Family Yoga Night

I can’t imagine a better way to create connection with your loved ones than putting together a family yoga session.

Our gym holds family yoga on a weekly basis, so instilling the same regularity in a home practice only makes sense. While I do enjoy the gym sessions, it’s age-based, and they do not include partner poses. Sometimes the lack of something inspires us to create our own perfect practice.

Here are some ideas:

Start with breath
We all know how to breathe right? And if we are teachers of yoga, no doubt we’ve had the talk with our kiddos about deep breaths through the tough times of life. So for family yoga night, spin that breath work into a fun ‘om’ harmony. See how beautiful you can harmonize as a family.

From sitting to standing
Usually, your practice will begin in seated position, so to get to your feet, work in a yoga pose skit of the weekend activities. Will you be walking the dog, feeding the cat, climbing mountains, planting trees, going for a boat ride, buying a pet turtle? See what I’m doing here?

Sun salutation
After you’ve reached standing position, it’s time to get the blood flowing. Introduce the sun salutation flow, and then let each person in the family attempt to lead that flow. You will definitely be warmed up by the end of this part of your practice.

Partner poses
The body of your session will be partner poses. Oh my goodness. This is going to be fun. Each of these poses combines stretch and touch, and some require balance. Relying on your partner to help you loosen your limbs! You can start with floor poses and work your way up to standing. And if you need any additional ideas, just enter a search for kid-friendly partner poses in your favorite Internet search engine.

• Rib-Splitting Seated Triangle



• Buddy Boat



• Sailboat




• Back to Back Twist




• Double Dog




• Open Heart





Family savasana
After the final partner pose, move everyone into savasana. One idea for this time of mindfulness, is to take your family on their dream vacation. Once you’ve led the relaxation of all body parts, and eyes are closed, verbally direct your loved ones on an imaginary journey to their ultimate vacation. What are the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings involved on this journey? Provide a soft voice instructing them in their choices to be made. Have them tuck this idyllic vacation away for future retrieval in chaotic moments.

After you’ve connected in this time of movement and mindfulness, you can spend the rest of the evening relaxing, maybe choose a meaningful movie to watch together, cook a healthy dinner together, or just spend time reflecting individually about the practice you’ve just shared.

My experience with yoga has taught me that mindfully slowing down, breathing deeply, stretching, are all practices we NEED to incorporate regularly. We all carry tension throughout the day, even our littles. When we practice as a family, we teach our children, and we learn their needs. What a loving way to spend an evening.

**Partner Pose photos are from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture**

Love what you are reading? Check out the Kidding Around Yoga website, or better yet, sign up for a KAY teacher training and spread the love of kids yoga in YOUR town!

Mandala Magic

The art and therapy of mandalas has reached huge popularity.   But what exactly is the meaning and purpose of the beautiful, geometric images we find ourselves drawn to decorate with color?

Merriam-Webster provides these two definitions of mandala: 1. a Hindu or Buddhist graphic symbol of the universe; specifically: a circle enclosing a square with a deity on each side that is used chiefly as an aid to meditation 2. a graphic and often symbolic pattern usually in the form of a circle divided into four separate sections or bearing a multiple projection of an image.

Much meaning can be found in mandalas, historically speaking.  Its roots are Hindu and Buddhist.  The mandala is a spiritual symbol for the universe.  It is used for meditative purposes, as defined above.  It literally means “circle” in the Sanskrit language.  And mandalas exhibit radial balance.  We all know that balance is the core of yoga. 

As I read about the history and use of mandalas, I am struck by its purpose to provide a means to induce meditation.  In other words, the intricacy of mandala design with the circular and square lines is not without meaning.  We should get lost in the mandala, in a way that we can be found.  Or perhaps, answers may be found.  Or perhaps, calm can be found.

How do we then share this ethereal ideal with children?  We introduce softly, as art.  Questions may be asked.  We can answer of course.  It is not just the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism that embrace artistic and geometric art as a means of meditative state.  There are Christian mandala symbols as well.  So we say, without exclusion, and with full honesty, that mandalas offer us an opportunity to be entranced with art, religion, mindfulness, softness, quietness, in a way that also speaks to our individuality.  I can’t imagine two mandalas coming out the same, at the hands of two different children.  We’ve come full circle then, no pun intended, when we see that this form of meditative expression brings about creative difference.  Isn’t that the essence of our universe?  Isn’t it? Being at odds with another is such a hard pill to swallow.  Who knew that the mandala could offer a lesson in diversity? 

For more information on mandalas and how to use them in your yoga classes, check out The Lure of Mandalas. And for free printable mandala coloring sheets, click here.



