By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Practicing Yoga can be difficult with toddlers around; but as children grow older, adults can turn their Yoga training sessions into a family affair. Since family Yoga can benefit young and old bodies alike, practicing Yoga together can engender both improved physical fitness and some beautiful moments of bonding and relationship building.
Since Yoga is an active and very challenging practice, children are always eager to imitate the poses they see adults engaged in. Even toddlers, who are just walking, will take delight in Downward Facing Dog or Sun Salutation poses; and parents can guide youngsters into age-appropriate series to encourage mastery and good posture.
Many kids can be rambunctious, however, and this can be a strain on parents or older siblings who are trying to practice Yoga around children, who remain consistently distracted or unable to hold the poses for long enough, and who get frustrated with the process. Yoga instructors, too, have faced this dilemma when teaching youth classes, and have come up with some creative ways of focusing a child’s practice to reduce misbehavior or frustration.
One smart method of transforming a Yoga session into something doable for the whole family is to use storytelling to engage young minds and guide children through a series of poses. Creative stories can allow kids to focus on external stimuli and can also create space for siblings or parents to work through more advanced or complex adaptations of the basic poses young children will be doing.
Although stories can be made up on the spot, the easiest way to utilize stories is to find big, bright-colored board books that attract children’s attention and engage their imaginations. Many books, like Eric Carle’s, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” are used often at libraries or in schools and can be bought at bookstores or online along with complementary visual and tactile props that make them perfect for Yoga story time.
Other options for storytelling include adapting well-known myths or morality stories, to a Yoga series, so that children learn valuable lessons from the Yoga training session. This works especially well with practice because Yoga helps improve mental acuity and emotional well-being – allowing children to become more receptive to lessons within a story.
Family Yoga is an ideal setting for storytelling because, not only will the whole family benefit physically from the practice, but it can also benefit a family through a positive Yoga experience. Children will come to value Yoga practice for the opportunity it offers to be physically active, mentally stimulated, and together with family.
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