Thanksgiving Gratitude Practice for Kids

  open your heart by giving thanks!

open your heart by giving thanks!

Hello OM Schooler!

It's Thanksgiving! And as we all know, gratitude is a major practice in yoga. Here's how you can incorporate gratitude into a fun, Thanksgiving-themed kids yoga practice.

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

— Meister Eckhart

 

It’s great to tailor your kids yoga classes this week to include some gratitude practice. Remembering to be thankful is a practice, too!

Gratitude Check In: After your 'Om, Om Song' or regular, ritual way of beginning a child yoga practice, take time for a gratitude check in. I like to pass a ball around the yoga class...when you receive it, share one thing you are thankful for, right now, in your life. Perhaps introduce the concept of dedicating your practice (the fruits of your efforts) to someone else. Who or what would you like to dedicate your practice to? Who or what are you thankful for?

Turkey Pose:  There are so many animal poses in yoga, but no Turkey! It’s fun to ask kids to invent a Turkey pose, alone or in groups. The only criteria I set is the pose must include balance, flexibility or strength, and focus. Kids then get to take on the role of teacher and share their Turkey with the whole class. Because I’m a vegetarian, I might also invent Tofurkey pose. :)

Gratitidue Flags: I like to bring in Prayer Flags and show them to the class. In a public school environment, I may call them Intention or Wish Flags.  We celebrate the colors and talk about the tradition of displaying these flags.  Then we break normal yoga class routines to create Gratitude Flags together.

  • Give each child a piece of paper (colored construction is best) with three crayons (you get what you get and you don’t get upset!) If you want to exchange crayons with another friend at some point to get more colors, practice kindly asking...remember the yoga practice of Asteya, nonstealing!
  • Fold the papers in half and have kids draw or write what they are thankful for on the paper.
  • After all of individual flags have been created, string them by lying them over wire or yarn, using the folded edge. By stringing our gratitude flags in a yoga classroom, studio or home, we celebrate the power of all of our individual blessings, tied together.

Highlighting the acknowledgement of abundance for kids is a powerful lesson. No matter how difficult our lives may be, it is a worthy project to take the time to acknowledge what we are thankful for. Somehow, that makes these blessings grow.

How to you practice gratitude in kids yoga classes?

 

5 Essentials for Your Kids Yoga Kit

  keep a notebook on your teachings, and kids can keep journals too....even creating sequences!

keep a notebook on your teachings, and kids can keep journals too....even creating sequences!

Hello OM Schooler!

Congratulations! You've completed your kids' yoga teacher training and are on your way to teach your first kids yoga class. So other than your lesson plan and an open heart, what should you have in your yoga kit?

1. Bell or singing bowl: Having a singing bowl or bell is essential in my yoga kit. I use the sound as a transition from one activity to another. If things get a bit loud, I'll quietly play the singing bowl and see who can hear it first (this is a guaranteed classroom-quieter). Since I'm all about the collective classroom, if I allow a child to teach his or her favorite pose, I'll give him/her the mic in the form of the teacher's bell. Kids love to learn to sing the singing bowl, too, which can be another yoga reward, praising effort!

2. Feathers: Feathers make breath visible. And when practicing pranayama (breathing exercises) sometimes seeing the breath can add another level of learning to the experience of feeling the breath in the body, and the effects of slowing or speeding up or alternating breath. You can then keep the feathers nearby when practicing bird poses, such as crow or pigeon.

3. Pictures: I like to plan my lessons to address as many learning styles, and senses, as possible. I use music, counting, rhyme, partner and teamwork, introspection and, visuals. Having pictures of yoga poses can help visual learners a lot. Don't have a lot of extra cash for fancy yoga posters? Use old yoga magazines to create collages, or better yet, make it an asana art project, and create collages in class with young yogis.

4. Stickers: Praise praise praise! It's way more fun and effective to acknowledge all the successes in kids’ yoga class than to redirect the challenges. I like to have stickers or other tangible treats (I found a sanskrit OM stamp at a local shop that made my day) to congratulate young yogis on work well done. Who doesn't want a sticker? Even I could go for one.

5. Love: Bring your love. Love for your practice. Love for the kids. Love for yourself. Kids learn through example, and if you teach from a place of joy and love for yoga, kids will pick this up and run with it. If you come to the class with compassion and caring for them, they'll feel it. If you show up as a teacher who respects herself and cares for herself, they'll see that and emulate that, too.

Just don't bring your preconceived notions. Because in a kids' yoga class they'll get kicked out the door.

Back to School Yoga: Tools for Kids

Hello OM Schooler!

It's back-to-school time!

Will I like my new teacher? Who will I sit next to in lunch? New friends, new activities, wanting to get good grades and be successful can all lead to butterflies in stomachs and frogs in throats. Luckily, school yoga can help! The following poses and practices can help kids feel confident, calm down at their desks, build focus, and be stellar students in and out of the classroom.

Take Five Breath: This breathing exercise will help you concentrate before homework or a big test.  Raise your hand into a peaceful-fist and on an inhale of 5 counts, extend your fingers. Exhale, counting to 5 and curling your fingers back into your palm. Slowing down your breath slows down your mind and calms emotions. 

