Most of the time, we are bombarded with advertisements and therefore rarely satisfied. This is especially true for our children. Gratitude means being thankful for what we have in our lives. When we are grateful, our bodies release chemicals that make us happier and calmer. Even in our most depressed moments, we can find something to be grateful for. As a yoga teacher and mom, I feel responsible for raising grateful children. And it is certainly good for our health!
Indeed, we have so much to be grateful for! We don’t have to be grateful for material things. We can be grateful for our breath, for people in our lives. You may talk to your children or students about family, friends, sharing, giving and receiving. “How does it feel when we give to others? And how does it feel when we receive from others?”
Yoga teaches us to be grateful for our health and bodies. And here is my gratitude yoga lesson plan for kids:
Kids Yoga Lesson Plan: Gratitude Yoga
Warm Up Yoga Song
I love dancing freely for a few minutes at the very beginning of the yoga class with a theme-related song. It does not only warm up our bodies, but also prepares our minds for the related theme.
“A Surprise for You” from Super Simple Songs is a lovely kids song about saying thank you to your family:
A surprise for you,
For all you do,
Every day you make me smile.
A surprise for you,
For all you do,
Your hugs and kisses make me smile.
For all you do.
I love you.
Gratitude Yoga Poses for Kids
This gratitude yoga flow begins with being thankful for the Sun, Earth, Mountains, Trees, Animals, all the natural beauties that we see around us. Then we think about a person in our life whom we are most grateful for in the child pose. With the Warrior I, Warrior II poses we appreciate our own courage and wisdom. Finally, the yoga flow comes to an end with the Moon, Star poses and Namaste – feeling gratitude for this yoga practice.
Lots of kids love backbends and heart openers. And most heart opener poses and backbends are excellent for opening up feelings. But make sure they do the forward folds that open up the upper back as well. These kids yoga poses will help you focus on all you have to be thankful for.
Hello Sun: Thank you for the energy and warmth you provide each of us. (Reach up to the sun and say “Hello Sun”.)
Hello Earth: Thank you for giving us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” – Thich Nhat Hanh (Fold Forward and say “Hello Earth”.)
Mountain: Thank you for your great beauty, lifting the Earth toward the sky and nourishing various life forms. (Standing tall and perfectly still, breathing steady)
Tree: Thank you for the air we breathe, the homes you provide for the animals. Thank you for teaching us how to climb and swing. Thank you for teaching us balance. (Standing tall, place the heel of your foot on top of the other. Bring your hands together at your heart and grow your branches up tall.)
Rain: Thank you for watering the Earth and refilling streams, rivers, lakes and oceans and providing water for the animals and trees. (Using our fingertips, we go pitter patter all over our faces and body like a rain shower.)
Malasana/Garland Pose: Thank you for the smell of the rain and clean air after a long period of dry weather. (Bend your knees deeply, sinking down until your hips are lower than your knees. Bring your palms together at heart center. Push your elbows into your knees to open your hips.)
Rainbow: Thank you for the magnificent colorful arch in the sky. Whenever I see a rainbow, I feel joyful. (Come to two knees and take your arms wide. Place one hand down to the side and extend your leg out to the side. Reach up and over your ear with your top arm, making a beautiful arching rainbow.)
Flower: Without you, plants would merely be green. Thank you for your positive energy, helping people feel relaxed. (Sit on your bottom. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together. Balance on your sitting bones and weave your arms under your legs. Hold your arms steady under your legs with your arms facing up.)
Butterfly: Thank you for increasing the biodiversity and being the plant pollinators. You are not only beautiful creatures but do a great deal for the environment. (Sitting tall, bring the soles of your feet in touch and flutter your knees up and down like a butterfly’s wings.)
Bee Breaths: Thank you for allowing plants to reproduce through pollination. These plants contribute to the food system by feeding animals – aside from humans – such as birds and insects. (Taking a deep breath in, we close our ears and eyes and hum a buzzy bumble bee breath out.)
Bird: Thank you for pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and feeding our spirits, bringing color, and sound to our landscape – greeting the day with cheerful songs. (Standing up, bend forward from your middle, keeping your back long and straight. Your arms become wide wings floating up and down at your sides as you fly like a bird.)
