This is a guest post by Giselle Shardlow of Kids Yoga Stories.
How to Build a Growth Mindset through Yoga Poses for Kids
“I can’t read like her, Momma,” my daughter told me.
I was visiting her first grade classroom during a special family reading event. My daughter pointed out the children around us who were reading picture books, as she was working through her early readers. Her devastation broke my heart into a million pieces.
Her words sat with me for days. I thought back to when I was a teacher and we were taught to praise children specifically for their actions, not their person. And we celebrate the efforts of our students, without focusing on the outcome. For example, we would say, “Way to go for looking at the pictures to figure out the words” versus “Good job reading!”
My concern for her lack of self-esteem led me to pick up Dr. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset again, and I dove into recent research on growth mindset. We took out a bunch of growth mindset books from the library to read together. It’s easy to assume that our children will have a positive outlook and have a love of learning like us, but research says that isn’t often the case.
Growth mindset is defined by Dr. Dweck as someone who embraces challenges, builds their confidence, and welcomes feedback. Alternatively, someone with a fixed mindset runs from difficulty, compares themselves negatively with others, and believes that success is based solely on intelligence or talent, not effort.
I then realized my daughter generally has a fixed mindset.
Instead of despair, I felt this overwhelming excitement that I could begin a slow process of planting the seeds of growth mindset into our daily life. For example:
- When she says, “I can’t.” We then encourage her to say, “I can’t do that yet.”
- When she pops up into a handstand, we celebrate her efforts and focus on how much practice it took to do the handstand.
- When she makes a mistake, we talk about the power of mistakes in the learning process.
- When she comments on how her friends are doing better at school, we focus on how they might be an inspiration for her own learning.
- When she’s scared to do a flip on the bars, we talk about feeling the fear and doing it anyway to encourage her to take risks and feel good about her efforts.
These are all little things that we were mostly doing before, but the intention behind the conversations has been powerful. It’s been a hugely helpful focus for both my husband and me to help our daughter think more positively and open her mind up to possibilities.
Another way to reinforce these ideas of growth mindset is to practice daily affirmations through yoga poses. We know that learning through movement helps children retain the information, so below you’ll find five yoga poses inspiring us to think using a growth mindset.
5 Growth Mindset Yoga Poses for Kids
You might like to practice the five yoga poses first, so that they are familiar to you before introducing the growth mindset mantras. The yoga poses are listed in a particular sequence to invite flow from one pose to the next. To start, clear a space to avoid any obstacles and practice barefoot (if possible). Don’t worry if you haven’t tried yoga before; just jump in and give it a go. Practicing perfectly aligned poses is not the focus here. Adapt these yoga poses to suit your needs to make the experience your own.
I am hard-working.
How to practice Warrior 1 Pose: Stand tall with legs hip-width apart, feet facing forward, and straighten your arms alongside your body. Step one foot back, angling it slightly outward. Bend your front knee, bring your arms straight up toward the sky, and look up. Imagine working hard through a problem and embracing challenges. Say, “I am hard-working.” Repeat on the other side.
I am creative.
How to practice Dancer’s Pose: Stand tall in Mountain Pose. Then stand on your right leg, reach your left leg out behind you, and place the outside of your left foot into your left hand. Bend your torso forward, with your right arm out in front for balance, and arch your leg up behind you. Imagine using your creativity to face setbacks in a different way. Say, “I am creative.” Switch sides and repeat the steps.
I am focused.
How to practice Chair Pose: Stand tall in Mountain Pose with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees, and keep a straight spine. Take your straight arms out in front of you at a 45-degree angle. Focus on giving your best effort to hold this difficult pose as long as you can. Think of when you could use focus and effort to master a task in real life. Say, “I am focused.”
I am open-minded.
How to practice Lunge Pose: From Downward-Facing Dog Pose, step your right foot forward to rest just inside your right hand. Keep a flat back and open your chest. Imagine being open-minded enough to listen and learn from someone giving you constructive criticism. Say, “I am open-minded.” Switch sides and repeat the steps.
I am curious.
How to practice Downward-Facing Dog Pose: Step back to your hands and feet in an upside-down V shape, with your buttocks up in the air. Think of ways that people around you have experienced success. Be curious and inspired by their successes. Say, “I am curious.”
I’m learning to accept myself and my daughter, too. This is a journey we are on together, and it’s not going to change overnight. Change happens by committing to a positive outlook and embracing challenges every single day. It’s also by modeling a growth mindset myself and talking to her about how I’m learning from my mistakes, as well. These yoga practices help us both to train our brains to think more positively about our efforts and help us to learn together. I hope they work for you, too!
This is the orignal poster, made for the author’s daughter:
This second version includes boys, as well:
About the Author
Giselle Shardlow is the author of Kids Yoga Stories. Her yoga books for kids get children learning, moving, and having fun. Giselle draws from her experiences as a teacher, traveler, yogi, and mom to write the yoga stories found at Kids Yoga Stories or on Amazon worldwide. The purpose of her yoga books is to foster happy, healthy, and globally educated children. Find Giselle on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.