Have you noticed that more and more of our youngest learners struggle to sit still, focus, and have control over their bodies? I’ve found yoga to be a great outlet for me in my personal life as far as my concentration, mindfulness, and overall health, so it makes sense that yoga could be good for my young students too.
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In my quest for strategies to help my littlest learners develop mind and body awareness and get some wiggles out, I’ve found Yoga Storytime to be a wonderful way to actively engage my kindergarten and first grade students in a positive and calm manner. The kiddos love the challenge of learning a pose and trying to hold it. They will breathe in and breathe out with me. They feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of control. All of this makes the times for sitting still and listening a lot easier. After we have Yoga Storytime once, we can begin every future storytime with a pose or two and that sets the stage for a calm experience for all of us!
Why teach yoga to young students?
Over the last few years we’ve seen an escalating academic demand on our youngest learners. Starting in kindergarten, and even in pre-kindergarten programs, we are going beyond the traditional role of socialization in our early learning programs to teaching not just pre-reading skills and basic number sense, but reading sight words, fluency, and math computation. And we are often expecting these little ones to sit still, hurry up, and accomplish tasks proving their mastery of these skills. Many of our students who feel a loss of control in life outside of school are struggling to find some control at school and that often leads to “acting out” behaviors.
Yoga offers these young kids a chance to practice controlling their bodies and minds in fun and challenging ways. The physical benefits of increased flexibility, strength, and coordination help enhance body awareness. These benefits often lead to better concentration and a sense of calmness and relaxation. I think it helps my students become ready to learn.
Recommended Yoga Picture Books:
When I went looking for resources for my school library, I found some wonderful yoga books for kids to add to our collection. Following are four titles that I’ve added to our elementary school library and they have been great read-alouds for our storytimes.
I Am Yoga by Susan Verde with art by Peter H. Reynolds
This beautifully illustrated, uplifting book encourages positive self-talk, visualization, and self control. On each page, the girl is in a yoga pose and the illustration shows what she is visualizing. Positive statements such as “I can soar among the clouds. I am so free.” accompany the peaceful pictures in a variety of environments. The author’s note in the back contains detailed explanations for each pose. This section is ideal for a teacher who is leading students in trying some yoga. I highly recommend this book for elementary school libraries and classrooms!
Good Morning Yoga by Miriam Gates with illustrations by Sarah Jane Hinder
Good Night Yoga by Miriam Gates with illustrations by Sarah Jane Hinder
Both of these books depict diverse children in various activities in nature, and the reader can see how their actions are like yoga poses. Each two page spread includes a line from the story (“Today I’m a fiery volcano reaching high,”) and an explanation for the pose (“As I breathe in, as I breathe out, I lift up on tiptoes and reach my fingers high.”). The illustrations in both titles are bright, peaceful, and happy. In addition to the guidelines on each page, there is a “flow” at the end with explanations for each pose. After that, a visualization exercise “How I Want to Feel Today” (Good Morning Yoga) and “Cloud Journey Visualization” (Good Night Yoga) are nice ways to end the book.
You Are A Lion by Taeeun Yoo
Sweet illustrations and a simple layout will make this book appealing for young listeners during storytime. Each two page spread gives guidance: “Sit on your heels, hands on your knees, tongue out!” This is followed by a visualization of sorts: “You are a… Lion! King of the jungle, roaring so loud, make the words rumble.” Although there are no notes about poses or any extra guidance, this book is perfect for yoga storytime too!
You can read more about my Yoga Storytime on my blog. In the meantime, download my Yoga Pose Guide for kids by clicking on the image below!
*A portion of this article originally appeared on The Trapped Librarian blog here.*
Be well and have fun!