Mudras: A mudra is yoga for your hands, and can be done anywhere, anytime. These two mudras remind us that we are safe and loved.   

Chin mudra:  This classic mudra is familiar to lots of kids. Fold your pointer finger into your thumb leaving your other three fingers extended, making a kind of “OK sign.” This mudra does remind us that we are OK. The pointer finger represents you and the thumb represents the whole universe. This mudra reminds us that we are cared for by the whole universe, it is literally holding us like the thumb is holding the pointer finger. 

Hold My Heart mudra: Interlace your fingers, keeping your thumbs pointing upwards, and then bring your hands to your heart. This mudra reminds us that we can hold and take care of our own hearts.  We are safe and can take care of ourselves, with love. We are independent. 

Washing Machine and Dryer: These twists and stretches can be done at the school desk. First sit up straight with both feet grounded on the floor. Then twist your upper body (from your belly button up) toward the right. Maybe bring your right hand to the back of your chair and your left hand to the chair seat. Feel the twist in your spine. On the inhale, sit up further, on the exhale, twist deeper.  Then on the inhale, twist to the left. Twists wash out your inside, like a washing machine, and get the energy moving!

After we try washing machine we can try the dryer. Stretch your legs out in front of you and shake them. Shake your arms, your fingers, your head, every part of your body bit by bit, as if you are drying them off. Shaking out the energy can make you more ready to go back to school work. 

Waterfall Stretch: Also while you’re sitting in your chair, inhale your arms up high, and then exhale, folding forward over your seated legs.  Inhale your arms back up, and exhale them to the ground again. Try grasping opposite elbows as you exhale into yourself. Water sounds are optional. :) Get your breath and energy moving so you can get back to your school work refreshed!   

Tree Pose: Get on your feet and stand behind your school chair. Put all your weight into your left foot and inhale your right foot to your right shin or thigh. Try extending your arms up high, or holding onto the back of your chair for balance. See how long you can hold your tree. Think about what kind of tree you’d like to be. Then switch to your right side. Don’t forget to move with your breath! By focusing on balance we can help our minds focus for studies. 

School yoga has been show to increase academic performance, ease social anxiety and increase self-esteem -- all elements that add up to a great school year in anyone’s book. 

Namaste!

Back to School Yoga: How do you talk about yoga in schools?

Hi OM Schooler!

It's back-to-school time, and for us that means back-to-school yoga!

If you are on this page you probably already believe in the benefits of yoga for kids and have your own reasons why yoga in schools is particularly powerful. In the OM Schooled teacher training we take time contemplating why we are personally called to teach yoga to youth, and also think about how to explain the benefits of kids yoga to those who are newer to the idea.

When it comes to schools, sometimes we find ourselves communicating what kids yoga is all about to administrators, principals, teachers and parents who are newer to the benefits of yoga in schools. It's good to have your "reasons why" in your pocket for easy discussions.

Here are some of my reasons yoga in schools rocks. What are yours?

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1. Kids yoga improves academic performance. Kids learn to focus in yoga, and this skill translates to academic work. Also, if you learn how to self-regulate, i.e work with your own emotions and thoughts to calm yourself down, you have coping skills for test-taking and school stress. I've had classroom teachers tell me they see their students using "take 5 breath" before exams, and studies have proven schools with yoga see test scores go up.

2. Combats the sedentary school day. Despite (hopefully) a short recess break and some gym time, kids are pretty sedentary all day. They work to control their energy to stay seated and focused in desk chairs all day. Whether a 5 minute yoga break in the academic classroom, a yoga unit in gym or a full-on yoga class, its helpful to move, stretch, breathe and balance. Childhood obesity, ADHD, and lots of other kid health concerns can be addressed by getting kids moving more regularly, and yoga is a non-competitive and inexpensive way to move. Yoga increases flexibility and strength and some yoga can even help with cardiovascular health.  

3. Yoga teaches kids to get along with themselves and others. Yoga helps behavioral problems in schools before they start. Why? Yoga is all about relationships, with yourself and the world around you. And what skill is more useful for a kid, new to school life, then how to get along with others? In kids yoga there's a lot of opportunity to learn about teamwork and how your actions/words effect others. In partner poses and group activities we practice being both kind and standing up for ourselves. In yoga, we learn also to listen to the little voice inside that tells us what we need and how to healthfully respond to that.  

4. Decreases kid stress! Kids are often on tight stressful schedules and face a lot of demands.I'm constantly struck by how little control kids have over their lives, really. Kids have no choice, often, over their home environment, etc. Yoga is empowering. You learn how to make yourself feel better no matter what your outside situations are. You learn how to calm down, even after an argument with a sibling or a state exam. You develop inner strength.  

5. Encourages healthy choices. In kids yoga, you practice making choices. And learning to pause and reflect on choices is a powerful lesson that may translate off the mat. For example, rather than telling kids to eat well, kid yogis may experiment with making choices. How do you feel after eating only cookies? How do you feel after eating vegetables before the cookie? If you empower kids to learn and try things for themselves  often their own inner wisdom will guide them toward healthy choices. And yoga is about being brave... being brave enough to make a choice that's right for you, even if your peers don't understand.  

