How to Learn, Be Active, and Have Fun with Family Yoga
This is the last in a 3 part series on Yoga for Kids. In Part 1, I shared 10 Things that I Learned from Yoga Teacher Training, reflecting on the history and culture of yoga. Part 2, I shared 14 ways that Yoga is Beneficial for Children. Now let’s look at how we can bring yoga and a sense of adventure into our homes with Family Yoga.
I’ve always wanted to go to Africa. Now, being a new mom and running a small business, we probably won’t be going there any time soon, right? However, we can bring Africa to us … to our living room or backyard instead!
If there’s somewhere that you dream of visiting, then why don’t you pretend to go there with your little ones in a Family Yoga experience? Movement and imagination – a perfect combination!
Here’s how to create a Family Yoga experience at home:
1. Brainstorm a list of countries that each family member would like to visit one day. Get out a large poster board and markers, and record everyone’s ideas. All ideas are welcome.
2. Pick a place that you’d like to use for today’s Family Yoga journey. Let’s pretend that we are going to Tanzania, Africa.
3. Gather information about that country. Use the internet, books, atlases, magazines, sticker books, guidebooks, or brochures. Go to the local zoo, museum, library, or visit friends who have been there before. I took my daughter to the African Hall at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and to African Animals exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo for inspiration (pic from the California Academy of Sciences).
4. Brainstorm list of things you would see and do in that country. Again, research the internet or ask friends/family who have been to that country (pic below taken in Tanzania by Hilary, a friend of mine).
5. Set up a safe, comfortable space to do your Family Yoga experience – could be in a room in your house, your backyard, your campsite, or at a nearby park. Put on some themed music. Gather props. Bring out your themed books and stuffed animals to get you in the mood. Yoga mats are optional.
6. Warm up your bodies. Do a Sun Salute, or another familiar warm-up routine.
7. Act out the journey to your chosen country. Here is a sample sequence of family yoga for Tanzania, including the animal and it’s corresponding yoga pose:
Airplane – Warrior 3 (standing on one leg, other leg stretched out backwards, arms out to side, flying like an airplane to Africa)
Giraffe – Moon Salute (stand tall, reach both hands straight up munching on tall leaves)
Baobab Tree – Tree Pose (stand on one leg, bend other leg to rest foot on shin, switch sides)
Ostrich or Stork – Dancer’s Pose (stand on one leg, reach back to hold other leg up behind you, switch sides)
Elephant – Standing Forward Bend (legs apart, bend at the waist, arms linked swaying back and forth like a trunk)
Frog – Squat Pose (squat down, hop like a frog)
Crocodile or Lizard – Plank Pose (stretch back hovering over hands and toes)
Leopard or Lion – Cat Pose (hands and knees, arching up and down)
Hippo – Child’s Pose (rest back on knees, tucking in arms and hand)
8. Complete the experience laying on your back in Resting Pose. Allow the whole family to enjoy a few moments of relaxation. Play quiet music.
9. Finish with your own ritual to end your Family Yoga experience. It could be prayer hands at the heart saying “Namaste,” each having a turn saying their favorite part of the experience, or all sitting around a candle. Do whatever suits your family.
Tips for a successful Family Yoga experience:
- Focus on fun – children’s yoga is less formal than adult yoga, emphasizing movement and creativity rather than practicing the poses with perfect alignment. Laugh and have fun! If the timing isn’t right, then try again another day
- Pretend to travel to different places in the world – use the experience as a way to learn about different cultures
- Keep it simple
- Get everyone involved and acknowledge everyone’s abilities
- Encourage everyone’s creativity – for example, ask the children how they think that the elephant moves
- Just like a storybook, have a beginning (warm-up), middle (journey), and end (rest)
- Be safe
- Research and learn new yoga poses each time that you practice your Family Yoga experience together (ex. Downward-Facing Dog Pose, Mountain Pose, Plank Pose, Child’s Pose, Triangle Pose)
- Remain in the Resting Pose for a period of time to teach your children how to de-stress and relax
- Bring awareness to their breath
- Use props or visuals to get the family in the mood for their topic (ex. Bring out your stuffed animals for your African adventure)
- Play music that compliments your topic
- Enjoy yourself – remember your enthusiasm is contagious
- Be in the moment – put all your worries and work aside and be present with your children – that’s where the magic begins…
Feel free to email me at giselle (at) kidsyogastories (dot) com for a more complete African Kids Yoga Lesson Plan with other African animals, or to share your Family Yoga experience.
Thank you so much Giselle!! If you are interested in yoga, read about the benefits of storytelling and yoga at Kid Yoga Stories. Also, check out yoga-inspired children’s books and get more free kids yoga resources in your in-box by signing up for her weekly newsletter at our web site, or check her out on facebook, twitter, and pinterest. Giselle Shardlow, expert on yoga for kids, is a children’s author of Kids Yoga Stories. She hopes to inspire children by drawing from her experiences as an international primary school teacher, yoga teacher training graduate, world traveler, mother, and yogi. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Her yoga-inspired children’s books and other creative resources can be found at www.kidsyogastories.com.