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Teens are busy people. They are stretched in a million directions between school, sports, extra-curricular activities and their social lives. It is a hard age group to attract to yoga as their demanding schedules leave little time. However, this is an age group that could benefit tremendously from a weekly class.
• Yoga gives teens the mental break that they so need. Yoga helps connect breath with asanas. This link creates little room for non-yoga thoughts. After taking a vinyasa yoga class, I often feel like a towel that has been twisted, letting all the unwanted “stuff” (thoughts, stress and tension) drip away with each droplet of sweat.
• Savasana allows teens to squeeze in some deep rest. Teens are a sleep deprived group. School hours do not coincide with a teens natural sleep pattern. Top that with late nights doing homework or socializing with friends—no wonder teens can be so moody! Teen classes often encorporate a long savasana or work on restful poses to help compensate for teen’s lack of nightly Zs.
• For the teen athlete, yoga boosts core strength while also balancing muscle groups and aids in flexibility. Yoga helps to decrease injury and increases an athletes potential. The YogaDork website posted a great article about teenage football players using yoga as part of their pre-season conditioning and here is an article about the LA Dodgers using yoga in their Spring training.
• Yoga helps teens feel comfortable in their own bodies at a time when their bodies are changing. Yoga gives teens tools to guide them through these years of uncertainty and transformation. Yoga classes focus on self-acceptance, self-awareness, personal strength and positive attitudes—all necessary in creating a successful and happy life post high school.
This is a big week for me and hopefully Karma Spot. I am gearing up for a trip to DC to get certified in Mom and Baby yoga. I am heading over to Tranquil Space again for a weekend of learning and fun. Having gone to school in Washington makes this trip extra special as I will get to play with three friends that I have not seen in about 15 years. I am excited about this training as Mom and Baby yoga integrates yoga classes for both adults and children—wee little children. Teaching moms with babies will have its challenges but I am excited about the possibilities. It allows me to teach during the day a bit more which is great for my family and it can provide such relief for mom at a critical time of change.
Why new moms should take yoga:
• Yoga allows women who have just undergone incredible body changes to start to reconnect with and take back their bodies.
• Yoga stretches a new mom’s body—releasing tensions and muscle tautness created by nursing, carrying and caring for a newborn.
• Yoga strengthens and balances muscles that are frequently needed to care for one’s baby.
• Yoga provides mom a needed mental break through focus on asanas and breath.
• Mom and baby yoga also teaches new mothers methods of calming and playing with their infant in ways that nurture a special connection.
I look forward to posting about my experience in DC once I have time to absorb all that happens.
Karma Spot has found a home!! I will be hosting yoga birthday parties and events and will be adding a Pre-K and Mom and Baby class soon at Sweat Gym and Fitness in the Village of Pittsford. The studio is a great size for both types of classes and the location couldn’t be more perfect.
My daughter is a worrier. She can focus on an anxiety to the point that it becomes a huge ugly monster that takes a lot of effort to make disappear. Last year, Kindergarten, that monster reared its head on the school bus and it caused us all great stress each morning for about 3 weeks.
We have come up with many worry banishing techniques.
• Write a list of all the things that make you happy.
When a worry pops into your head, quickly turn to one of those happy inducing thoughts or activities.
• Discuss the worry only at one point during the day.
The worry loses its power if you must postpone thinking about it until later.
• Focus on your breath.
Yoga breathing – Feel your stomach rise and fall. Coming back to the breath when a worry pops into your head calms the nervous system and creates mental peace.
• Practice some yoga.
The following asanas help remove anxiety:
Single Leg Raise – Lie down straight on your back. Raise the right leg up straight and as far as possible while inhaling. Lower it back to original position exhaling. Then repeat the same with left leg. Next hold your feet with opposite hand while in the raised position. Take a few breaths while in this position and then switch.
Double Leg Raise – Raise both the legs together with knees straight and bottom on the floor. Repeat ten times. Inhale while raising legs and exhale while lowering legs.
Cobra Pose – Lie flat on your stomach with your palms besides your shoulders. Hold your feet together while pointing toes, push your head and chest gently off the ground while lifting your head up fully. Inhale while pushing up and exhale on the way back.
