tree5If you practice Yoga, you are likely familiar with the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Written thousands of years ago, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali explores the eight-fold path, or ashtanga (which translates to “eight limbs”). This is the foundation of Yoga philosophy and includes eight different practices that guide us toward balance, peace, and good health.

The eight limbs include the following components:

  • Yamas and Niyamas: ethical and moral codes
  • Asanas: Postures practiced in Yoga
  • Pranayama: Breath Control
  • Pratyhara: Withdrawal of the Senses
  • Dharana: Concentration
  • Dhyana: Uninterrupted flow of concentration, or meditation
  • Samadhi: Enlightenment

In a kids’ Yoga class we explore all of these elements through breathing exercises, meditation, relaxation and, of course, poses. We also tie in concepts of caring for others and one’s self. With older kids, tweens, and teens, discussing these concepts usually sparks wonderful conversations and leads to introspection. With three- or four-year-olds, the minute you sit down, stop moving and start talking, you may quickly lose their attention. Focus can be fleeting with this age group – too much talking and/or ambiguous concepts, and you’ve lost them. It helps to keep the explanations and language brief. Some of the concepts are simple, like Asanas, but some are a little complicated and require more sophisticated thinking or conceptualization.

So, how do you keep it simple, yet still teach the concepts and make an impact? I’ve found that by paring each concept down to its simplest form and literally illustrating each point with a visual representation, as well as making it interactive, you can lay the foundation for an understanding of the Eight Limbs that can be built upon as the kids grow.

In order to introduce the Eight Limbs to my younger students, I created a Yoga Tree. I broke down each of the limbs into simple language that is meaningful to a young child – something that relates to the world as they understand it:

  1. Be kind to others
  2. Be kind to yourself
  3. Poses
  4. Controlled breathing
  5. Control of your senses
  6. Focus and concentration
  7. Meditation
  8. Secret Garden

I focus on one limb per class. Briefly review the concept, the meaning, and demonstrate it somehow in the class.  For example, right before breathing exercises, introduce Pranayama (I say the Sanskrit word once, but then simplify it to “breathing” or “controlled breathing”). Ask a child to add the visual for controlled breathing to the tree, then immediately follow it with an age-appropriate breathing technique, like bunny breaths (three quick breaths in through the nose, longer one out through the mouth) or hot chocolate (cup your hands, breathe in and smell the hot chocolate, breathe out to cool it down).paper-480536_640

Below are some ways to introduce each of the Eight Limbs:

Be kind to others (Yamas) – Roll up your neighbor’s mat at the end of class, smile at the person next to you or play pass a smile around the circle.

Be kind to yourself (Niyamas) – An easy way to illustrate being nice to yourself is to wrap yourself in a big hug. You can also discuss things we do each day to take care of ourselves, like brushing teeth or washing hands.

Poses (Asanas) – This is the easiest one to teach – pick any pose!

Controlled breathing (Pranayama) – Talk about how breathing (always in through your nose!) helps to calm down your crazy monkey mind, and then lead the class through one or two breathing techniques.

Control of your senses (Pratyahara) – Since this concept is tougher to teach, it can be a brief introduction to the five senses – you may not want to get too “into” this concept. Focus on the different senses throughout the class:

  • Touch – pass around a textured ball or item – something sticky, soft, rough, etc.
  • Sight – play a game of Eye Spy, focus on an object – this can be an introduction to drishti
  • Smell – use essential oils or Stinky Feet Spray (always a crowd pleaser!)
  • Hearing – Using Tingsha bells or a Tibetan bowl – tell the kids to pick up pom pom when the sound starts, put it down when sound ends
  • Taste – if you can, use a food (talk to parents ahead of time – this could be tricky due to allergies). To stay on the safe side, talk briefly about taste and everyone shares a food they like to eat (tie this into the Yummy Yoga song!)

Focus and concentration (Dharana)—Walk with a beanie baby on your head, walk across a “balance beam” (Yoga strap), play Toe-ga (pick up pom poms with your toes)

Meditation (Dhyana) – You have likely been using a meditation technique during your classes already, so the kids should get this one right away. I use the mantra “Peace begins with me”

Secret Garden (Samadhi) – This is a very abstract concept. The simplest way to teach it is through Savasana, or relaxation toward the end of class.

Review the previous wtree collageeek’s concept at the beginning of class using the interactive board. Kids can stick the leaf onto one of the tree limbs and as the weeks go by, the tree fills up with pictures.

