27 September 2017
How to enjoy yoga with your children. In real life.
Yoga with children. It sounds so wonderful and already your mind is conjuring up images of you and your child stretching and smiling together, gracefully coordinating your downward dogs and relaxing peacefully in child’s pose. You may even picture yourself balancing your child on you in some inverted position, the two of you so radiant that the moment definitely deserves to be captured and posted on Instagram as soon as possible.
So you decide to give this brilliant idea a go and enthusiastically call out, “Come! Let’s do some fun yoga together!” Your child responds with equal enthusiasm and declares that he (or she) knows yoga too, immediately demonstrating upward dog, maybe even tree pose or pigeon pose.
In fact, he is so excited that he insists you follow along and keep up with the insane speed with which he switches sides and poses. After about 5 minutes of this whirlwind activity, he decides that he is hungry, needs to use the toilet, or wants to move on to the next thing. It dawns on you pretty quickly that your vision of calm and loving mother-child yoga is not going to happen today.
To some of you, this may sound vaguely familiar. I’ve done this many a time with my children to varying degrees of ‘success’ – however this may be defined. In the beginning, I would find it frustrating that I couldn’t share this beautiful experience that I LOVE in the way that I imagined it to be. Over the years, however, I have learned that sometimes it can be even more amazing than what I expect. Moreover, in those moments when yoga time appears to spin out of control, use that parental instinct to judge whether you should reign it in just a little bit (no need to go crazy control freak) or just go with it.
These days, our spontaneous ‘classes’ vary in tone depending on the time of day and combination of participants. The eldest and I will have a more ‘proper’ session and may follow a teacher online on Yogaglo if we are on our own. When there are 2 or 3 children involved, we take turns leading the class and demonstrating various yoga postures or even doing some meditation. #1 will take it seriously and teach gracefully; #2 will be quite Zen at times and goofy at others; #3 will almost always start off with pigeon pose, transitioning from left to right in lightening quick bursts that make your crotch cringe just watching.
We keep it fun and flexible but the only firm rule is that ‘students’ must respect the ‘teacher’ or they can’t have a go. We all enjoy our savasana session at the end as someone leads a fantasy-themed relaxation exercise of some sort. We might be snugly caterpillars transforming into butterflies or resting on a bed of cotton candy clouds, you name it. Some classes may run for 5 minutes and others for 30 and we just enjoy the yoga while it lasts.
Here are just a few points to keep in mind when you decide to give the romance of ‘yoga with your child’ (cue singing bowl and chimes here) another go:
- Find interesting and slightly challenging postures to gain and keep their interest. Maybe even give them weird and wonderful names – Sparkle Toe Princess or Kungfu Panda can be yogic if you want it to.
- If it starts to get goofy and insane, go with it and let the little weirdos get their crazy out. Knock yourself out, I say! Children are natural yogis and we can learn from their uncanny ability to be intolerably hysterical at times but still return to a state of inner contentment.
- Towards the end, always wind down and on the ground with eyes closed. Guided fantasy meditation is a great way for them to let their (and your) imagination fly free. They will sleep better for it!
- Music, candles, eye pillows… props can make the experience rather special and they will likely enjoy helping you set up the scene. They may even give you impromptu foot massages – it’s happened before!
May the force be with you on your yoga journey with little ones. Namaste!