Child Pose – Sit with knees spread and feet touching. Lean forward until your chest and forehead are resting onto the floor and arms are outstretched in front of you.
Sage Twist – Sit on floor with both legs straight in front of you. Bend your left leg towards your chest. Rotate your body toward your left knee. Wrap your right arm around the left knee with the knee positioned in the crook of the right elbow. Clasp your hands if comfortable and keep your back straight.
A book that I highly recommend that my daughter used to help work through her Kindergarten fears was What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety.
Change, such as a new school year, always creates some anxiety. Yoga is a great tool to help conquer those fears. Start a new experience with a spirit of adventure by using yoga to squash those butterflies (and sometimes those monsters too).
During my kid’s yoga camp, I decided to use the snack portion of the day to share my love of healthy fun food.
On Monday we made fruit smoothies. The children helped to cut and measure the fruit and other ingredients and we feasted on frothy and filling protein boosted mixed berry smoothies. I found the recipe on Chow.
On Tuesday we used left over fruit to make towering fruit kebobs on wooden coffee stir sticks. I also added cups of yogurt and some granola and dried cereals to dip the fruit into. Cereal on a stick. The kids enjoyed the different configurations of shapes and colors they assembled.
On Wednesday I cut up melon into a small dice and added mandarin oranges, grapes, kiwi and berries to the mix. We slathered strawberry cream cheese and a vanilla variety that I whipped up onto graham crackers to make edible fruit mosaics or mandalas (the theme of the day).
And on our last day we assembled fruit faces onto our plates which followed the theme of the day of self-portraits and self-awareness. The banana noses, grape and blueberry eyes, apple and orange section lips and pretzel hair were a hit on the plate and into their bellies. Laughter erupting as each feature was consumed.
The kids loved snack time and we felt energized and refreshed after eating which lead to great spirits and moods for the rest of the camp day.
I work at a great place called Midtown Athletic Club. I was hired last year as the only children’s yoga instructor to teach yoga which was the only children’s programming that they offered (besides tennis). Midtown just put in a gorgeous outdoor pool and has since been working hard to attract families. They will begin to offer an abundance of children’s classes from kick boxing to boot camp to zoomba and yoga. The yoga classes offered will range from mom and baby to storybook yoga, pre-k, 5-7 , 8-11 and teen classes. It is a wonderfully diverse and full schedule. Starting this Fall I am also lucky to have a new and very talented teacher to help me.
Last night there was a great kick-off party for the kid’s programming and I played yoga for an hour and half with children rotating between different class demos around the giant pool deck and garden near by. It was a blast and everyone seemed to really enjoy their introduction to yoga. To keep it moving and fun I alternated between some very active yoga games. I started with yoga poses using the first letter in each child’s name, then we did yoga using animal cards and for some of the groups, especially the dubious older boys, I took out one of my Thumballs and we played letter yoga with the ball (you do a yoga pose to the letter on which the catcher’s thumb falls on the ball).
The next morning, my friend (and amazing power vinyasa yoga instructor) mentioned how much she enjoyed seeing me in action and said that it was great that our boss had seen how kids yoga “works” because it was really clear how valuable it was to have someone specialized in teaching kids yoga versus just pulling instructors from adult classes to teach.
It did make me think about the differences between children’s and adult classes.
I think that as children’s yoga instructors, we know how different it is to teach to children than it is to teach to adults. It requires a different way of thinking about yoga. It is yoga play.
• In adult class it is important to walk around your class and make adjustments and talk your students through the asanas. In children’s yoga you are on the ground moving and mooing! Talk about alignment is kept short and adjustments are rarely made.
• In adult classes repetition of a vinyasa is typical, as students we are willing to hold a pose for a long time and our bodies and minds benefit from doing so. In children’s yoga you have to put a lot of effort in keeping the class interested and moving with the changing energies. Attention spans vary with age. A good guideline is age x 5 minutes.
• In adult classes, with few exceptions, everyone is there to find that centering and calm. Class discipline is a non-issue. There may be moments of laughter and fun but we are seriously working toward a peace of mind and a body sans tension. In contrast, in children’s classes you have to develop some strategic class management techniques and you need to laugh and make silly faces and sounds—the louder and sillier the better.
