Posts Tagged ‘positive behavior supports’

Kids Yoga Class Tips: helping kids create class rules for a positive experience

Kids Yoga Class Rules

One of the most frequent requests I get via e-mail and Facebook messaging is for tips on handling behavior & setting rules/boundaries in a kids yoga class. I’m by no means the biggest expert among us in kids yoga but I have had quite a bit of experience in dealing with a wide variety of behaviors in my work at the JD McCarty Center. Because every situation is unique, I always respond by asking a few questions…..

  • How old are the kids in the class?
  • How many kids are in the class?
  • Do you have any adult helpers?
  • Do any of the kids have diagnosed special needs (ADHD, Autism, SPD, anxiety, etc…) that might be a contributing factor to the behavior?
  • How long is your class? How long is each activity within your class?
  • Where are you teaching the class? Does that setting have any rules that the kids should already be following?
  • What time of day is the class?

I primarily work with kids with special needs….. even the inclusive class I did last summer/fall had a few kids with special needs in it. There is a big difference developmentally between the ability of a 4 year old & an 8 year old to understand & follow rules. Many 4 year olds may have limited experience in a structured setting and may just be beginning to learn the concept of following rules. Most kids over the age of 6 or 7 probably understand the concept of following rules if they have been in a school setting.

Why Go To All This Effort?

Helping kids learn positive ways to treat themselves & others is something that will help them well beyond the particular class they are in with you at that moment in time. Think of it as an investment in “planting seeds” in that child’s life. Not all kids grow up in environments that are nurturing & provide positive structure….. so you may have a golden opportunity to help provide a positive influence and learning opportunity.

Yoga is so much more than just “poses” (asanas). It also includes Pranayama (breathing), Mantras (positive affirmations), Mindfulness (focused attention), Relaxation (includes guided imagery) & Yamas/Niyamas (character education).

A Balanced Approach to Yoga

yamas niyamas

10 Things I Do:

  1. I have kids help me write the yoga rules for their yoga class. What rules are important to them? This gives them ownership in the rules since they helped create them. Often they needed a few examples of rules & a simple explanation on “why” that rule was important to get the discussion started. Even for kids who are not at a developmental level to be able to “create” the rules, they could still help choose them out of a field of a few choices. As a fun craft activity, the kids can make a poster of the rules they helped create & then you will have the poster up as a reminder in the class. See an example of a simple 3-rule poster from my friends at Kid Partners ( 0000.1367070208.&type=3&theater)
  2. I use visual supports and a “social story” (, to help kids understand the rules. More posts about visual supports on my blog:   I tend to keep my “yoga rules” really simple. The main three rules I typically have are:
    1. Stay on your mat
    2. Mats stay on the floor. I also make it fun by having the kids pretend to “glue” down the corners of their mat with an imaginary glue stick (learned this tip from a post from Mira at Global Family Yoga)
    3. And something along the lines of “Use “kind” words” or “We’re always nice to our friends”.

     3 Simple Yoga Class Rules - click on pic to open 1-page PDFYoga Group Social Story

  3. I have adult “helpers” to help the kids that have more extreme behaviors. This is especially important if you work with kids with special needs. I recently had a child with Autism & schizophrenia in my class and she had very unpredictable & explosive behavior. With the loving support of adult helpers, she ended up having fun participating in our therapeutic kids yoga class at JDMC.  See this post:
  4. I’ve learned not to be too quick to judge whether or not a particular child is “enjoying” yoga or any other activities. I have seen many kids initially be resistant or ambivalent to yoga and other activities end up loving it when given the opportunity to experience it on their own terms & at their own pace within safe boundaries.
  5. I tend to ignore behaviors unless they are at risk of hurting themselves or others and keep moving with the class. If the class is fun and you are the most interesting thing in the room, most kids will be engaged with what you are doing. As a general rule of thumb, behaviors that get the most attention are “reinforced” and are more likely to occur again. So I intentionally focus more attention on what kids are doing “right” and give specific praise regarding the on-task & positive behaviors I see kids doing.
  6. I have also strategically assigned yoga mats so certain kids can’t sit next to each other & the most disruptive kids were right by me. I then assigned them special jobs to be my “helpers”.
  7. Sometimes it also helps to change up the pace of the class when kids start exhibiting behaviors. I have had kids lose interest if I stayed too long on a particular pose or activity, it was too hard/too easy or it was too overstimulating. I put alot of thought into choosing props & music for classes for this reason…… and depending on how a class is going I will often modify as I go to meet what the kids are needing at that moment.
  8. I almost always base my classes around a kids picture book. It gives the kids something to pay attention to, they get to “be” part of the story & a book gives structure of having a beginning & an end.
  9. When I am doing an after-school class, I keep in mind that kids have had to sit all day, may have lots of energy and need to move. One idea is to start out the class with a really upbeat activity to give the kids a chance to get the sillies out. Yoga Freeze Dance is always fave. Then gradually reduce the activity level to calm.
  10. I keep kids attention spans, developmental levels & special needs in mind when determining the length of my class or any activities I am doing within a class.

