Yoga is something children and their parents/caregiver can explore together. Practicing yoga together creates a supportive environment for the child as well as deepens their connections with the guardian. When practicing with your child, it is useful to begin and end each yoga class with the same routine. This structure helps the child gain confidence about their personal practice.
The child and guardian each have a mat. If a mat is not available, a large towel will work well. The mat creates a boundary for the child to create their own personal space as well as the help with the physical alignment of the body. Children are encouraged to begin their yoga practice with deep mindful breathing. The child sits comfortably either cross legged or on a cushion and closes their eyes getting ready to tune into the breath. The child is asked to take a deep belly breath expanding the stomach and lungs out like a balloon, then slowly exhaling feeling the body settle onto the sit bones. Perform this deep breathing for 10-30 rounds.
The names of the yoga postures are translated from their Sanskrit name and are named after the animals and shapes they represent. This helps children not only remember the shape of the pose, but also experience the sound, movement, and nature of the pose. Children are encouraged to use their imagination to go deep into their bodies and experience the union, expression, and honour for oneself within the web of life.
Here are a few yoga postures to practice at home with your child.
Lightning bolt pose (ukatasana) – Stand with feet hips width apart. Inhale and raise arms over head reaching out through fingertips to a magnificent night sky. Draw shoulder blades down and relax the muscles around the neck, while keeping arms firm. Exhale and bend at the knees taking thighs back as if about to sit down, keep the knees in line with the ankles and engage inner thighs. Draw the lower belly in and soften the tailbone. Lift the heart and open the chest. Feel the electrical change from your fingertips all the way down to your toes. Imagine this powerful bolt of lightning so strong and magnificent it could light up an entire city block. Feel how your inner power grows and tingles. Hold for 10- 40 breaths, then straighten arms and release legs.
Tree pose (vrksasana) – First imagine your favourite kind of tree. What does it look like? How does it move in the wind? What does it smell like? Then, stand with feet together and notice the sensation of the floor beneath. Feel your feet root down and let your toes hold the floor like they are drawing up water and energy. Shift your weight to your right foot and slowly draw your left foot up your leg placing it either at the base of the foot, on the shin below the knee or, on the upper thigh. The high is not the focus but how sturdy you feel. Draw your left knee out to externally rotate the hip. Activate all the muscles in your standing leg and straighten your torso. Feel your torso like the trunk of the tree, proud and supportive of the roots and the branches. Imagine the texture of the trunk of the tree. Place hands on your hips, pressed together in front of your chest or extended above your hear. Feel your arms hold like beautiful branches. Imagine what they look like. Are the pines? Or weeping willow? Let your arms express the nature of the tree. Repeat on other side.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Savasana) – Kneel on your hands and knees with hands shoulder width apart and knees hips width apart, pant like a dog for 10-20 quick breaths. Take one long exhale then press hips up toward the sky straighten out the arms and flattening the back. Press down onto all four corners of the hands and roll the shoulders away from the ears and onto the back, bend the knees if necessary to lengthen the spine. Imagine yourself as a dog taking a deep stretch after a refreshing plunge in a lake. Take five big barks and feel the sounds resonate in your chest. Hold pose for 10- 40 breaths.
Warrior II (virabhadrasana II) – Stand with feet arm’s length apart with feet parallel. Engage inner thighs and root down through your feet. Rotate right foot open keeping hips and torso facing center. Bend into right knee so thigh is parallel with the floor pressing inner thigh back. Feel the strength build in the thigh and how your body is accepting this inner power. Extend arms away from torso palms either up or down and turn head and gaze to the right. Lift heart slightly and feel yourself settle into this pose. Picture a strong warrior, maybe someone if your life who gives you strength imagine them alongside you supporting you to hold this pose. Keeping the breath steady draw energy through the legs and extend out through the arms