We’ve all been there–it’s been a long day, and the whining has been intense. Everyone is tired, and the next tantrum will be the straw that will break the camels back. Before you lose it, how about taking a deep breath and trying some Mommy and Me yoga? Breezy Mama Contributing Editor, Robyn Lass, writes about her experience with the practice. . .
With a rambunctious three-year-old on my hands I try whatever techniques I can find to change the energy in our house when it’s getting a little too intense. A few simple yoga poses can be great de-stressers for both of us. Something must be working because, I kid you not, the other day when I was feeling my blood starting to boil my son said to me, “Mommy, lets take a deep breath.” I had to laugh.
Certified Yoga instructor Erin Noland teaches prenatal as well as parent and child yoga. She is probably the most cheerful and patient person I’ve ever met, and believe me, you need to be when teaching a roomful of preschoolers. Here’s what she says about practicing yoga with your kids:
“Yoga offers so many benefits regardless of age. However, introducing yoga in childhood can create a lifelong love of movement along with a sense of calm and peace. Yoga offers children the opportunity to:
• Develop self awareness
• Improve focus
• Build strength, flexibility and coordination
• Learn to deal with stress
• Learn healthy habits
• Create inner peace that they can share with others
My hope for my students is that they take even a little of what we do in class home with them to grow their own practice of yoga.”
Author’s note: Poses of me and my son are as close to the pose as possible. You might need to use your imagination a bit!
1. Breathing: We always start our yoga practice with breathing exercises or “pranayama”
Sit back to back with your child, legs crossed or however it is comfortable. Each of you will place your pinkies together, your thumbs together and the base of your hand together making a “crown”. Place this “crown” on the crown of your heads. Explain that when practicing yoga we want our spine to be long and tall. If we sit up tall, our “crown” will stay on our head. With backs touching, start to take in deep breaths in and out of your nose. It is important to teach your child to lengthen his breath. Try counting to five on your inhales and counting to six on your exhales. (A long exhale stimulates a calming response in our body.) When you have practiced this for a few rounds of breath, reach arms behind to hold hands with each other. Take a moment and verbally give thanks to one another, set an intention or say a prayer. Now is your chance to set the tone for how meaningful yoga can be for your child personally and for your relationship.
2. Dragon Lunge with Fiery Breath
Stand facing each other with about three feet between you. Inhale and stretch your arms out and up. Exhale and fold forward, bend your knees and place your hands on the mat. Step one foot back into a lunge. Place your front knee directly over your ankle and your back knee on the mat. Place your hands on your front thigh and explain to your child that you are in “Dragon Pose” and you are going to breathe like a dragon! Inhale deeply through your nose and reach your arms up placing your palms together above your head. Exhale with your mouths open, stick out your tongues and roar like fire breathing dragons. Encourage your child to really extend his exhale spraying his fire! Take three to five dragon breaths and switch your lunge to the other side. Lunges are great for increasing strength and flexibility in the hips, legs and lower back.
3. Lizard on a Rock
Parent comes into a kneeling position. Have your child stand behind you, back to back. Ask your child to reach for the sky. As his arms lift up, reach up and back for his wrists. Encourage your child to relax and breathe. Slowly lower your bottom onto your heels and take your forehead towards the mat (Child’s Pose). You receive the benefits of calming your central nervous system while your child receives a supported back bend that opens up the front of his body. Once in the pose, ask your child if he is comfortable and then ask him to take those big deep breaths that you started your practice with. Hold for about five breaths and then slowly sit up and release his wrists. Finish with a hug!
Stand together on your mat facing one another. Hold each other’s hands and start to walk backward until you both are halfway into a forward fold. Your hips should be over your ankles. Gaze at one another and lift one leg up behind you. Encourage your child to reach his heel (foot is flexed) away from his head, lengthening his body. If the balance feels good, try letting go of the hands and taking “flight” by reaching arms out to your sides. Keep your eyes focused on each other. Hold for a few breaths and try the other side. Teaches balance and trust.
5. Double Dog
Parent comes into downward dog, hands firm on the mat shoulder distance apart, fingers spread. Feet hip bone width. You should look like an inverted “V”. Send your weight back towards your heels. Invite your child to stand between your hands. Have your child place his hands on the mat in front of him and walk his feet up onto your mid back. Your child gets the benefits of an inversion (stimulates circulation, improves posture) and upper body strengthening and you get a nice little footsie massage.
Erin’s Suggested reading:
The ABCs of Yoga for Kids: Erin says: “I love this book because it has a pose for every letter of the alphabet. My daughter loves to lay it at the top of her mat and ‘teach’ me yoga.” $13,57, click here to order.
For parents who really want a deep, guided curriculum, Erin recommends Angel Bear Yoga Lesson Book, $39.99. Click here to order.
Great online reading:
About Erin Noland: Erin is a graduate of Lisette Hart’s “Roots and Wings” yoga teacher training program. She became certified in 2006 and registered with Yoga Alliance. Erin has also studied Pre and Post Natal Yoga with accomplished yoga teacher and childbirth instructor, Liza Janda. In addition to studying locally, Erin has traveled to Chicago, San Francisco and Las Vegas to study with world renowned yoga instructors. Erin also holds a Bachelor of Arts in History. She is a proud mommy to a five-year-old and believes that her best yoga training has come from raising her daughter!
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