Want More Info?

Lisa Flynn’s new book “Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises, and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children” is full of great tips!

lisa's book

As of the date of this post, Amazon has it on sale for 39% off ( There are also some tips on this post on her ChildLight Yoga blog: yoga-class.html.

See these posts for more great ideas:




Feel free to share your tips & “tag” your page in the comments in this album on the OMazing Kids Facebook page. I love to connect & learn from others in the amazing kids yoga community:


Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP, IAYT, RCYP-2

Speech-Language Pathologist at the JD McCarty Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities (

Founder of OMazing Kids, LLC – inclusive wellness activities for kids of all abilities

Radiant Child Yoga Certified – Levels 1 & 2



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OMazing Kids LLC is an organization that promotes inclusive wellness activities for kids of all abilities. The blog and social media pages share information about books, DVD’s, CD’s, games and other products specifically designed for kids wellness, mindfulness and relaxation, product reviews & giveaways, lesson plan & activity ideas, research, kids wellness in the news and a connection corner with listings of individuals doing adapted yoga and those offering trainings.

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Using Visual Supports in Yoga Groups for Kids & Teens – being inclusive of learning styles

Looking for ways to include kids & teens with different learning styles in your yoga groups? Want to use positive ways to support participation and reduce problematic behaviors? Then you might want to consider using “visual supports”.

Many of the kids I work with in OMazing Kids Yoga have difficulty understanding & following verbal instructions. This can be due to a difference in learning style (visual vs. auditory learner), difficulty maintaining attention (ex: ADD/ADHD), difficulty tuning out extra sensory input to be able to attend (ex: Sensory Processing Disorders), focusing in too much on an area of high interest to the point that the child has difficulty attending to other information (ex: Autism Spectrum Disorders), specific learning disabilities, etc…

Regardless of “why” the child is having difficulty understanding & following instructions, this will make it difficult for them to participate in a meaningful way in activities, including a kids yoga class.

Adding “visual supports” (ex: pictures of the poses, pictures to depict the sequence of activities that will occur in the group, pictures to show the “steps” within an activity, showing “first ____ / then _______”, etc…) can make a BIG difference for many kids.

Here are a few examples of visual supports I created to use in OMazing Kids Yoga:

Some kids do well with a “Social Story” describing the expected behavior and how that makes other feel:

Some kids do well with a left-to-right schedule showing what will happen in the group (other kids do better with a top-to-bottom type schedule):

(this file is saved out on Boardmaker Share at:

Some kids need extra visual cues to help them understand concepts:

(Note: These are just a few examples of the many different visual supports I use. Every child is unique so I often modify things or make new visual supports to meet those unique needs. Some kids do better with photos, black & white symbols or just words.)

Looking for PDF printable versions of some visual supports?  Here are a few: yoga breathing visual support (flower and candle), Social Story “Good Behavior in Yoga Group” with picture symbols, Peace Tree – guided visualization.

 How Do I Make These Visual Supports?  I use a combination of Boardmaker, MS Word, MS Paint, Google Images and the “snipping tool” in Windows 7. Boardmaker is a software program commonly used by Special Education teachers, Speech-Language Pathologists and other therapists to make communication boards, educational materials & visual supports for kids with special needs. Mayer Johnson offers a 30-day free trial of the program ( and free online trainings on how to use it (

More About Visual Supports

Visual supports help many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other special needs understand their world better.

Just as many adults need calendars, to-do lists, shopping lists and planners to remind them of their activities for the day, many children need visual schedules and other visual supports.

Visual supports enhance understanding of what is going to happen and clarify expectations during that specific time period or activity.

In addition, visual supports often help the child move from one activity to the next with less frustration and reduced behavioral outbursts because the symbols turn the unknown into something the child understands.

The consistency provided by a visual support is crucial in establishing an atmosphere of trust and
security. Visual supports can also provide motivation for the child to work through a less preferred activity knowing a preferred/reinforcing activity is coming soon.

The type of symbols used, number of activities and amount of time shown on a visual schedule depend on the individual child’s needs.

If you want even more info about “visual supports”, check out these websites: 

NOTE:  Please ignore any ads that appear below the blue divider bar. This is a free blog site & I have no control over ads appearing here.

Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP, IAYT, RCYP-2
Speech-Language Pathologist
Founder of OMazing Kids Yoga, LLC – inclusive yoga for kids & teens of all abilities in Norman, Oklahoma
Radiant Child Yoga Certified – Levels 1 & 2