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Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

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.

Yesterday the mood at my house was not light and summery. After a long day of various outdoor activities, the kids came home hot and tired… and cranky. My kids are not video game enthusiasts. We have a Gameboy, a Leapster and wii but they are only sporadically used. TV is the big draw. The black hole. I put limits on the TV. Chores, homework, drum practice must be done before getting to veg out in front of the TV just as I do what is required of me before being able to finally sit down and relax at the end of the night. Truthfully, when my husband isn’t around, I rarely even watch at night preferring books and hitting the pillows early.

Back to yesterday. Without my full awareness of what was transpiring, the television was turned on (prior to responsibilities being met) and quickly voices began to rise and fighting ensued. It was the perfect opportunity to have the punishment reflect the crime and, after three warnings, the TV was turned off for the rest of the day which soon (after much to do about nothing) became the rest of the week.

I find TV to put my kids in a time stopping trance until it is turned off which then sends moods to the ugly and negative side—fighting, whining, cries of boredom. This dark mood ran between all of us for quite a while. My son and daughter went out to pick wild raspberries in our yard. Hooray! An activity for the two of them to share! Screams again ensued and the peace shattered once again. What to do to get all of us working/playing TOGETHER. Nicely.

I remembered a yoga game which I first played years ago (I mean YEARS ago) back at day camp called “Ha!”. One person lies down, the next person lies down and puts their head on the first person’s stomach and then another person lies down with their head on the second person’s stomach. This can be done with a large or small group. The first person shouts “Ha!”. The next person shouts “Ha, Ha!” with each person the Ha! shout is increased. This usually begins to create some real laughter. I tried it with my surly gang at home last night. We all were upstairs feeling angry and alone. I gathered the troops and got into position on the floor. Everyone joined me and we began our round of  “Ha!”. It worked. The giggles started and the mood lifted and from there we all were able to start our evening over again feeling more lighthearted and connected.

We ended our night playing a great game that my daughter got for her birthday called Scaventure Kids. It is a game that gets teams of all different ages (both kids and adults) working together. Each team picks 8 cards which have four instructions on them. The teams have 30 minutes to collect each item and accomplish all tasks.

An example of one card is:
1. Write a new tongue twister. Say it at the rendezvous.
2. Make a maze out of dirt.
3. Find a pencil that is not yellow on the outside.
4. Find a flag.

We had a fun time first as individuals competing and then working as one team trying to finish in a much shorter time. The night ended with reading out loud together and then reading quietly together—feeling connected and at peace—a family united.

It’s summer and the living is easy. Unless the kids are bored and the complaining, whining and fighting begin. Before you let the negative atmosphere ruin the moment, stop and take a deep yoga breath and introduce some simple games to bring everyone back to what summer is all about—family time and fun.

Here is a game that all of my yoga kids love that I call Rhino. Rhino’s have very sharp hearing. Their ears swivel around to hear from all directions. In this game all of the kids sit in child’s pose with thier hands cupped around their ears to help amplify the sound. I go around and pick one person who quietly leaves the group and walks soundlessly to someplace around the room or yard. This person then makes any kind of sound as quietly as possible. The rhinos must listen attentively and point to where they think the sound is coming from. I usually count to three and then everyone opens their eyes to see if there were correct. This game can turn the loudest of groups quiet in just minutes. It helps promote awareness and being present in the moment.

Another great game that quickly turns the screams to silence is called Keys. Sitting in a circle, everyone takes turns passing a set of jangly keys trying not to make a sound. Create a consequence for the key jinglers such as standing in tree pose for three breaths or doing frog hops around the circle. This game helps promote awareness of body movement.

My children have always loved games in which they have to act out a scenario. This game helps children develop self-confidence. Write a list of ideas for your group to act out or just use facial expressions to show different emotions.

Some scenario ideas are:
You just won a million dollars.
You are walking in the woods alone and think you hear someone or something following you.
You have to give a speech in front of your whole class and the pages got mixed up.

For a greater challenge start with one emotion and then switch to another.
You went to buy something in a store that you had saved your money for and discover that you are short 25 cents. When you walk out the store, you find a quarter in the water drain on the sidewalk.

One of my favorite yoga teachers talks often in class about what she calls “head fakes”. She is referring to how people who do yoga may think that they are there to stretch or change their bodies, but in actuality the yoga is changing their minds. For example, while on the mat you learn how to breath through a difficult pose—coming to your breath instead of your mind or a reaction to come out of the pose—you  relax and the pose becomes easier. This then translates when off the mat during a difficult situation or an argument when you find yourself coming first into your breath before reacting which likely changes the outcome of the situation. Another great yoga to life analogy is “how you are on the mat is how you are off the mat”. If you don’t try to get up in crow pose, do you also stop from trying new things in life out of fear? Or, if you break from a pose because it is difficult, do you also tend to not complete projects in your life or go after goals when things get challenging? Those life revelations or “aha moments” are what I love about yoga.

