Jessica Matthews by Jessica Matthews

Spark children’s imaginations while introducing them to the physical practice of yoga along with a few basic breathing techniques. These 6 animal-inspired poses encourage children to get creative by imitating some of their favorite animals, while also empowering them to explore physical activity and the mind-body connection in a fun new way.


Begin in a low-kneeling position, sitting atop the heels. Place the hands on the thighs, just above the knees, and spread the fingers wide, like a lion’s sharpened claws. Inhale deeply through the nose and then exhale with a wide open mouth, stretching the tongue out to create a “ha” sound, imitating a lion’s roar. Repeat five cycles of “roars” as a fun way to experience yoga-inspired breathing techniques (pranayama).


Assume a hands-and-knees position with the wrists below the shoulders and the knees below the hips. Inhale, softening the belly toward the floor, gently arching the back while tilting the tailbone and chin toward the ceiling; look up with the eyes. Exhale and gently round the spine, drawing the chin toward the chest. Continue this pattern of movements for a total of five cycles of breath, with the option to “moo” during cow pose (arching the back) and “meow” during cat pose (rounding the back)


Lie on the stomach, with the hands below the shoulders and the legs pressed together and extended along the mat; rest the tops of the feet on the floor. Inhale to lift the chest slightly off the floor, keeping the palms and toenails pressed into the mat, while drawing the elbows in and the shoulders back. Hold this position for three cycles of breath, with the option to “hiss” like a snake during each exhalation.


From a hands-and-knees position, place the elbows on the floor just below the shoulders, resting the forearms and palms on the mat. Inhale to tuck the toes under and exhale to lift the knees off the floor, drawing the hips toward the ceiling and the chest toward the thighs like a dolphin’s dorsal fin coming out of the water. The knees can remain bent as much as needed to create comfort and accessibility in this pose. Maintain this position for three to five cycles of breath, breathing in and out of the nose audibly to create the sound of ocean waves (a dolphin’s home).


From a standing position, hinge the hips and bend the knees softly, lowering the chest toward the thighs, and allowing the arms to extend down toward the mat; draw the crown of the head toward the floor. Bend the knees deeply enough to slide the hands underneath the feet with the palms facing up (backs of hands on floor); draw the toes up to touch the creases of the wrists. If this is uncomfortable or inaccessible, let the arms hang heavy down toward the mat. Hold this position for three to five cycles of breath, with the option to make monkey or gorilla sounds during each exhalation.

Dead Bug

Lie on the back and draw the knees in toward the chest. Reach the hands to grip the feet on the pinky toe side of each foot (or use any other grip that is accessible and comfortable). Keeping the spine resting on the floor, gently open the knees wider toward the edges of the mat while pressing the soles of the feet toward the sky as if to make footprints on the ceiling. Allow the upper body to continue to rest comfortably on the mat while pressing the hands into the feet and the feet into the hands; hold this position without moving. Maintain this position for three to five cycles of breath, breathing gently in and out through the nose.