Use the Force: A Star Wars themed yoga class!

Choosing a theme for children's yoga classes can often be a great jumping off point to teach specific class material. While I think it's important, especially when teaching older children, to delve deeper into topics and not rely as much on themes for every single class, it can definitely be a whole lot of fun and equally as meaningful to choose a theme for your classes.

This spring, the Star Wars movie was all the rage and many of my young students requested a Star Wars class. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I was very excited to take this on.

Often times when I look for class plans online, I come up empty. Usually there are a few reliable children's yoga blogs or resources that I can count on, but for the most part I have created all my own curriculum.

Going into my 3rd year of teaching kids yoga, I realized it might be helpful to start to share my lesson plans in hopes it gives other teachers or even parents, educators, etc. some inspiration for working with their kiddos. Below is my lesson plan and my notes from our class. Enjoy!

STAR WARS YOGA (A class for 6-10 year olds)

  • We started class in a circle on our mats and I asked the kids what they knew about Star Wars. They were excited to share the characters, the names, the plot and more. They loved talking about their favorite characters and even kids who didn't know about the movie enjoyed hearing the conversation and learning all about the plot. 
  • In order to get our wiggles and giggles out, we learned Darth Vader Breath (a simpler version of Ujjayi breath. I taught the kids to inhale with mouth closed and exhale with their mouth open like they were trying to fog a mirror) We talked about the character of Vader and how he has a lot of anger and "darkness". The kids mentioned things that make them angry or frustrated and we decided Vader breath could be a good way to help vent your anger safely.
  • I taught the kids a simple flow using some of the characters of Star Wars.
    • Chewbacca: Mountain Pose but with arms up to the sky and standing on tip toes. Basically we wanted to make ourselves as big and tall as possible and we even made chewbacca noises! 
    • Rey: Warrior 2 with our hands holding a pretend staff like Rey.
    • BB8: On our backs tucked into a ball. We decided this pose needed to move and so it wa an extra challenge (and hilarious) to roll around in this pose making robot noises.
    • Storm Trooper: Warrior 3 with fingers overhead and interlaced like a gun.
    • Darth Vader: Side plank pose. The kids decided we should pretend we have a light saber in the top arm.
  • Next, we played Musical Mats. I found some cheap Star Wars trading cards on amazon and used those as our yoga cards. When the music stopped the kids dashed to the mat closest to them, looked underneath and found a card of one of the 5 pose characters we had just learned. They had to do the pose and most importantly hold it for 10 seconds!
  • Our next game was called Using the Force. Each child got a partner and two popsicle sticks for the partners. They started seated and had to keep the popsicle between their index finger and the index finger of their partner. So, "using the force", they had to work together to keep the sticks between themselves from falling. Of course I challenge them by asking them to stand up, move around, go at different speeds, try a balance pose facing each other, etc.
  • We had a short musical interlude at this point. It's a lot for kids to do 45 minutes of yoga, so often times I like to include some music or musical instrument games, as well as creative movement to allow kids to blow off some steam between focusing during games/activities. I told the kids they were at a cosmic cantina filled with aliens and bounty hunters, and they giggled and danced crazily while we put on some funny alien music.
  • Starting to slow things down, I turned the twinkling lights in the studio on, turned on some calm classical music and gave my students some different Star Wars character mandala coloring sheets. I love doing mandalas toward the end of class when kids are tired and starting to either get too crazy or losing their focus.
  • We finished up our mandalas (I always tell them they can just take them home with them) and we started into savasana. I set the kids up with a bolster under their knees, quiet music, darkened the studio a bit and spritzed the air with some lavendar and orange oil spray. The kids love this part. We finished with a guided imagery about traveling peacefully through space on our mats. As I told the story, I rub each child's foot (those who wanted me to) with a bit of lotion. (again, the kids love this!)
  • It was a REALLY fun class and I think the kids had a great time!

Toddlers and Yoga, oh my!

Toddlers. They are truly the hot messes of the kid world. One minute they are smiling and laughing, the next minute bawling on the floor because you had the audacity to tell them they have to put their shoes on. For most of us grown-ups, toddlers can be truly exhausting.

Introducing toddlers to yoga can seem daunting. It's hard to imagine getting them to sit still for 25 seconds let alone a 45 minute yoga class. Movement for young children is so incredibly important however, and with all the benefits that yoga can bring your youngster, getting them moving in significant and meaningful ways will truly help to build a healthy foundation for the rest of their life. 

