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.