For kids who are too young to focus on longer explanations or higher concepts, visuals and simple language is the key. I’ve found that this method also works well with some kids who have special needs, like autism. Too much language can be difficult to process, and visuals may make more sense. The Yoga Tree can help kids begin a life of learning and understanding what Yoga is all about.

How to make a Yoga Tree:

  1. Grab some supplies from your local craft store – green card stock for the leaves, Velcro, poster board, brown paint, paintbrush, glue, and scissors. (If you want to make a larger tree, get a three-sided display board.)
  2. Print out some clip art (I just use Google Images) that represents each limb and put Velcro on the back.
  3. Cut out simple leaves from the green cardstock and glue them onto the tree.
  4. Paint a tree with eight limbs on the poster board. Add a piece of Velcro to each limb.

Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, and SO MUCH MORE!




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Kidding Around Yoga Justice Information

 Company Justice Statement

We stand with you, our Black family. At Kidding Around Yoga, we are a worldwide multicultural community committed to bringing the teaching of yoga to children and families worldwide. Our aspirations have always been to treat all humans with dignity, respect and care. We recognize that aspirations and intentions are different from impact. Our good intentions have not diminished the impact of our lack of understanding. We acknowledge the harm experienced by Black people and people of color within our organization. We have been blind to the ways in which white supremacy culture has been at play within our materials, structures and communications. We are deeply humbled and saddened to start to realize the extent to which BIPOC have been harmed, undersupported, ignored, dismissed, asked to perform emotional labor for free, and otherwise not held in the ways we aspire to hold everyone. We appreciate those who continued to point out to us our blindspots, even when we failed to listen or honor the wisdom they were bringing. We apologize. We know it is not enough. We are committing to strengthening our anti-racist actions, to continue looking deeper into our structures and personal biases, and to make ongoing changes to embody the teachings of yoga.

This is a time to wake up, to speak up, to stand up. This is a time to fight for what is right and educate those who are still in the dark. Every Black life matters. We all recognize that these are not new issues, but this IS a new opportunity to be allies and agents of change, in large and small ways. Let us not hide from this challenge or wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting. We each have a voice and a responsibility to fight for a better, more just and peaceful world. Join us as we listen, as we learn, as we change, and as we do what we do best: share the ancient and powerful practice of yoga and meditation with children across the globe.

In addition to the ways in which KAY supports bringing yoga to all children, we specifically recognize and commit to the following:

► Our materials and content need to be reviewed and updated. Some existing content contains ideas or themes rooted in racist structures we are now becoming aware of. These have caused harm and discrimination, and we are committed to a thorough review and action steps. We will give updates as to our actions regarding these materials.

We also recognize that we have not fully understood what cultural appropriation of yoga looks like. We understand that, in certain instances, we have used yoga in a way that has diminished its roots and caused harm to the culture from which it arises. We are undergoing a deep review of our materials and marketing, in this light, and will give updates as to our actions as a result of this review.

We also recognize that asking our Black teachers to share what they are doing to guide themselves through these “trying times” was felt as insensitive by many teachers. It was not our intention to cause harm in this way, but we understand how this is emotional labor, and that teachers need to be compensated for this. We will compensate any teachers we call upon to support us in this process.

We acknowledge the lack of Black leadership within KAY, and are actively expanding the leadership team to include and elevate Black wisdom and voices. This week, we are delighted to welcome Shawandra Ford and Camelia Brown onto the leadership team. We will continue to expand our team in the coming weeks.

We are revamping our KAY4ALL training to include specific anti-racist training. We will make it mandatory and included for all trainees and trainers. Meanwhile, KAY Leadership is undergoing anti-racist trainings themselves, which will be ongoing.

We are in the process of allocating resources to support scholarships for BIPOC trainees, to fund classes in underserved communities, and to offer financial support to organizations upholding anti-racism and helping make yoga accessible and available to BIPOC families.

In order to move forward and accomplish the mandates listed above, we have created a Justice Task Force. The JTF will identify and implement the changes needed within KAY. The JTF consists of seasoned and new team leaders committed to serving to create an anti-racist culture within our organization.

We will be adding tasks to the list, as we grow and evolve in our understanding of what needs to be done. We hope you will join us in doing this work in your own lives.

We are open to feedback, but we understand that it is no one’s job but ours to look, to learn, to digest, and to take action. We stand by our commitment to become an anti-racist organization whose work uplifts, supports and learns from Black wisdom and leadership.

Please email if you wish to reach out to us in regard to this statement, whether it’s feedback, an offer to join our efforts, or you want to be kept up to date with these promises. 


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