 

Yoga provides so many benefits to children. It promotes focus, relaxation, fine and gross motor skill development, positive social interactions and team work. Yoga also helps children tune into their bodies; to become aware of their bodies in space, to learn to listen and identify their feelings, and it helps children build a positive body image. 

Here are 3 simple ways to introduce toddlers to yoga:

  1. Put a new spin on story time. I have many favorite children's yoga books (click here and here to find two of my favorites) and I think books are the perfect way to introduce children to yoga. Whether its a book that will help them get their sillies and wiggles out during the day, or perhaps its a soothing night time yoga book before bed, books are an awesome platform to bring yoga to the whole family. Make yoga part of your daily story time. You will be surprised how much kids love it and find delight in getting to move their body as you read. 
  2. Make it a family affair. Let's face it, we could all use more time in the day to move our bodies. Yoga is a really fun way to get the whole family moving. This doesn't have to be an hour long yoga session. Taking 15 minutes to play games as a family moving, dancing and stretching is a perfect way to get the blood flowing, reconnect with each other and create healthy habits all together. This can be as easy as talking about favorite animals and trying to see if you can all move like that animal. It might mean putting on some music and then pausing the music to see if everyone can make a shape with their body when the music stops. Find a feather or even a tissue and see who can blow it around the floor with their breath.  Don't be afraid to be silly and remember that it doesn't have to look or be perfect.
  3. Find yoga in your community. Many studios have childrens or family yoga classes. Perhaps keep an eye out at your local library. Can't find any yoga in your community? Create your own! I know so many awesome parents who, when faced with a deficit in their town, have made it happen for their kids. Invite a couple friends and their kids over for a playdate and do 10 minutes of yoga as a group before the kids head off to play. This is a great way to introduce kids to yoga in a free, fun and supportive environment with people they know already.

Most of all, remember that toddlers (you already know this) have a short attention span. So don't feel badly if your little one drifts off to do something else after a few minutes. Even a few minutes of movement is important and the older they get, the more they will get engaged with it. Have fun, be silly and please, whatever you do, don't tell them to put their shoes on ;)

 

 

Embrace your swagger: The unexpected benefits of prenatal yoga

Whether you are aware of it or not, yoga can provide some truly phenomenal benefits for pregnant women. Yoga can help to lower stress in expectant mothers, to help women stay strong and fit throughout the pregnancy and can even help to prepare for labor and delivery. Prenatal yoga has even been shown to help prevent complications during pregnancy, providing benefits to both mother and baby. A regular yoga practice while pregnant promotes better sleep, more energy and helps to reduce the aches and pains of pregnancy like back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, nausea and fatigue. 

With all these benefits, I believe it is one of the best forms of exercise to stretch and strengthen the body as well as to foster a mind-body connection throughout the journey of pregnancy and beyond into labor, delivery and motherhood.

But there are also some unexpected benefits that I have experienced both as a practitioner while pregnant and as a prenatal teacher, that are so important for expectant moms: 

  1. Community. Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it can often be an extremely difficult time too. Pregnant women can feel isolated, anxious, sick and lonely. Past traumas or stresses can re-surface and it can be a truly overwhelming journey. A prenatal yoga class should offer a welcoming environment for women to connect, share and bond. Often times I think my students most enjoy the time they have with each other in class, sharing stories or worries, commiserating and laughing. Finding community can be an unexpected and crucial benefit to prenatal yoga.

     2. Self Love. With the ever changing  (monthly, daily, even minute by minute!) prenatal body can come a great deal of stress and expectation. Society expects pregnant women to be glowing, happy, blooming.  In reality, each day while pregnant is different and the emotions and experiences that accompany the changing body might be stressful and overwhelming. Prenatal yoga teaches women to slow down. To honor their body and mind in whatever place and state it may be that day and to try to find gratitude and acceptance when we can. 

3. Self care as a habit. It's often hard, no matter what part of the motherhood journey you are on, to find time for yourself. Prenatal yoga is a wonderful way to start the habit of self-care as you travel down the bumpy road to mama-hood. Although there may be days when you don't make it to class (remember, life happens, don't beat yourself up) your yoga practice will be there for you when you need it and you can pick back up at any time. Taking prenatal yoga classes are a great way to start to foster the healthy habit of making time for yourself. Many of the moms from my prenatal classes come back through my studio doors as new mamas and though it's not always easy, they return to their practice either with their baby or solo, carving out some precious moments of relaxation and renewal.