So how does this apply to children? As parents or teachers I believe it is our role to help children learn about their strengths and who they are. It is a fact that if an individual knows what their strengths are and makes sure that their life is full of activities that put to use those strengths, they will have a more contented life. How do you learn about your strengths? Being aware of oneself and what activities bring joy is a great place to start.

I have a game that my kids in class love to play that helps them think about who they are. I call this game yoga bowling. The kids can either sit in butterfly pose with their feet touching, or, to make the game more challenging, they can stay in a crab crawl position. They find a spot around the room and I roll a ball toward them (the pins). They can either move side to side in butterfly pose or scatter around in crab. If they get hit by the bowler, they must stand in tree or mountain pose and answer a question that I ask. My questions are all about them. What is your favorite activity after school? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite food? What is one of your favorite memories? You get the idea. What I find interesting is that the kids don’t end up trying hard to NOT get hit. They want to be asked questions about themselves. They want to share all of their skills, desires and favorites. Those questions are not asked often enough in their lives and yet the answers are so much more important to know than the capitols of each state. Try spending some of those rare quiet times with the kids in your life asking them questions about themselves and see their eyes light up.

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New Products that I Love:

I just ordered a yoga tool that I am sooooo excited about. It is called a Thumball. I saw something like this idea in this months Family Fun magazine and was going to make a yoga version when I came across this great product line. Thumballs are soccer balls with different words printed on each hexagon. There are many versions such as “Ice Breaker” and “Who are You”. The idea is that whoever gets the ball picks it up and answers a question or does some activity where their thumb rests. Brilliant! I also picked up an animal and alphabet version as those will work well with games that require yoga poses.

Another game that I recently discovered is called Totika. It is like Jenga however there are cards that have color coded questions. When you pull out a colored piece, you must answer the correlating question. The catagories are Life Skills and Principles, Values and Beliefs with a Self-Esteem deck also included with each. I have the Life Skills version on its way and will try it out on my family before bringing it into class.

Play, laugh and learn!

Namaste.

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by Łukasz Strachanowski

It is hard for children to navigate through their energy levels. As adults we have different coping strategies in place (or at least we should by now!) to deal with drops in daily energy or excessive energy moments. I try to avoid certain food for lunch that will make feel sluggish like pasta, Chinese food or any meal that is heavy on carbs. I take long deep breaths to fill up on fresh oxygen. I exercise or nap depending on what I think I need. I also use coffee for boosting low energy moments. I am a self-confessed coffee addict.

On the flip side, when I have moments when I feel like I am going to bounce of walls, I run. I play outside with my children. I do some head or hand stands. I use the energy constructively.

Children don’t often listen to their bodies. When that energy slump or high hits, it is often when we see disruptive behavior (like sibling fighting) or tantrums. Yoga is a great tool to help children find outlets for their different energy levels.

Here a list of my favorite yoga poses and fun activities to help kids calm down:

Poses:
seated spinal twist
pigeon
fish
reclined twist
corpse

Activities:

Mandala coloring: Mandalas are balanced visual designs that are used as meditation to create internal harmony. While coloring the design in a quiet atmosphere, thoughts come and go resulting in a meditative state—  a clarity and calmness. Besides the coloring books I love using, I have also found websites online that allow you to download mandalas for free.

I have also found some great sand mandalas here.

Books I recommend that help children relax:

Ready… Set… R.E.L.A.X by Jeffrey Allen
Relax Kids:Aladdin’s Magic Carpet by Margaret Viagas
101 Relaxation Games for Children by Allison Bartl

Please let me know if you have ways to help the children in your life calm down and find peace.

Namaste 🙂





21VYM+CZx5L._SL210_I recently found great yoga cards called Creative Yoga Games for Kids made by Edna Reinhardt in Australia. These cards have inspired me and my classes for the last 6 weeks. The 48 cards are divided into groups of 6 card sequences. The cards come with ideas for games and learning. I have been introducing the poses in sequence and then doing them backwards and then having the kids try different ways to sequence them while thinking about transitions. I also have been playing a game called musical mats. I lay out a card or two per mat and the kids run or dance around to music. When the music stops, the kids must find a mat and do the poses. It is a great game and energy releaser.

Just a side note:
While the kids are doing their poses, I try to remember to make specific comments to each of the children about the asanas they are working on. It is so easy to provide general “nice job” or ” great down dog” comments but it is so much more beneficial to point out a very specific detail to comment about such as, “Tommy, your table top in your table pose is so flat that I can eat off of it!” or “Sara, I like how you made starfish hands in your down dog!” These types of comments create a sense of pride and help children learn about their strengths. It shows them that we are really paying attention and that we appreciate them… a great self-esteem boost.

Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

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