Kids bending over backward
One would think the creator of centuries-old yoga poses had children in mind, especially when the asanas (poses) take on animal aliases including frogs, lions and monkeys.
“It’s all about the stories,” said Cowichan children’s yoga instructor Jennifer Graham. “When you’re doing yoga with kids, it’s less about the positions and more about the stories.”
A typical class with Graham often includes a theme, which might be a trip into the jungle, where children get a chance to roar out their emotions like a lion, or a visit to a farm, where they mimic a cow.
“We’re often acting out stories. That’s how we get them engaged,” the 35-year-old who also teaches yoga to adults in Lake Cowichan, said.
Graham is currently offering a children’s age three to six class she calls Sunshine Kids Yoga with Jenny and Penny. Penny is Graham’s six-year-old daughter who helps lead the sessions.
“I’ve always been interested in children’s yoga,” Graham said.
She recently completed her yoga training at Harmony Yoga in Duncan where children’s class takes place, and is looking at extending her kid’s yoga expertise in the future. She found inspiration in simply practising at home with her daughter climbing all over her during poses.
That and she met with members of Rainbow Kids Yoga at a conference in Victoria who supplied her with great material on children’s class formats and how to keep the wee-ones engaged.
Yoga is typically a practice that promotes slowing down, relaxing and quieting the mind — three things you don’t typically associate with a group of kids.
But yoga for kids isn’t so much about the spiritual side. There are a ton of others reasons for children to participate, and benefits that follow.
“It’s giving them tiny bits of life skills and how to deal with their feelings,” said Graham.
It’s also a great way for parents to connect with their children as sessions will often see them participating together in partner poses.
“At this young age, children often crave time with their parents and attention and spending it this way means they won’t look for attention in negative ways like acting out or misbehaving,” Graham said.
And you’re getting the kids out of the house and moving.
“Or unplugging,” added Graham. “It’s great for learning calming techniques, for example in child’s pose, you have the parent draped over and hugging the child from behind.”
Sometimes classes include the parent helping the child into an inversion pose (feet above head, upside down poses) and inversions are often said great detoxifying poses, altering the flow of spinal fluid, allowing blood to drain from the lower body and allowing fresh blood to cycle through tissues and organs of the body.
A typical session is an hour long and starts with a song sitting in a circle, before members share their names and children introduce their parents.
“Some start off shy, but always loosen up toward the end,” Graham said.
The class then takes part in an activity which might include the child drawing a shape on their parent’s back (and vice versa) and having to guess what it is.
“That helps tune them into their awareness of their body,” she explained.
Breathing exercises might include blowing a feather or a foam ball across the floor. Depending on what ages the class is mostly made up of, Graham will lead them through a few rounds of a common series of poses called a sun salutation (Surya Namaskara).
“I will use themes to help the kids get into it, like spaceships for example, and so we’re loading the rocket as you go up, and checking the fuel lines when you come down.”
And it’s not only fun for the kids.
Parents also get a chance to let go and act goofy and it’s perfect for moms and dads and even grandparents who have always wanted to try yoga.
You don’t have to be a die-hard yogi to participate, or even tried it, as long as you’re mobile.
“You’re going to learn the basics of yoga,” Graham said.
If Graham sees enough interest she’s hoping to expand the classes to two groups, one ages three to five years and the other six to eight years.
Classes run once a month. For more information and questions, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or to register call (250)-597-1919.