This summer,  Green Bird Yoga offers lots of options for prenatal women to experience all the benefits that yoga and fitness provide. Visit our class schedule page to learn more and remember that your first adult class is FREE! If you have been wanting to try yoga but have questions or worries,  send us an email. We are happy to help! 

"Don't sit still!" Why kids yoga is different than you think.

Often times when I tell people that I teach children's yoga I am greeted with a couple standard responses:

Sometimes it is:

"My little one loves yoga! She is always doing downward dog and handstands!"

But often times the response is:

"I would love my child to do yoga, but there is NO way he can sit still."

Here's the thing: Kids shouldn't be sitting still. Ok, that's not totally true. Stillness is great. It's important for all of us, when we are learning and practicing body awareness, meditation, mindfulness, pranayama (fancy yogi word for breathing exercises) to find stillness in the body. To notice the sensations, to become aware of our bodies and our breath. 

However, a kids yoga class is NOT going to look like an adult yoga class. Why? Because as much as we think they are, children are not mini adults. They will not and should not be forced into a 45 minute yoga class where they are moving through a series of yoga poses.

 

Kids need to play. They need to move, experiment, make noise, dance and run. In schools, children are asked to sit many hours throughout the day. They are also expected to be "on" all day long- to behave, participate, be calm and be still. As an adult, I know how exhausting that would be for me, let alone a 5 year old who is still developing, growing, learning and with boundless energy for days.

A children's yoga class allows kids to play, to move and to enjoy relatively unstructured freedom with their bodies and their minds. But, just like time I made macaroni and cheese and snuck in broccoli*,  the play/fun/joyous freedom is interwoven with serious and meaningful development work.  (*side note: don't mix broccoli with mac and cheese. Don't. They find the broccoli. Kids are smart. And also broccoli sucks in mac and cheese.)

So while my yoga students are playing one of their favorite games like yoga freeze dance and from the outside it looks like pure chaos, they are learning a ton of great skills. Balance, musicality, body awareness and control, and how to find stillness with their body and breath when they need to.

 Relaxation, strength building, story time and partner poses using cooperation and team work are just some of the parts in a kids yoga class.

Relaxation, strength building, story time and partner poses using cooperation and team work are just some of the parts in a kids yoga class.

Cooperative games, partner poses, reading stories, integrating yoga with crafts, creative movement, journaling, puppetry, imaginary relaxation adventures, music and more, allows children to build a ton of important social and emotional skills and gross and fine motor skills, as they PLAY. 

So don't stress if your little one doesn't sit still. I have news for you, they aren't supposed to. And that's ok. It's the true work of their childhood. And what could be more important than that?

 

 

Blogging from the Green Bird Nest

As a once avid reader of blogs, (I used to love parenting blogs, photography blogs, home living blogs and yes, even a couple celebrity gossip blogs!) I used to love doing lots of online reading and gleefully spent many an evening reading.

Now that I have two young children, a new business and a life that seems to be chock of to-do lists, my blog reading has fallen away.

 My days of solo home yoga practices are over! Also, my home is very messy.

My days of solo home yoga practices are over! Also, my home is very messy.

Now I find myself reading only the things that truly serve me or my family in some way. Or my business. I now love reading physical therapy blogs that can help me learn to work with a young student with sensory or physical issues. I love baby/toddler and child activity and development  blogs that help me plan my kids classes to keep them educational, fun and meaningful. I adore yoga and exercise blogs that help me share accurate information on anatomy, alignment and more with my adult yoga and barre students. 

In short, I have become more of a nerd.  A nerd about things that are near and dear to my heart and my brain. I hope that this blog can become near and dear to your heart and brain, however busy and engaged they may already be.

Here, I will share information on activities, exercises and games that will help your children (and you!) get moving, have fun and do it in a meaningful way. I will also share information on prenatal, postnatal exercise and yoga and ideas that can help you have a healthy, comfortable and confident pregnancy and post baby time as well.

 Sharing some of my favorite prenatal poses using a yoga block

Sharing some of my favorite prenatal poses using a yoga block

 

 I plan to post videos on short exercises that you can do at home to incorporate movement and midnfulness into your every day, whether you are 3 years old or 33 or 93. 

So stay tuned, keep reading, and add me to your "must read" blog list and enjoy! I promise it will be worth it. And I promise it maybe just as juicy and fun as a celebrity gossip blog. (maybe.)

Hugs from the Green Bird Nest,

Caroline

Owner, Green Bird Yoga