Child & Family Yoga Play Therapy: A Gem for the Bodymind and Trauma Healing by Susana A. Galle & Bobbi L. Hamilton

Yoga At-Home and Online Yoga Classes grew in popularity during the pandemic as a family-friendly outlet for movement, connection, and stress regulation. While practicing Yoga individually yields benefits, doing so as a family facilitates bonding through the shared experience—an asset when it comes to navigating the stresses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.


Yoga brings a wide range of benefits for kids and families. Yoga can help children manage stress and anxiety, build beneficial resilience, and cultivate a state of being conducive to focused learning. Research shows that, in addition to these individual benefits, Yoga has relational benefits between children and parents. One study found that practicing family Yoga increased children’s self-esteem and closeness with their primary caregiver. Caregivers also reported that family Yoga provided them with opportunities to get to know their child better. 


As a child and family Yoga play therapist, Bobbi has taken her program to schools, homes, and online learning platforms to support children in addressing moodiness, difficulty with transition, lack of motivation, challenges with focus, and physical / mental and emotional health issues.Yoga Therapy, Breathing, and Rhythmic Movement Patterning also offers kids and families a way to overcome the health consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which can include traumas from alcoholism, violence, and divorce. Yoga and Wellness Techniques introduced at a young age provide lifelong tools for coping and healing. I have also found that making Yoga fun increases interest and engagement. 


Quality playtime bonding may be the sweetest part of children and parents doing their at-home Yoga practices together. Family Yoga gets everyone to be physically active, and invites open conversation and feelings of connectedness. 


Such quality interaction supports a wide range of health and wellness benefits including: brain development, concentration, emotional regulation, self-soothing, interpersonal skills, and compassion. (Referencing and encouraging all to read What Happened To You by Oprah and Dr. Perry)


Through Yoga therapy, kids and families discover ways to shift mood positively, and to transition more easily into the next tasks. Awareness develops through conscious breathing and families begin to override emotional triggers. This process leads to the evolution of more harmonious households. When the body and mind are calm, it is easier to communicate effectively—the building block of healthy relationships. 


As children and adolescents return to school, Yoga play therapy assists in recovery from isolation and primes the brain for focused classroom learning. There is a poignant need to address mental and emotional issues arising from the challenges associated with the pandemic: Yoga therapy techniques such as rhythmic breathing and conscious movement lend support for managing these challenges. Furthermore, youths and families can strengthen their ability to face those challenges through play! 


The overarching good news is that we have the capacity to modify early imprints that shaped our brains.  Yoga and Meditation are wellness tools that support neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to change structurally and functionally— throughout life. 


We invite you to try these tools, get the kids involved. When practicing or teaching Yoga to kids and families, it is helpful to get started with mindful breathing techniques, then add movement to coordinate with breath, and build on that to awaken the life force (chi, prana). Create rhythmic movement patterns to warm up, and then introduce game play! Whether teaching to just kids, or kids and parents, adding a game, earning points, creating challenges, inviting healthy competition like kids vs. parents just makes Yoga so much more fun! Within one lesson, and even after a few Yoga poses and focused breaths, children notice and clearly state that they feel good. Adding play to Yoga is just the right element to engage kids and families, and create cozy interconnectedness. 


A sample practice to experience the benefits of Yoga and play today!  Warm up on the Phresh Chi Mat with Creator Bobbi Hamilton


Chi Universe example Yoga sequence on the Chi Mat.


Susana A. Galle, PhD, ND, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is the director of the Body-Mind Center in Washington, DC and Health Adviser for Chi Universe. 

Bobbi L. Hamilton, BA, CYT, is the creator and CEO of Chi Universe, which supports wellness through play.

Locating and integrating the linked research articles for this piece was supported by the editorial team at


Benefits of Yoga in Children - Chandra Nanthakumar, Journal of Integrative Medicine. Volume 16, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 14-19

Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials Testing the Effects of Yoga with Youth - Shari Miller, Tamar Mendelson, Angela Lee-Winn, Natalie L. Dyer & Sat Bir S. Khalsa. Mindfulness Volume 11, pages 1336–1353 (2020)

Family Yoga For Self-Esteem and Stronger Caregiver-Child RelationshipsJulia Wilson, Alan McLuckie. Alberta Academic Review. Vol. 2 No. 3 (2019): CASCH Special Issue, 2019-10-26.

What Happened To You - Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and Oprah Winfrey. Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, Flatiron Books, NY, NY. 2021.

Neuroplasticity In The Vortex Of Adolescence: Mind and Matter - Susana A. Galle, Ph.D., M.S.C.P., A.B.M.P., C.T.N., C.C.N., C.C.H., R.Y.T. Journal of the Academy of Medical Psychology. Arch Med Psych, Fall issue (November), Vol. 8: 33-53. 


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