Yoga and the Bad Day

I picked up a children’s book before I even had children called Alicia Has a Bad Day by Lisa Jahn-Clough. I bought it because my sister’s name is Alicia. And she had many a bad day when we were growing up. It’s one of those times in life, where you look up to see if there’s a camera on you. How did someone know?

It’s a cute book. Goodreads gives it a 3.46, but friends, it’s absolutely adorable. I’ve read it to my kids, and my three-year-old especially got real hung up on the name of Alicia’s dog, Neptune. It became a game for us, and a discussion point.

When you think about using this book to form a class outline for kids’ yoga, I believe the book offers a couple of really good options.

The heart of the story is the word ‘lugubrious’. It’s my favorite part of the book: the idea of teaching a young mind a big word for a rather normal, universal, every day feeling. Lugubrious sounds amazing and dark and BIG. Yoga and words most definitely go together so this little book offers a lovely starting point for a discussion of words and emotions, and labeling our feelings appropriately so that we can communicate with each other effectively. Tie in a creative mini story with yoga poses paired to certain words for emotions, and BAM, your littles yoga class has a framework. An example of pairing an emotion to a yoga pose could be the lion with anger. Or forward fold with being tired, happy baby with feelings of excitement.

Pranayama instruction and practice fits in as well. Nothing works better to diffuse a bad mood like the art of breath.

I also see the conversation about how Alicia deals with her bad day and bad feelings as an important one. It’s definitely an opening for a guided meditation. What decisions can we make when we know we are in a bad mood? Where can we go for help? Does quiet help a bad mood, or loud noises and lots of chaos? The meditation time can offer words of positivity when we have negative thoughts and feelings. Seriously, I use this every day in my own life, and I believe wholeheartedly that a large portion of developing a balanced yoga practice is the language we use inside of our minds. Self-worth, hope, perseverance, love, choice. These words should be tied into the end of class savasana.

Have you heard of mood meters? This would be a very appropriate craft to offer at the end. You could even have them pick a spot on the mood meter where lugubrious would fit, and add the word onto their meter!

Get the book, and be inspired. The class will come together.

Salutations to the Sun – Serious Fun

NAMASTE! When I took my kids’ yoga teacher training with Kidding Around Yoga, the fun and energetic Sargeant Saluations  (their version of Sun Salutations) quickly became a favorite part of the curriculum. And then I attended my first weekend of 200-hour yoga certification, and the Surya Namaskar was introduced.  What?!  I remember during my yoga for kids trainingkids’ training that the Sergeant Salutation was linked to the Sun Salutation, but I didn’t realize that there was a serious history behind the sequence of yoga poses. 

History:  First, let’s break down the name: Surya is the Hindu name for the sun, and Namaskar stems from namas which can be translated as “to bow to” or “to adore”. The fact that the sequence begins and ends with hands together at the heart is not without purpose.  Ultimately, we know truth in our heart, and the sun’s centrality in the human existence can be likened to the heart’s centrality in each human’s personal journey.  The exact age of Surya Namaskar is disputed, and there are many variations, but the basic poses include:

  • Prayer Pose
  • Upward Salute
  • Standing Forward Bend
  • Low Lunge
  • Plank Pose
  • Four-Limbed Staff Pose
  • Upward-Facing Dog Pose
  • Downward-Facing Dog Pose

The inhale/exhale breath that corresponds with the movement from pose to pose is another thoughtful aspect of the sequence. We all know the importance of pranayama in our yoga practice.  It’s essential! 

My understanding of Surya Namaskar is that it was developed by the original postural yogis as a sequence that could be practiced every morning, as a warm up to the day.  Mantra and Chakra prabest childrens yoga certificationctice can be incorporated with the Asana and Pranayama practice as well.  An evening version developed over time, as a warm down to the day. The sequence is practiced facing either the rising or the setting of the sun, depending on the time of day.

 The purpose of the sequence in a child’s yoga class: If we analyze the placement of Sun Salutations in a child’s yoga class, we understand that it’s a sequence that warms us up.  It readies our bodies for deeper movements and more energetic activities. 

Creative ideas for Classes : In my kids’ teacher training, we practiced our Sun Salutations in a call-and-response way. The teacher announces the pose and the children loudly repeat the pose name as they get into the posture. We called it Sargeant Salutations and it works well for class-management, posture recognition, and for building strength, stamina, and flexibility.


Here are some other ways to use Sargeant Salutations in your class:

·        Let each child lead a round of the salutation. What better way to impress the poses into their growing brains?  Great idea for a class that you may be under the weather for, too!