Nest: Thank you for protecting birds’ eggs and providing suitable place to raise their baby birds. (Lying on our tummies, flick our feet up towards our bottoms. We reach around with our arms and take hold of our ankles. Kicking our legs into our hands, we lift our chests up.)
Camel: Thanks for the tall and small animals of the earth and sea and sky. (Kneeling, we put our hands round to our lower back and press our bottom forwards, lifting our hearts to the sky, looking up.)
Child Pose: Think about one person in your life whom you are most grateful for. What it is about this person you are most grateful for. (Sit on your heels, slowly bring your forehead down to rest in front of your knees, rest your arms down alongside your body.)
Warrior 1: Thanks for this pose – for opening my heart and developing courage. This powerful asana helps me gain inner strength and courage. (Step one foot forward and turn the back toes out to the diagonal. Bend into the front knee, so make sure the space between the legs is wide enough to do this. Lift the chest, draw the tummy muscles in and sweep the arms up overhead, palms to touch. Feel strong and mighty.)
Warrior 2: Thanks for this pose – for teaching me how to bring more wisdom, courage, and focus into every action. (Standing with your feet wide, bend your front knee and spread your arms out wide.)
Crescent Moon: I am thankful for the light of the moon. I love the consistency of how the moon cycles through a repetitive pattern of change. (We stand up tall, feet together and reach our arms up above us. Then we lift and lean over to one side, still pointing upwards as much as possible.)
Star (Resting): I am thankful for the light of the stars in the sky. Now focus on your breath, your body, and your heart. Be grateful for each breath. (Lie back with your legs wide and arms outstretched. Enjoy resting on the ground.)
Namaste: Take a moment to feel gratitude for yourself and your practice. (Sitting with your legs crossed, hands together at your heart, bow your head.)
At the very end, you may invite your students to think of a pose that represents something they are grateful for; then you can have the group practice of that pose.
You may also benefit from yoga partner poses to share gratitude with physical support.
Gratitude Yoga Game for Kids
Sit in a circle and pass around a ball, stuffed animal, or a hand puppet. Make sure you give the kids thinking time first to generate their ideas before you start. Whoever has the toy says something they are grateful for. The game continues until all participants have a turn.
Relaxing Technique – Butterfly Fingertip Massage: The children sit in a circle by turning their backs to one another. They massage to each other’s neck, shoulders, arms, back with their fingertips. In that way, they feel happier and more connected.
Gratitude Breathing Exercises
Feather Breathing: If it is Thanksgiving time, you can prefer to play with feathers. Get some colored feathers and pick out one feather to use. It could be a color that they love or one that makes them feel calm. Rest a single feather in the open palm of your hand, holding it just below the chin. Breathe normally. Watch the feather closely and notice how it moves.
Back to Back Breathing: The purpose of this breathing exercise is to support each other. Sitting crisscross, back to back, placing your hands on your knees, breathe in and out deeply. Notice if you can feel your partner breathing. Don’t try to force your breath to match but see if it starts to happen naturally. Just feel supported with breath. You can close your eyes if you like.
Mindful Gratitude Activities
Gratitude Jar: Bring a jar for each kid to the class. The children can decorate their jars. Have your little yogis write or draw what they are thankful for on a piece of paper or post-it notes and throw into their jars. Ask the kids to keep the jars and put a thank-you note inside every day.
Gratitude Collage: (For older children) Ask them to make their own lists of things to be grateful for. Then, they can take photos or draw their pictures before turning them into a photo album or collage. It might be the photos of their family, siblings, a place they traveled to recently which they loved, photo of their favorite meal… Bring them together to create a gratitude collage. These can be taken home to share with family and friends.
Thank You Note: Encourage the kids to choose someone that they’d like to thank for being special. It might be a friend, a neighbor or a family member… Ask them to write a thank-you note to show how grateful they are to have them in their lives. It is a heart-warming way to say thank you.
Gratitude Tree: You can use a printable tree template and some pre-cut leaves. Ask your kids to draw or write about things that they are thankful for on the leaves. If they are too young, you can write for them. Every child can create his/her own gratitude tree. This can be taken home to share with family.