I’m the first to admit it – one of my favorite parts of teaching yoga to children and adults is kicking off my shoes and being barefoot! Not only is it more comfortable, but going shoeless is good for you, too! You gain better control of your foot position, it improves balance and proprioception, maintains a healthy range of motion within your foot, ankle, knees, and hips, and builds stronger leg muscles (which means more support for the hips and back). So ideally, children should participate in your yoga classes while barefoot.
But when teaching classes in schools, it is often not possible to allow kids to take their shoes off. It may be against school rules or it may just take an awfully long time to untie and retie a class of first-graders shoes! You may also be teaching in an outdoor situation that is unsafe for bare feet. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of ways to make your yoga classes fun, even with shoes on.
Four Square Hula Hoop: Each child needs a hula hoop and 1-3 bean bags (the same number for each child). Gather students in groups of four. Set the hula hoops up in the shape of a square and have students place their bean bags in their hoop. Have the students get into High Plank (push-up) position with their hands behind their hoop. On the “Go” signal, each student tosses their bean bags into one of the other three hoops. When you signal “Stop”, students see how many bean bags they have in their hoop. The student with the least amount wins and chooses a yoga pose for all in their group to do. The bean bags get redistributed equally and the game continues for as many rounds as you like. Change it up by having children hold different poses like Crab (Reverse Table), Downward Dog, or Cobra.
Trees in a Forest: Spread 5-6 yoga mats all around the playing area. These are the designated forests. Begin by having the kids run around the playing area, anywhere they want. After 30-60 seconds, the teacher calls out a number between 2-10. The students must quickly go to a mat in a group of that number and create a Tree Forest (everyone in the group in a circle in Tree pose with palms touching). Anyone not on a mat or in the correct number can either be “out” or you can have them do a challenge (jumping jacks, push-ups, burpees, etc.).
Peaceful Garden: The Peaceful Garden is the deepest form of meditation. A good guided meditation utilizes all five senses to create an all-engaging experience. With children either lying still on a mat or towel or even sitting in a chair with their head on a desk, use a soothing voice and guide students on a ‘trip’ to a Peaceful Garden. This can be anywhere – under the ocean, on a mountain top, in a magical castle, or even into any story or subject you might be studying in class. This process promotes a sense of peace and calm, sparks imagination, and can even build literacy skills.
Joggin’ Thru the Jungle: There are so many songs you can play during a Kids Yoga class that don’t require bare feet. One of my favorites is by Kidding Around Yoga called Joggin’ Thru the Jungle. This can be played with children running in place if you are in a small area or it can take over an entire PE field.