·       Relay the honoring of the sun that occurs during a Surya Namaskar sequence to a larger discussion of how important the sun is to our existence.  We cannot live without the sun! And yet we need to be mindful of the sun’s power as well. 

·       Tie the idea of the sun being a star to self-confidence.  While in savasana, guide your kids through a journey to the stars, and how each is unique and brings his/her own light to the world. This part of the class allows us to plant our seeds of wisdom with the kiddos. 

·       Prepare a sun craft.  Give the kids an image of the sun with twelve rays (the number of poses that are performed in an official Surya Namaskar sequence), and have them write twelve things about themselves that they love!  I might just do this with my children this week as an exercise in self-love. 

Yoga and the Garden

The seasonal and cyclical nature of gardening is necessary for the perpetuation of the plant world.  Why shouldn’t this same idea apply to the human world?  We evolve within our lifetimes, and humanity evolves over generations, with the intention of perpetuation.  Wouldn’t it be interesting, and fun, to translate the idea of this evolution by using the analogy of what occurs in the garden annually, in a yoga class?  Allow me to provide some inspiration for creating a garden-themed yoga class for the kiddos. 

Sounds of the Garden = “Om” time: Make your opening Oms become part of the garden world. Bees, birds, a cat or dog in the garden, the hum of the universe, and the sounds of summer are a few to get you started.  I always ask the kids to come up with some ideas.  Sitting together, turn the sounds of the garden into a chant, like “buuuuzzzzz” or “whooooooosssshhhh”. It becomes the most favorite part of the class. 

 Roots = Meditation: Just like the roots of a plant, the importance of grounding ourselves is critical for growth. And grounding time is quiet time. For instance, have you ever heard a plant grow?  No!  It’s a quiet dance with the elements of the earth.  Let’s practice quietly pushing our roots into the ground with our mind.  Remembering to breathe deeply as we go.  When we ground ourselves, we cannot easily be moved. 

Growth = Yoga postures: Emphasize the slow and steady growth of a plant/flower during the summer season by using various yoga positions (root to bloom/seated to standing). Ask these questions: Isn’t it amazing that growth like this can occur in one year?  How much have you grown since last year (physically, emotionally, mindfully)?

 Revisit the traditional Sun Salutation, and explain the importance of the Sun in both the plant and human worlds.  May I suggest playing the Kidding Around Yoga song ‘Salutation to the Sun’?!


Blooming = In-depth Posture Study:  The bloom is our finest hour, it’s when all the grounding, and growth culminate into a beautiful finale. Start by pairing kids up to create yoga poses that look like flowers (lotus!!) or places that flowers bloom (trees, mountains, water).  Throughout the workshop period, equate a flower’s bloom to our own blooming moments, like when we learn something new, when we have a good day, when we make someone feel better.  Another activity in the workshop period could include the kids working together to write their own garden yoga story.  The game Simon Says would work here too, with a focus on plant and animal poses.  Look for a garden themed book that can be read while tying in yoga poses and ideas (like meditation, breathing, mindfulness).  The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle is really sweet. 

Pollination = Secret Garden (Savasana): Take the kids into the garden where they become the pollinators of the plants with a guided meditation.  We root, we grow, we bloom, and then we pass it on, we reseed our growth in others.  We teach others by our actions.  We extend our bloom beyond ourselves by being mentors, and stewards of all that is good in the world.  Guide the children to imagine themselves as the bees, visiting flowers and spreading the pollen. Or you could have them be the wind, spreading seeds across the world.

End class with the Kidding Around Yoga song ‘May the Long Time Sun’.  Eventually the kids can join in singing. 

Seed, Dirt, Water, Food = Homework: Bring biodegradable cups to class with dirt, seeds, and water source.  Let the kids plant a seed in their cup that can be transplanted in their gardens when the time is right.  Have instructions on where to keep the seedling inside, when to water, when to move outdoors, when to plant in soil.  Explain that with the right conditions and care, the seed will grow to full bloom, just like us!!  Sunflowers are a good option.

A Love Letter … to Yourself

The Valentine’s Day holiday is a great opportunity to continue the discussion of self-love.  Who says that your Valentine has to be someone other than yourself?  And what better way to introduce the concept of self-love to children than through a yoga class?

In whatever time frame you have, you can incorporate a theme of self-love (and self-care) into the different stages of your class.  Always in the teaching of children, we take a difficult concept and we break it down into a less complicated idea through the use of age-appropriate language and demonstration.  I happen to think the concept of love is an extremely complicated one.  I’ve written about it at length for the adult audience, and still it’s hard to digest fully the idea of unconditional love.  

