Can You Build Literacy Skills Through Yoga?
We all know that a yoga practice builds strength, flexibility, and co-ordination. Did you know you can also use the ancient practice to build literacy skills for even our youngest yogis?
Yoga teaches sequential thinking and planning: Listening to and following instructions on how to do a pose reinforces the idea that there is a proper order of events. You can not balance in Crow pose if you do not set it up correctly. It is the same with building sentences! Sentence structure and syntax matter to sentence meaning and understanding. Sequential thinking is also important to appreciating the plot development of a story.
Children’s yoga classes encourage imagination: If you teach a class with a jungle theme, you are also teaching children how to tap into their creativity to create an imaginary jungle world around them. Attending organized, thoughtful classes also encourages children stay on one topic and use subject-specific details. Yoga integrates a story within the body and the mind, making it an immersive experience (just like reading a good book). Playing pretend (“Let’s all be jungle snakes!”) helps children assume other identities and imagine what someone else’s life might be like. This practice in immersing themselves into a story helps them identify with characters, plot lines, and settings in a book.
Yoga builds connections: A yoga practice creates a connection between the mind and the body. It also creates bonds between students and teachers. To be a willing reader, a child must be able to build a connection to the author and the characters in a story. Empathy, compassion, and being able to put themselves into a story make more eager, successful readers.
Yoga teaches self-regulation: Yoga teaches us to control our body movements, to be mindful of our breath speed, and to use our voice thoughtfully through mantras and kirtan. To be successful at reading a story either out loud or to themselves, children need to be able to regulate their voice, their pace and cadence, and their facial expressions. Children use breath control to guide their pauses at periods and commas, as well.
String poses together to build silly stories: Using yoga cards, slips of paper with pose names, or assigning postures, have children work cooperatively to create a silly story. Each child adds their pose to the story when it is their turn. For example, if you passed out cards with the poses cobra, cat, tree, and star the children would have to create a story using those poses as characters in the story. This teaches the elements of storytelling: beginning-middle-end, character development (What color was the cat? How tall was the tree?), setting, and plot (with climax and denouement). Children have to wait their turn to add to the story and respond with topically appropriate, properly organized story additions.
Yoga teaches mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness through a yoga practice may help with other literacy skills. For young children, handwriting is the ultimate practice in mindfulness. They have to focus, be purposeful in movement, and not rush to be successful. Is your child already proficient with their penmanship? Challenge them to try to write with their opposite hand! Toddlers must learn to be mindful when turning pages properly. Young authors need to be mindful of their word choice in setting the mood of a story.
Yoga makes anything more playful: Teaching the alphabet? Use yoga poses! A is for Alligator pose. B is for Boat pose. C is for Cat/Cow. D is for Downward Dog… Children can try to make letters with their bodies, either individually or as partners and teams. Read a story aloud and have children act It out with yoga postures. As a choice, have children re-tell a story using a narrator and yoga postures!
Want to bring yoga into your math class? Check out our blog about Yoga + Math!
Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, and beyond! KAY even offers a 6-hour workshop designed to teach school educators and homeschool families how to bring yoga and meditation right into their classrooms (EduKAY).