Today we welcome a guest post from mom and author of Kids Yoga Stories, Giselle Shardlow. Her yoga-inspired children’s books get children moving, learning, and having fun. Giselle draws from her experiences as a teacher, traveler, yogi, and mom to write the stories found at www.kidsyogastories.com or on Amazon worldwide.
Giselle’s focus in this post is to inspire parents to bring the world to their children through the practice of family yoga. She includes descriptions of the suggested asanas (poses) and excellent tips on how to make your family yoga experience successful. Enjoy!
Before having a child, my husband and I thought that we would continue traveling to faraway places and our lives wouldn’t change at all after we became parents. Ignorance is bliss, right?!
Backpacking has become somewhat of a logistical challenge with our daughter. Our plans to travel to Borneo, Bali, and Bolivia are on hold for now, but who says we can’t bring the world to us–into our living room!
Here’s a creative, interactive, and meaningful way to learn about different countries, be active, and enjoy yourselves together as a family.
How to travel the world through family yoga from the comforts of your home:
1. Pick two to six countries. Get out a big piece of paper and write down the countries that you are going to “visit” on your family yoga adventure. The number of countries depends on the ages of your children and how much time you would like to spend on the activity.
2. Research. Gather books, YouTube videos, stuffed animals, puzzles, magazines, brochures, guidebooks, and pictures of the countries. Each family member could research a specific country, or you could all work together on each one.
3. Pick one to three things in each country. Choose a few things that you would like to see or do in each of the chosen locations. It could be animals, landmarks, natural wonders, people, or flora specific to that region. Think of a way to express each keyword into a kids yoga pose. For example, Eagle Pose for Bald Eagle, Mountain Pose for Kilimanjaro, or Triangle Pose for Sailboat. Be creative.
4. Get ready for your experience. Choose a big space to practice your family yoga session. Clear away any potential dangers. Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and go barefoot. Get out the props. Turn on thematic background music. For example, play Spanish guitar for Guatemala, bongo drums for Africa, or Celtic music for the United Kingdom.
A book, guitar, statue, booties and huipil from Guatemala.
5. Warm up your bodies and minds. Go through a familiar warm-up routine or practice a few Sun Salutes to get your bodies ready. Notice the visuals around the room, listen to the music, and get in the mood.
6. Act out each country’s keywords. Follow along with this Kids Yoga Stories suggested sequence or create your own. There are two things from six different countries. Don’t forget to practice on both sides/legs:
England: Buckingham Palace Guard – Mountain Pose (Standing tall with arms to side)
Tanzania: Giraffe – Extended Mountain Pose (Arms stretched up like a giraffe’s neck)
Australia: Surfer – Warrior 2 Pose (Arms stretched out, legs apart, front leg turned to face forward and knee bent, look forward)
United States of America: Bald Eagle – Eagle Pose (Stand on one leg, wrap other leg around the standing leg, arms bent out front intertwined)
Tanzania: Safari Driver – Chair Pose (Legs together, knees bent, and arms on steering wheel)
Guatemala: Tikal Ruins – Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Come on hands and knees, spread your fingers flat, tuck your toes under, lift your knees away from floor, sitting bone pointing up, like an upside-down V, and breathe)
England: Horse – Headstand Prep (From Downward Dog, carefully kick up one leg at a time, and buck like a horse)
Guatemala: Quetzal – Pigeon Pose (From Downward Dog, bend one leg and bring your knee to rest behind your hands, slip your foot slightly inward, and keep your torso upright)
Australia: Echidna – Child’s Pose (From hands and knees, rest your buttocks back down on your heels, head down, arms back, and breathe)
India: Camel – Camel Pose (Come up to kneeling, very gently arch your back, take your hands to your ankles, and look up)
India: Taj Mahal – Table Top Pose (Sit with arms behind you, palms flat to ground, feet flat on floor in front of you, and lift your buttocks to create a table, as if you are the Taj Mahal)
United States of America: Grand Canyon – Boat Pose (Balance on buttocks with legs straight up at an angle, and lift arms like the sides of a canyon)
Worldwide: Star – Resting Pose (Lay back, arms and legs stretched out, close eyes, relax, and breathe)
As a side note, I chose these particular countries because the characters in my Kids Yoga Stories series live in these places.
7. Relax and rest. Finish every family yoga experience in Resting Pose (Shavasana) for 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t worry if your children can’t relax on the first try. Talk to them about the benefits of relaxation and encourage them to try it the next time. Be their role model and get into the Resting Pose, as well.
8. Extend your learning. Think of creating enrichment activities that cater to each of your senses. For example, organize a celebration with foods from the different countries, bring out or borrow artifacts from the countries to touch, offer incense that represents smells from the country, watch documentaries about the countries, or make traditional musical instruments (link: www.dariamusic.com).
For a World Family Yoga Handout with the suggested kids yoga sequence above, please download from the Kids Yoga Stories Resource page.
Tips for a successful family yoga experience:
- Do internet research for images if you are unfamiliar with any of the poses listed above.
- Don’t be concerned about perfectly aligned poses. Just focus on being playful and having fun with movement.
- Enjoy yourself, and your children will feed off your enthusiasm.
- Create meaningful experiences that capture your children’s interest. For example, choose countries that you have been to before or would like to visit as a family.
- Practice this exercise with a country that your children are studying in school as a way to make the school lesson fun.
- Invite friends and family over to join in the experience.
- Be safe.
- Introduce a focus on their breath in a light, playful way. Inhale to move into a pose, and then exhale completely.
- Design the session like a story with a beginning (warm-up), a middle (pretend trip around the world), and an end (relaxation).
- Go with the flow. Cater to the needs of each family member. Use the list above as a guideline, but be open to changes that hold their interest. Keep them engaged.
- Try putting aside your mental chatter, and be in the present moment with your child.
- Introduce yoga as a lifestyle–including physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation or relaxation practice, mindfulness, being of service to others, and being responsible for your thoughts-words-actions.
Are you ready to start your world-inspired family yoga experience? Go for it! What countries will you choose?!
I’d love to hear about your family yoga session. Feel free to email me at giselle at kidsyogastories dot com. I hope this article was useful in bringing some laughter and learning into your home.
Join the Luke’s Beach Day virtual book launch in June, 2013, to celebrate an Australian-inspired yoga story. Get details and free kids yoga resources in your inbox by signing up for Giselle’s weekly Kids Yoga Stories Newsletter on her website, or check her out on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.