• In adult classes there is a lot of talk about daily stresses and relaxing and focusing on the moment. Children can understand some talk about how to relax and get rid of stress but it is almost more important and more helpful as a children’s yoga instructor to be in the know of all things “kids”— being able to talk about animal facts, tv shows and music helps you to make the class user friendly for kids and the kids see that you understand their world and can relate to them.
• Yoga Journal is a great source for inspiration for adult classes and sometimes even some of the older children’s classes. I spend a lot of time looking at blogs on parenting, teaching and children’s yoga. I read a lot of psychology based books on child development, teaching children life lessons and how to encourage children to succeed and be happy people. The information I gather from these resources fuel my classes.
It does require a lot of passion and energy to teach children. But, let me tell you, hearing “Miss Jen!!” screamed from the crowded pool last night by one of my recent yoga campers makes all the hard work (or should I say hard play) so well worth it.
The kids and I had a lot of fun in the park. We did yoga poses using animal cards. We saluted the sun and during savasana the class listened to a relaxation script that I read to them from a great book that I’ve mentioned before called “Ready, Set, Relax: A Research-Based Program of Relaxation, Learning and Self-Esteem for Children” by Jeffrey Allen.
This week I’ve been spending my mornings with eight 5-7 year olds. It has been tons of fun but a lot of work to organize and pull off. The great benefit from creating the camp is that I have now developed a perfect system for birthday parties. Each camp day was 2 1/2 hours long and was divided into three segments. Yoga. Snack. Art
We spent the first 45 minutes doing yoga. Each day there was a new class intention. Day 1 was breathing. The class started with different breathing activities depicting the different types of breath. I showed them breathing exercises to wake them up, make them relax and really rev up the body. We played many games all revolving around the breath with scarves, pom poms and balloons. I won’t go into the whole week’s curriculum here but Tuesday the class focus was animal poses and all things animal. Masks and animal cards made things fun. Day three was about telling stories and the class helped navigate a journey to the sea. Day 4 was all about games including a great yoga obstacle course. I loved this and will try to make this a bigger part of camp next week.
My plan was to have the kids make their healthy snacks each day. Day one was smoothies. Day two fruit kebobs with dips. Day three fruit mosaics on flavored cream cheese covered graham crackers and day four (I did initially get…”aw, not more fruit”) fruit faces with add-ons like chocolate chips, fruit loops, pretzels and graham crackers. The kids devoured the fruit each day and felt pride in making delicious and nutritious treats themselves.
I tried to tie the art projects to the class or snack. Day one we made giant pinwheels and made painting by blowing the paint around with straws. Day two we made two kinds of mandalas—we colored printouts and made great sand mandalas. Day three we made journals and a yoga camp mural and day four we made self-portraits and did face painting.
All in all it was a success. I have to go back to the drawing board a bit to tweak things for the 8-11 year olds next week. It will be interesting to see how the projects change with the older kids.
Have you run a yoga camp or lead a yoga birthday party? What are some of the ideas that have worked for you?
I was reading this morning about how most children are not spending enough time in nature in a piece called How To Lick a Slug written by Op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. I really believe that it is up to us as parents to expose our children to nature starting from an early age for them to really appreciate being outside in all of its natural glory. Sometimes that means getting uncomfortable in the heat or the rain. Sometimes that means not sleeping so well because of the root digging into your back or the rain dripping through the tent or the cacophony of animal sounds that descend once darkness arrives. It means we as parents must make nature important. We must take the time to take walks or bike rides with our children. We must remember to put the alarm on to see some natural wonder in the mid-night sky. I also know that sometimes life is really busy so if we as parent can’t take the time to be the nature guides, then summer camps can do wonders to help a child connect with the millipedes of the world.
Here is great news… yoga connects kids to nature! You can begin to teach your children how to connect with the natural world in your own home. You can start at any age and it’s free. Yoga poses were created long ago as a way to appreciate and connect with the world. The asanas we take to our mat visually and physically represent animals and objects seen in nature.