When people question the issue of bringing yoga to schools, I often discuss the above benefits. Yoga has so many health benefits, mental, physical and emotional, its no wonder more schools are bringing yoga to their students!  

How do you talk about yoga in schools?

Kids Yoga Summer OMwork! 5 Yoga Poses/ Practices

Hello OM Schooler!

Remember those summer reading lists your teacher would give you for the following year? Well, I like to give summer Omwork (note: OMwork is much more fun than Homework). Below are five sunny, beachy, summer-specific yoga poses and practices you can do with the kid(s) in your life! 

1. Sun Salutations: Summertime is all about being outside and enjoying the sun, whether you're a city, country or suburb kid! Celebrate the sun with the sun dance. You can lead kid yogis through the adult sun salutation you know or shorten it and try adding a song. Sun Saluations warm up your body like the sun warms up the earth, get our energy flowing, make us feel bright and happy. 

2. Sailboat/Rowboat/Doubleboat/Cruiseship pose: Sometimes summer is spent by the water, whether its the ocean, a pond, the pool, or even a sprinkler :) Make Boat Pose even more fun by moving your straight arms up and down in alternating fashion, adjusting the wind in your sails. Try to keep your back flat and heart shining upward to catch the wind and light! You can also try Boat pose with bent knees and alternate paddling your feet like a paddle boat. (Secret: both of these variations encourage strong tummy muscles and coordination.) It's also fun to make your boat twice as big by partnering with a friend. Face your friend and bring feet to touch, grab hands and then try to extend your legs into a double boat. If there are many yogis in the ocean, lining up several double boats equals a cruise-ship! Notice what's more difficult and what's easier when you practice alone or with a friend. 

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3. Flamingo: Flamingos are summery colorful birds. They get their pink color from all the shrimp they eat (note to little yogis: we are what we eat!) Flamingo pose is a balancing pose similar to Tree. Root into one foot strong and steady and bring the other bent knee in front of you. Then bring your hands to touch like a bird's bill in front of your nose. See if you can look at one spot (your drishdi) for balance and stand up nice and tall. If you fall, just get right back into the pose. Don’t forget to try the other leg, too. 

4. Mermaid Pose: This is a fun pose that's also good for strengthening core muscles. Start by sitting down and planting both feet on the ground in front of you, knees glued together and pointing toward the sky. This is your mermaid tail. With your upper body lean onto your forearms but try to keep your heart bright and shining upward. Then feel the strength of your stomach and lift your feet off the ground, keeping them glued (remember its your tail!) Swish your mermaid tail back and forth by pointing the toes near your left hip, then your right. Turn your head toward your tail as you go and feel yourself sunning on a rock or showing off your scales. 

5. Starfish Savasana: This is one of my favorite savasanas, whether its beach season or not. Lie in savasana but spread your arms and legs wide to make a star shape with your body (kind of like you're going to make a snow angel, but ocean style). Imagine you have suction cups on the back of your arms and legs keeping you stuck to the ocean floor. You can imagine the peace and quiet of having the whole ocean around you. Sometimes I'll play some ocean sounds or twinkle twinkle little star to accompany our rest. (as always, if yogis want to rest on their bellies or with eyes open, that's cool too)

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Practice one yoga pose or element from the list above or link them together into a mini-practice. Noticing and celebrating the season and all its special gifts is very yogic, too!

What do you love about summer?

Happy Summer, OM Schooler!

I hope this finds you all well, practicing yoga, and beating the heat!

A practice in summertime can be different in kids yoga world for many reasons. 

a) school is (generally) out of session, and yoga classes in summer can reflect this by being more play-based, and classes in studios may be either more packed due to kids being off, or scaled back if kids in the community tend to go away on vacation. Kids Yoga Summer Camps are another seasonal kids yoga world offering you'll see. Both the schedule and content shift as the weather does!

b) the weather is (generally) warmer, at least in the US where OM Schooled is based. This means, like adult yogis, kids might need more cooling and restorative practices. See below for one we love called "air conditioner breath."

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Sitali (cooling breath) - This is a summer essential! With little kids I call this “air conditioner breath” since by practicing we can cool our bodies down from the inside-out as if we have our own air-conditioners.  For teens I call it...Sitali. There are two ways to practice.

sitali.jpg

If you are able to curl your tongue like a straw you can start by exhaling all the air out of your lungs, then breathing in through your curled tongue straw. Immediately you’ll feel how cool the air is on the tongue, entering the body. Then we exhale through a relaxed, open mouth. Not everyone is able to curl their tongue however, and you can also practice by bringing the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Breathing in, allow the mouth to open slightly, keeping the tongue in place, and feel the cool air slurping in the corners of your mouth, cooling the body. We’ve practiced a lot of sitali breath this summer since its been so hot. It's worth trying off the mat, too, on subway platforms and hot sidewalks.

 

What other ways do you use breath + mindfulness to stay cool in summer?