Teaching Tips | Yoga for Kids

How to Do Sun Salutations with Kids

By Anjana Chennagiri, Pretzel Kids teacher and blog contributor

When you think of yoga, you may first think about sun salutations. 

This is not surprising as a sun salutation is the most popular yoga sequence in a typical yoga class. 

But, before we dive deep into the details about the practice, we first need to explain what a sun salutation is. So, here goes….. 

The classical sun salutations is a series of 12 yoga poses woven into one flow series called a vinyasa. All of the movements are coordinated with your breath, which is very important in any yoga practice. In ancient yogic traditions, the sun salutations or the surya namaskars are a way to show reverence to the sun, acknowledge its immense energy, and give gratitude to the sun as a source of life. It is also considered to be a great practice to achieve mental, physical and spiritual health benefits.

At a physical level, a sun salutation is also considered  a warm up sequence that prepares your bodies for more difficult asanas or postures to follow.

Typically, sun salutations are repeated many times to get the body moving and the blood flowing. It also helps increase your heart rate, which makes it a great cardio workout. 

How and Why to Do Sun Salutations for Kids

Why Sun Salutations with Kids are Important

Sun salutations with kids are a great way to help them stay fit and healthy. Even schools can incorporate this as a daily practice during gym time, which can be extremely beneficial to help children navigate stressful days.

Benefits of Sun Salutations for Children 

Not only are sun salutations fun to practice, but these popular sequences can be beneficial for school aged kids and teens in many ways. Here are some ways this practice can be helpful.

1. Show them those muscles

Sun salutations are a combination of yoga poses weaved into one single flow. There are forward folds, backbends and balance poses – which makes this a great total body workout for kids. It allows children to use their whole body and move in all sorts of directions, while bringing  awareness to their breath. This helps build muscle strength, and improve balance and coordination. 

2. Gain razor sharp focus 

Yoga poses are a great way to teach kids to breathe deeply and mindfully. Sun salutations help kids be more aware of their breath while moving  from one pose to the next. This helps them breathe better and improve lung capacity. It also aids in improving focus and concentration. 

3. Sit up straight! 

Kids these days spend a lot of time sitting and on their devices, which can lead to poor posture.  Practicing sun salutations, however, helps kids stretch their bodies and improve their posture. And this can help boost confidence!

4. Feel the blood flow

The whole range of motion involved in sun salutations can improve circulation throughout the body. This can help overall health, flexibility and balance.

5. Enhanced metabolism

When there is blood flow to all parts of the body, the internal organs receive oxygen and nutrients efficiently. This helps to improve metabolism, as well as digestion

6. Makes you smile

Sun salutations are considered to be great mood boosters. With increased blood flow and oxygen, they help  increase energy and uplift the mood. It’s also a great practice for mild depression. Plus, the focus on breath during practice helps to relieve stress and anxiety. Hence it can be a great practice for teenagers, too.

How to Do Sun Salutations with Kids 

Incorporating sun salutations in a kids yoga class can be a great way to help kids burn off energy. The classical sun salutations have 12 steps. However, depending on the age group involved, these can be modified into different shorter versions.

The Poses in a Sun Salutation

Here are the step-by-step instructions to do the 12 salutation poses.

1. Mountain pose

Stand with your spine erect, with your feet about hip distance apart. Your shoulders should be rolled back and your arms can be by your sides. 

2. Extended arms over head pose

As you inhale, reach both arms over your head and extend them upwards, keeping your hands close to the ears and your palms together. Feel a good stretch in the whole body.

3. Forward fold

Bend forward while exhaling and keeping the spine erect. Reach both palms downwards and rest your fingers on the floor next to the feet (if possible).

4. The Lunge 

Start with your right foot and take a big step back as far as possible in a runner’s lunge position.

5. Plank pose

Now take a step back with the other foot and come into a plank pose, which looks like a push-up position. Your hands are below your shoulders and your heels can press back to the wall behind you.

6. The 8 point pose

From the plank position, bring your whole body towards the ground by allowing just your knees, chest and chin to touch the ground – keeping your abdomen off the floor. This is called the 8 point salute because of the 8 parts of the body in contact with the ground: Your feet, knees, palms, chest and chin!

7. Cobra pose

Inhaling, slide your whole body down to the ground and raise your chest off the floor. Palms stay on either side of your chest, while keeping your elbows bent and shoulders away from the ears.

8. Downward facing dog

Press into the mat or ground with your hands and draw your hips up the sky, coming into an inverted V position with just your feet and palms touching the ground. Take several breaths here. You are now in downward facing dog, a favorite pose among yogis of all ages! 

9. The lunge

Inhaling from downward dog, step your right foot up between your hands, coming into the runner’s lunge once again. 

10. Forward fold

Bring the back foot forward as well and come into a standing forward bend once again, with your palms next to your feet. Take a few breaths here.

11. Extended arms over head pose

Inhaling, reach both arms overhead as you stand tall

12. Mountain pose

And finally: exhale and bring your arms back down by your sides. Stand in mountain pose, tadasana. Notice any sensations in your body.

Ways to Make Sun Salutations Fun for Kids

Asking children to do numerous sun salutations can be challenging. They can quickly get bored and distracted due to the monotonous repetition of the sequences. However, there are many ways to make this practice fun! Here are some of our tips: 

  • Adding music while doing the poses can bring their  attention back to the practice. 
  • A small group discussion about the sun can be a great centering activity prior to doing sun salutations.
  • Assigning one child to be a leader can be motivating for other kids to join in, especially if they all get a chance to lead the group. 
  • Turning the poses into a yoga game for kids can keep it fun! 

Sun Salutation Games

Here are some of our favorite sun salutation activities to try with kids. 

1. Comic strip

This is a fun game especially if there is a large group of kids. Start by having kids stand in a circle or a straight line. Ask one child to do the first pose in the 12-part sequence, the second child will then do the second pose and so on. The challenge is for each child to stay in the pose until 12 poses are completed.

2. Sun salutation song

This is ideal for younger kids. Below is a chant that kids might enjoy. Do the sun salutations while chanting the words in this song to any tune you like. Repeat it as many times as you want.

“Hi Sun. Hello ground

Jump Back, Belly Down

Look up High, Reach Down Low

Jump Forward and Say Hello”

3. Yogi see, Yogi do

This is the monkey see, monkey do version of the game. One child can be the assigned leader and the kids will then copy the leader by doing the poses they choose to demonstrate.

4. Yogi Says 

This is a yoga version of the popular game “Simon says,” which we call “Yogi Says.” One child is assigned as the Yogi. They call out the sun salutation pose name, starting with the phrase “Yogi Says.” Children must do the poses only when they hear that phrase. 

5. Human Mandala

A sun salutation is an ideal to form a human mandala. Kids can stand in a large circle facing outwards and do the poses in unison. It looks beautiful and fluid when all kids move smoothly and transition from one pose to the next!

Go ahead and Let the Sun in

sun salutations with kids

As you have probably learned after reading this, sun salutations help kids achieve physical and physiological well-being for the long-run. So why not encourage children to do at least a few sun salutations each day? 

And, if you want to get started by teaching sun salutations to your own children or in your yoga classes, Pretzel Kids will teach you our secret sauce! 

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