5 Yoga Poses Tweens Actually Love!

5 Yoga Poses Tweens Actually Love!

Engaging Yoga Poses for Tween and Young Teen Classes - By Rachel McDonnell

Reading time: 4 minutes

For the past 3 months I have been teaching yoga at an after-school program I created for children ages 9-13.  This age group is commonly referred to as tweens and is in the fascinating phase of rapid change before the onset of adolescence, alternating between self-consciousness and bravado. Shyness and swagger in equal measures.

The sub-title to this article could be “How I’ve Structured a 60- Minute Yoga Class for 12 Tweens Without Losing My Mind”.

This age group is fascinating, challenging, and inspiring. I’ve had to throw out most of what I thought I knew about teaching kids yoga because my experience before had largely been with children ages 5-9.  By and large they were very sweet and eager to please.

Tweens are another world. They are not as interested in pleasing me as a teacher so I’ve really had to switch the focus back on them, encouraging them to appreciate how the determination, resolve and intention they place into moving through the yoga poses, mindfulness practices and breathing ripples into so many other areas of their lives.

Here's what I know helps. Music. Laughter. Letting the kids take the reins sometimes with the energy and volume of the class then guiding them back to the breath and the movement. Not over- talking and over-cueing. Not taking yourself too seriously as a teacher (that’s a big one), and just really paying attention to the magic moments of awareness and understanding you see happening all the time.

From my experience here are 5 poses my Tween class loves.

1.Vrikshasana/ Tree Pose- The one pose I have noticed that kids across all levels, abilities, and exposure to yoga seem to embrace is Tree Pose. Its simplicity and expression are universal and accessible. One-leg balance postures are a big part of my classes as the main themes we explore are perseverance, focus, mental strength, and balance.

I like to give cues of core contraction, the muscles of the standing leg “hugging” the kneecap and a soft, steady gaze to keep their focus. I pretend to be the wind moving in and amongst the trees and getting close to them as if to blow them over (not touching them). I think they enjoy this little bit of challenge of staying in the pose even as I come closer to them. Even if they think it’s silly, they still like it!

5 Yoga Poses Tweens Actually Love!

4. Adho Mukha Svanasana/ Downward Facing Dog- Another pose that almost any child, of any age, has seen and knows is Downward Facing Dog. This is a great pose for warm-up games (for example, kids in a Downward Dog tunnel, and everyone taking turns to crawl through), and to initiate the start of the practice and to include in flows. It makes children feel comfortable and gives them confidence off the bat because it’s something they know.

My cues for the kids are to make the shape of an upside-down V, to melt the chest towards the legs, pedal out through the legs, and to connect to the mat with the whole palm surface, pressure under the 2nd knuckle, and get used to the feeling of weight bearing and distribution on their hands so we’re prepared for arm balances later.


3. Chaturanga Dandasana/ Four Limbed Staff Pose- Ever since I started referring to Chaturanga as “The Mission Impossible” pose, simply because of Tom Cruise’s horizontal plummet to the ground, the kids love it. Of course, we try and keep it in more in control, done on an exhale, arms hugged into close to the torso, and reaching long through the legs.

I ask them to hover over the mat and stay focused then slowly lower. There’s usually a lot of groans as we hold the form on the way down and take the pause before the relief of the mat. Another thing to remember… Kids this age are not quiet! And you really have to go with the flow of that. No pun intended. Better to not try and fight that. On the plus side… I have found the kids like to say “Chaturanga” and always ask for it in its Sanskrit name so it’s a great opportunity to educate a little about the language and history of yoga!

4. Kakasana/ Crow Pose- I was surprised and pleased at the effort the class put into this pose and the enjoyment they seemed to get out of holding an arm balance that demonstrates their strength and flexibility. I even heard that some of the kids were doing Crow pose challenges with each other outside of the yoga class.

Who can hold it longer? Who can get their knees higher up their arms? This is an age group where most things are a competition. We keep it friendly and positive and it’s a winner. They always ask for it.

5. Urdhva Dhanurasana/Wheel Pose- I think the impressive visual expression of Wheel pose is one thing that gets kids excited about for sure. They get to be in a big back bend, it looks cool, it makes them feel strong and flexible and is one of my go-to poses towards the end of the practice when the class is warmed-up. I keep the cues simple and direct. Lie on your back with your knees bent.

Reach up over your head and put your palms flat on your mat with your fingers pointing towards your shoulders. Press your hands and feet into the floor as you lift your belly towards the ceiling. Usually before I’ve finished the cues they are excitedly in position and pushing the mat* away into amazing Wheel poses.

So bring your patience and your sense of humour the next time you are teaching youth, try out some of the poses above, and feel the joy of what it means to be young at heart!

*commission earned from this link.

Rachel McDonnell

Rachel McDonnell is a Registered Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher in beautiful North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.