Many adults think of yoga as a fun form of exercise or a way to promote relaxation and balance in their busy lives. However, yoga can also be an incredibly useful and fun activity that can aid in your child’s therapy, maximize functional skills, and help your child reach his or her full potential! Yoga poses can help children build strength, increase body awareness, promote development of fine motor skills, and provide a sensory experience to calm or stimulate the nervous system.
Here is a list of yoga poses and their benefits for you to try with your child. Be sure to try yoga poses on a mat or other soft surface, like carpeting, to avoid slips and falls!
Downward Dog requires weight-bearing in the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles and feet. The pressure put on each joint sends information to the brain about where the body is in space. The sense of knowing your body position in space is called proprioception. Proprioception increases body awareness, which can help children to navigate environments without bumping into people or things. Body awareness also helps with the ability to plan a movement and correctly sequence and perform each step of the process. For example, more body awareness may help your child better plan and complete the action of getting on a bicycle. For many children, proprioceptive play has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Downward Dog also inverts the head, which challenges a child’s sense of balance. Our sense of balance is also called the vestibular system Children who enjoy spinning and swinging will love the feeling of being upside down in downward dog! Many parents find that children have an easier time focusing on tasks after vestibular play.
This pose builds core and hamstring strength. Building core strength promotes fine motor development, as children need to be able to keep their trunks upright when moving their arms and hands away from the body to accomplish reaching tasks. Increasing core strength will lay the foundation for the development of complex fine motor skills that require the arms to be moved away from the body, like handwriting. Hamstring strength helps with your child’s overall stamina for skills like running, jumping, and climbing. This makes participation in the park or on the playground much easier!
CAUTION: Children with Atlantoaxial Instability (AAI) or any condition associated with neck instability should not attempt this pose.
This pose requires children to weight bear through both arms, increasing their ability to coordinate using both arms at the same time. This is called bilateral coordination, and it is necessary for many school tasks. For example children need to coordinate both arms when using one hand to stabilize paper and another to form letters or cut with scissors.
Additionally cobra pose helps to build shoulder stability and strength. Shoulder stability needs to present before fine motor skills that require hand dexterity can emerge. Examples of skills that require dexterity include shoe tying, and buttoning/unbuttoning clothing. Pretending to be snakes and hissing in this pose is a fun way to practice deep breathing!
Note: Encourage your child to engage his or her abdominals by saying “try to make your belly button touch your back!” This will help keep pressure off your child’s lower back.
In addition to engaging muscles to increase core strength and shoulder stability, this pose requires the child to bear weight through a flat palm. Bearing weight through the palms strengthens the intrinsic muscles of the hand. The intrinsic muscles are essential for grasping and pinching skills. Activities that require strong intrinsic muscles include grasping handwriting feeding utensils, buttoning and zipping clothing, and tying shoelaces. Stronger intrinsic muscles can help your child to hold a pencil, spoon, or zipper in an age appropriate way, making these functional skills easier!
Easy pose can be excellent for providing relaxation, practicing deep breathing, and putting new trunk strength to use! You can tell children to pretend their heads are balloons reaching for the ceiling, and that their hips are rocks. Then explain that their spines are connecting the rocks to the balloons. This will promote good posture and increase sitting tolerance. Postural stability is the ability to sit up straight for an extended amount of time. When the trunk muscles are strong and able to maintain posture easily, children spend less energy on simply sitting upright at their desks. This helps children be less fatigued while sitting at a desk or table, so they have more energy to spend on learning!
While in this position, ask your child to take slow deep breaths. The child can pretend to smell a birthday cake while inhaling, and blow out birthday candles while exhaling. Try to encourage your child to focus on this type of breathing for at least 1 minute with the child’s eyes closed. Deep breathing can be a great “calm down” strategy for when your child is overwhelmed!
Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L
Heffron, C., & Drobnjak, L. (2017). Therapeutic benefits of yoga for kids. Retrieved
Spencer, J. (2016). The therapeutic benefits of yoga for kids. Retrieved