You love yoga. Your child wants to jump in when you roll out your mat. You’d like to share your yoga practice with her, but you know your primary series, or any other adult yoga routine for that matter, might not be the way to go. Here are a few tips on how to create a special yoga experience for you and your child at home.
Find a day and time when you can spend 30 minutes or so together without interruptions. Be considerate of meal times. In other words, don’t practice right after a big lunch when tummies are full, or too close to dinnertime when a growling stomach makes for a cranky yogi. For school-age children, weekends and school breaks are great times to get started.
Find a place
Unless you already have a designated yoga area, ask your child if he has any suggestions for a good yoga spot in your home. Talk about what qualities might be helpful. For example, enough room to not bump into furniture, the right temperature, a peaceful setting, appropriate lighting, etc. Decide on a place together, move furniture out of the way if necessary, and proudly roll out your mats. If you don’t have yoga mats, beach towels will do. Make your yoga spot even more special by placing a couple of meaningful objects next to you. This could be a rock, a seashell, your child’s favorite stuffed animal, or anything that makes you feel good.
Turn off distractions
Turn off your cell phone, and any other electronic devices. Better yet, leave them in another room, so you don’t get tempted to peak “real quick” at an incoming text. If you still own one, turn your home phone and answering machine down. Be ready to be offline, so you can connect with your child.
Ring a bell
Now it’s time to get started! Create an opening ritual like ringing a bell, a chime, or a singing bowl three times. Don’t worry if you have no musical instruments around. Improvise. Fill a wine glass with water and gently hit it with a spoon. Take turns making the sound while the other person is listening, hands on heart, eyes closed. Another lovely opening would be to chant OM three times together, if you feel comfortable doing so.
Get settled with a breathing exercise. Here are a couple of examples (choose one at a time): 1. Put your hands on your belly and blow up an imaginary balloon as you inhale, deflate it on the exhale. Ask your child what color her balloon is. Repeat a few times. 2. Sit across from each other and take a deep breath in while lifting your arms up overhead. Let the palms of your hands touch together. Hold the breath for a moment. Exhale slowly while your arms come back down by your side. Repeat a couple of times. You could also do these breathing exercises while sitting back to back so you can feel each other breathing.
Go on an imaginary adventure
Now it’s time to take off on a yoga adventure! Imagine you are going on a bike ride (lay on your back while pedaling your feet). Where are you going? Your child will have great ideas! Touch the soles of your feet together to ride your bikes in unison. What do you see along the way? Become a cat, a cow, a dog, a snake, or a mouse. If your child thinks of an animal that doesn’t have a corresponding yoga pose, make it up! Are you going to the beach? Add dolphin, turtle, and fish! Are you riding through the countryside? Be a butterfly, a bird, or a horse. Are you ready to get off your bike and hike up a mountain? Walk in place or stomp around the room! Do you see trees? Come into tree pose and ask your child what kind of tree he is. Let your child’s imagination guide you, and be creative. Make up a story and act it out! Compliment your child on her great ideas. Let her be free in doing the poses her way. Unless she is hurting herself, there is no need for correction. Your child learns easily by copying you, doing the poses to the best of her ability and the way it is appropriate for her development. Be encouraging, supportive and enthusiastic. You will have lots of fun together!
It might be helpful to have a look at a few kids’ yoga books and videos beforehand, so that you have a variety of kid friendly yoga poses up your sleeve.
Take a nap
Every great trip has to come to an end. When you’re ready to come back home, find the perfect spot to take a nap. Would it be underneath a tree? Or would you like to rest in the sand on the beach? Place an eye pillow over your eyes, and cover yourselves with a blanket. You may cuddle up with your child, or rest side by side. Play relaxation music or a track with nature sounds. Rest for a few minutes. When you are ready to come back, ring your bell again three times.
Sit across from each other. Put your hands together in front of your heart. Explain the meaning of Namaste (The light in me sees the light in you) and talk about what it means to you. Bow to each other and say “namaste”. Thank your child and express how much fun it was practicing yoga together. Set a date for your next yoga session.