Here is a fun yoga game that gets everyone moving and thinking about how everything is connected.
Yoga games that are inspired by nature:
Walk Like This: (I adapted this game from Barbara Sher’s book Self-Esteem Games.)
In this game, you call out various animals and the kids have to move like that animal.
Have everyone stand in a line across a wall. Mark a “finish line” across the way.
- Duck: Squat down with your hands behind your back and waddle to the line with the heels of your feet touching.
- Crab: Sit in the traditional crab position. Turn sideways and walk to the finish line.
- Kangaroo:Standing with your feet together and elbows bent with hands clenched jump to the finish line keeping your feet together.
- Elephant: Bend forward with hands clasped in front swinging from side to side, walk with straight legs.
- Lobster: Sit in crab position moving hands first then feet move toward your hands.
- Caterpillar: Starting in child pose, transition into down dog, then slide your arms out until you are flat on the ground, then scrunch back into child pose and repeat.
- Chicken: Squatting with feet together and knees apart, grasp your ankles from inside your knees. Walk and cluck.
- Other animals that work well are bunny, seal, horse, and donkey.
Go on a yoga journey: This is an idea that works with 3-8 year olds. Have the kids help navigate the journey. How will you get there? Use many transportation poses. What did you see? Mountains, volcanoes, forests, jungles, all kinds of land or aquatic animals. You can take the journey to the desert and talk about desert plants and animals and weather, you can go planet hopping by rocket ship, you can to your nearest zoo or garden and become the animals, insects, flora and fauna that you encounter. The ideas are as limitless as your and the kids imaginations.
In class we also salute the sun, get down with dogs, stand still and strong like mountains and defy gravity in crow. We also have a lot of fun and its even better when you take class outside and use the wind for music during savasana.
1. Yoga Helps Children Learn About Their Own Strength
Through yoga children can learn how to fall asleep more easily by themselves by following a sequence of poses that helps quiet the nervous system.
Parents can also use guided relaxation books to ease their children into a more peaceful place before bed. On the occasion when my daughter has had more trouble than usual falling asleep (this child is just like me in the sleep department—head hits the pillow and lights out), I have found reading a page from Ready… Set… R.E.L.A.X. allows her body to let go of any tensions she may be holding onto and drift off to sleep without a problem.
Children learn about the strength of their minds.
Through yoga, one learns that what you think about makes a big impact in one’s life. Using affirmations during class helps children gravitate to the positive imagery that will help them succeed in life. Shouting “I am strong!” in warrior 1 and “I am brave!” in warrior 2 is a fun way that begins the connection between mind and body.
2. Yoga Develops Trust in Oneself
In class I often stress that each student is unique and that their yoga practice will look different than the person next to them. Each student must listen to what their own bodies are telling them. Asking your children how their bodies feel in different poses helps them to connect to their bodies and their feelings which is an awareness that is need to develop trust in themselves.
3. Yoga Teaches Positive Ways to Deal with Garbage
In class yesterday my friend who was teaching told us the story “The Law of Garbage Trucks” by David Pollay. A taxi driver almost gets into a car accident and smiles at the person who almost caused the accident. The passenger on board was surprised with his driver’s reaction. The driver explained that everyone walks around with garbage—full of frustration, anger and disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and will dump it on you if you let them. Don’t take it personally, smile, wave and move on. You will be happier because you did.
Yoga teaches the skills to let it go. Breath. Meditate. Move your body in ways that release your own built up garbage.
4. Yoga Is An Amazing Form of Exercise
Not all children are competitive. Yoga can be both a group or individual sport. It is as challenging as one makes it and the challenges continue throughout one’s life. Yoga is an activity that continues for as long as one likes. Yoga doesn’t require a team to participate although doing yoga in a class environment does connect people together. Yoga is a great formof strength training.
5. Yoga Can Be Used Throughout One’s Life
Yoga is beneficial throughout one’s life. Learning yoga at young age gives one an advantage. It can help release tension during final exams and stressful times in life; it also helps eleviate sadness. Yoga helps during parenting by rejuvinating and giving a sense of peace in a hectic time, yoga keeps the body strong and supple as one gets older ensuring an active life one’s whole life.