Yoga, Music and Early Childhood Development

Kira singing and teaching a children's yoga class

We recently sat down to talk with Kira Wiley, founder of Fireflies Musical Yoga for Kids and a certified early childhood yoga instructor. Kira has just released “Kings & Queens of the Forest”, which blends upbeat, danceable music with instructional yoga voice-overs and illustrations of Kira’s kid-friendly yoga routines. Kira answers our questions about how yoga impacts early childhood development.

1. What is the best age to introduce yoga to a child?

All ages, truly, can benefit from yoga. There are wonderful resources out there to help parents get started as soon as their little bundle of joy arrives. Two books I highly recommend are Baby Om, by Laura Staton and Sarah Perron, and Itsy Bitsy Yoga, by Helen Garabedian.

My musical yoga program is targeted toward children beginning at age two, when most children are verbal and mobile. At this age they can follow simple directions, and are fully engaged by the music—so they have a great time with the simple and fun musical yoga routines I teach.

2. What are the top 5 benefits of having a child practice yoga?

There are so many…but here are my top five:

  1. Yoga helps build kids’ confidence and self-esteem
  2. Yoga improves strength, balance, and coordination
  3. Yoga helps kids learn to use the breath to calm themselves in stressful situations
  4. Yoga is a non-competitive–but very athletic–way to strengthen kids’ bodies
  5. Yoga helps kids develop positive body awareness

A bonus benefit, when parents practice with their children, is that yoga is a wonderful, unique and fun way to have great bonding time.

 3. How does the added dimension of music enhance the yoga experience for children?

The simple answer is that kids take to yoga quickly and easily anyway, so when you set the movements and poses to upbeat, catchy music, children are totally captivated; it just works really well.

Also, attaching information to a catchy melody greatly improves the information’s “rememberability” (my seven-year-old’s word–I think it works). Think about how most children (and most of us) learned the alphabet–by singing the “ABC song.” Put simply, it gets stuck in your head–so it greatly enhances learning the poses.

 4. How do yoga and music tie into Occupational Therapy?

More and more OTs are using yoga as part of their programs, because a lot of the benefits of kids’ yoga–improved muscle tone and balance, better motor coordination, stretching and realignment of the spine, greater range of movement–are, at least in part, the goals of the pediatric occupational therapist.

Also, the relaxing nature of certain types of music can help calm a child, and allow the therapy to do its work. And capturing a child’s attention with music can help keep his or her interest and focus throughout a therapy session. I am not an occupational therapist, but I’ve been told by quite a few OTs that my songs and my voice have a soothing quality that helps them in their work, and I’m grateful for that.

 5. What is your most popular yoga pose for kids?

I have to pick two – first I’d say dog pose (“downward facing dog,” in grownup yoga terms) because we bark, kick our back paws way up to the sky, wag our tails, and (occasionally) pee on a hydrant. As you can imagine kids have a ball with this. (Note from Amelia: downward dog is our son Adam’s favorite pose too! :)

A lot of the children I teach, however, say savasana, or “corpse” pose, at the end of class is their favorite. It’s the last pose, where kids lie stretched out flat on their backs, eyes closed, and just let their bodies feel heavy on the earth. I think it’s because lots of children are just as busy and scheduled as we are, and they love the opportunity to lie down and do absolutely nothing but rest, even if just for a few minutes. I often have a hard time getting them up!

You can watch Kira in action in the video below and visit her on the web at firefliesyoga.com. Until next time, Namaste Amelia & Harold.