  • Khalsa, Shakta Kaur. Fly Like a Butterfly. Sterling Publishing, 1998.
  • Wenig, Marsha. “Yogakids”, DVD. Livings Arts, 2004. Available through Amazon.com.
  • Komitor, Jodi; and Eve Adamson. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga with Kids. Alpha, 2000.

Helpful Tips For Parents

  • Parents can learn and teach their children various Yoga breathing exercises to use throughout the day to increase awareness and relieve tension.
  • Children can use breathing techniques before tests to help relax and focus.
  • Children can use the postures from Yoga sessions while playing outside, walking, relaxing at home, etc.
  • In order to help improve sleep patterns, parents can read meditative, calming stories-that include visualization, before their children go to bed.

Biography Of Brenda Bakke, Author

  • Brenda has 25 years of experience as a Physical therapist with children and 10 years of experience with therapeutic Yoga with children.
  • She has hundreds of Yoga clients who are infants, children, or teens.
  • Her degrees include Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy; Masters in Education; Certified Adult and Children’s Yoga teacher (200 hour level).

To Contact Brenda Bakke, Who Contributed This Chapter

Brenda Bakke; 23606 5th Ave.; W. Bothell, WA, 98021; Ph: 425-485-1554; Fax: 425-485-1554;
Email: bbyogakids@verizon.net

Marie Mulligan’s Comment About Yoga: Yoga can help with the healing of both physical and emotional challenges and it can be fun.

Rick Geggie’s Comment About Yoga: Yoga has been practiced and developed for thousands of years. It works. I do it each day. Brenda and others have done a great service in adapting it to working with children. I have seen many adults and children helped by Yoga.

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