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I recently had the opportunity to try out three yoga games created by the company Upside Down Games. I have been teaching yoga to kids since 2008 and am always searching for new ways to engage my classes.

First of all, the products are adorable, very well made and nicely thought out. I tried out three of the company’s five yoga games.

I first played the Yoga Card game. We had a lot of fun on our missions to find poses within the deck of 51 cards that fit within certain themes. I love that breathing is made a big focus of the game. I did change the rule to holding the poses for five breaths versus the 10 seconds that was recommended. Though they both take the same amount of time, the kids are more accustomed to counting breaths while holding asanas. I also like that the name of the poses are on the cards both in English and in Sanskrit. The yoga poses are easy to understand visually without any alignment instructions, however, sometimes the more advanced version of a pose is depicted. Unless you have an understanding of yoga and know modifications of the poses, kids might become frustrated if they cannot get into the full pose or push themselves into a pose for which they might not be ready. I would also love added instructions on how to adapt this game for a larger group.

The next game that I played with my whole class was the Yoga Spinner game. In this game each player spins the spinner, and depending upon where the needle falls, picks a colored card and holds the pose, does a partner pose, loses a pose card or takes a pose card. The class really enjoyed this game and we did the poses with the person who’s turn it was to spin to keep everyone moving. With 66 yoga-pose cards, there was plenty to learn and I added many modifications for the kids to try too. I do think that removing the competitive nature of taking someone’s earned card would give the game a more yogic feel.

The last game that I tried with my smaller class of 8 students was Memo Yoga which is a yoga matching game. With 18 pairs of poses, the kids and I took turns flipping over cards—trying to find matching pairs. If you flip two matching cards over, you keep the card after holding the pose for five breaths or 10 seconds. The kids really enjoyed the game. The age minimum of this game is 3 years old, but my older class of  8-11 year old students loved playing and learned a lot while having fun.

All in all, I highly recommend Upside Down Games products. There are many poses that kids will learn while having a blast. My one word of advice is that if you or your fellow game players can’t do the pose exactly as is on the card allow for some modifications as some of the poses are advanced.

Check out the website of Upside Down Games to find these and other wonderful games. http://upsidedowngames.us

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Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

This week I decided to take out the balls. Balls in yoga? I know… it may not be traditional but it is a fun and helpful way to teach asana!

There are many ways to use balls in class.

Core strengthening:

To start class we pass a ball around with our feet. Sitting in a modified boat pose, we pass the ball around the circle. When you receive the ball, you must hold it up with your feet and answer questions about yourself before passing the ball to your neighbor. I love starting the class with the kids sharing information about themselves. It creates a teacher/student connection that helps maintain classroom management.  Sometimes I introduce smaller balls that involve greater dexterity and concentration.

Another core exercise is to hold boat pose while twisting side to side touching the ball to the ground each side.

Plow practice:

Begin with the kids lying flat on their backs with hands extended above their heads. Place balls between feet and have the children lift the ball over their heads to their hands. Then have the kids sit up holding the ball using their stomach muscles. If you are using one ball, each student can toss you the ball from a reclined position which also activates the core.

Forward and back bends:

Have the class line up in a row. Using one ball, the first in line does a back bend and passes the ball to the person in back of them over their head, that person does a forward bend and passes the ball between their legs. Repeat this sequence down the line.

More back bends:

Students begin standing on their knees. Using a giant exercise ball, place the ball between their legs and have them lean back opening their chest in a modified camel pose.

Students turn onto their stomachs with arms extended toward their legs. Place the ball on their lower backs and have them reach up to hold the ball while lifting their legs off the ground in a modified bow pose. I find that kids don’t always understand the process of lifting their chests off the ground in a locust or bow pose. Reaching up for the ball helps create a connection of lifting and opening the chest.

Full back bend:

Starting in mountain pose. The kids sit on the large exercise ball and begin to walk their legs forward until the ball is resting on their lower back. The kids can then open their chest and reach toward the floor. Not all children like to be suspended in this vulnerable way. Ask if they would like you to support them floating on the ball if their feet start to lift before their hands touch the floor.

Breathing fun:

Ending class with fun breathing exercises using pom poms. Have the kids count how many breathes it takes to blow their pom pom from one end of the room to the next and then see if they can reduce the number of breaths on the way back.

Kids love balls. What better way to engage and have fun while teaching valuable asana form.

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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