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Yoga for Children with Serious Illnesses

Yoga is a fun way to promote relaxation and mindfulness. It can be a safe and non-invasive activity to do with your children. Children of different ages and abilities can do yoga; yoga can be made easier or more challenging as needed.

Doing yoga might help kids ease symptoms they experience during treatment for cancer, sickle cell disease and other serious illnesses.

Some of yoga's benefits may include:

  • Pain relief
  • Relaxation
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved strength
  • Improved endurance
  • Decreased fall risk
  • Decreased fatigue

Yoga should not replace medical treatments or recommendations from doctors or providers for children with serious illnesses.

Don’t start any new activity – including yoga – before you talk with your child’s doctor. You can ask your child’s physical therapist, doctor, or care team about yoga and any other options.

Yoga poses for kids and parents

Yoga can benefit parents and other caregivers, too. It can help with managing stress and improving both mental and physical well-being.

Poses are the ways you hold your body while doing yoga. If you and your child want to try yoga, here are common poses to get you started.

It is best to do these with instructions. You can look at a book or online videos to be able to picture these. If any pose hurts, stop it right away and consult with a doctor.

Child's pose

Child’s pose is a resting yoga pose.
  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
  2. Sit your hips back over your heels.
  3. Bend at the waist until your forehead reaches the floor, if possible.
  4. Stretch your arms overhead.
yoga instructor doing child pose

Child's pose

Tree pose

Tree pose is a balancing posture.

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Lift either your left or right leg until the sole of your footrests on your calf, ankle, or thigh. (Start with your ankle and only move up if you’re steady. Never place your lifted foot over your knee or ankle.)
  3. If you can, raise your arms above your head and hold the balance.
  4. You can use a wall or chair to help you hold the tree pose if needed.
yoga instructor doing tree pose

Tree pose

Cat-Cow pose

This relaxing pose can help you stretch tight muscles.

  1. Begin on your hands and knees. You can use blankets under your knees to make it more comfortable.
  2. Take a deep breath in; let your belly relax down as you look up toward the ceiling.
  3. Take a deep breath out; arch your back like a “Halloween cat” as you look down toward the floor.
  4. Repeat several times.

Practicing yoga is about mindfulness, building flexibility, and relaxation. Whatever poses you try, don't forget to have fun.

yoga instructor doing cat pose

Cat pose

yoga instructor doing cow pose

Cow pose

Yoga books for kids

  • ABC Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story by Christiane Engel
  • Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids by Kristen Fischer & Susi Schaefer
  • You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo
  • Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story by Mariam Gates & Sarah Jane Hinder

Yoga games for kids and teens

Key points about yoga for children with serious illnesses

  • Yoga can benefit children with serious illnesses.
  • Yoga can help with flexibility, mindfulness, and relaxation. It can also help caregivers manage stress.
  • Talk to your child's medical team before your child begins yoga.

The Together by St. Jude™ online resource does not endorse any branded product or organization mentioned in this article.

Reviewed: December 2023