It has taken me 40 years to get to a full understanding of how I define “love”.  Expecting to translate that to a child in one yoga session is unrealistic.  However, the discussion can start with talking about how a child feels about other members of their family, or a pet, or a certain hobby.  Ask questions about how they might define love.  Create scenarios for them to imagine a love-like response.  Move into a discussion on how best to love ourselves, by taking really good care of ourselves.

For three specific aspects of a kids’ yoga class, here are some ideas:

Act out a story Don’t just talk about love and loving ourselves. Use yoga postures (and some fun made-up poses) to act out what self-love means.   What are the things that we can do to take care of ourselves that translate into yoga positions?  Good night sleep, eating well at the table and sitting upright in our chairs, hiking up a mountain, taking walks and seeing trees, and dogs, and cats.   Can you think of anything else? You could even make this into a Charades-like game!

Guided Meditation Take your children on a journey to a spa where they get to spend as much time as they want taking care of themselves.  What does their spa look like?  Is it in a natural space, or a castle for princesses?  Do they have people to do their hair and nails, and give facials?  Or are they alone, able to sleep, read, exercise, take walks?  Their spa is there for them to do whatever they love best for themselves.

Craft This is my favorite part!  Have the kids write themselves love letters.  Give them pretty paper, and envelopes, and when done tell them to keep their letters in a place they can easily get to.  The below is provided as an example, using myself.

Dear Heather

I’ve known you for your entire life, and I think you are really special.

You do the most amazing things like making your kids laugh when they are upset.  I particularly loved the time you turned Gabriela’s frown upside down with a funny face, instead of getting mad at her.

 And that body you are using to travel this earth?  My oh my, it’s perfect!  Strong, flexible, and tireless for moving through your day.  You can do anything you set your mind to because you take care of your body with yoga, and rest, and grooming.  You smile at everyone you meet throughout the day.  Did you know the small act of smiling can change someone’s day, just like that?

 But nothing is more attractive than your smarts.  Making tough decisions, calming yourself through the use of breath, solving problems in your home.  Keep your mind fresh with regular exercise, good sleep, and good food.  Play games with your children too!  I think you are a great person, and I hope you feel it in your bones how special you are to this world.

In short, I love you.

 Yours truly,  Heather




The Intimacy of Family Relationships

momBetween the yelling, the threats, the negotiations, and the bribes of the last 8 years, I’m pretty sure I’m the worst parent in the history of mankind.

Who let this woman become a mother?

And yet my daughters snuggle up to me nightly, yearning for my acceptance and love. It’s still far off, their realization that they don’t need either of those things to have a happy life. I cling to their ignorance because I do need their acceptance and love. They set my sun and hang my moon.

Parenting takes everything you have (and then some) and rewards you inconsistently with unexpected gold:

  • The sweet, unsolicited kisses from my two-year-old
  • The spot-on comedic timing and beautiful smile of my preschooler
  • My 3rd grader very seriously asking the question, “Is it hard to be a mommy?
  • The unprompted words “I love you” sprinkled throughout the day22308335205_f3185535b3_z

Occasionally, at naptime or when goofing off on our king size bed before calling it a day, I am struck with the thought of how intensely intimate child rearing is. It’s beyond knowing the smell of their skin and breath, and them knowing mine.  My desire for personal space has gone the way of the rotary phone.  I’m jumped on, sat on, snuggled with, and used as a vehicle to get from point A to point B.  It doesn’t seem to matter where I am or what I’m doing either.  Ever read the book I Just Want to Pee Alone?  (I highly recommend it!)

The emotional intimacy we share includes seeing the mirror image of myself in them with all of my blemishes magnified. How can I deny my oldest a temper that she comes by honestly, or the preschooler her stubbornness, or the baby her clinginess?  It’s amazingly gratifying and exhausting at the same time, to be connected so intimately with other human beings who drive me mad for exhibiting the exact same traits I carry inside daily.

Can I get an ‘amen’?

And as a children’s yoga teacher, I’ve come to recognize that the introduction of yoga to a child and his/her family offers us a unique tangency.  We get to touch another family, 26399133952_cfce2b09be_zand their special ‘traits’, in a way that is also intimate, positive and edifying.  Temper? Schmemper!  Let’s learn how to breathe.  Anxiety? Schmeity! Stand like a mountain, and roar like a lion.  You don’t want to play today?  How about some laughter yoga?

What a gift we get to give.  And dare I say, receive?  Could it be possible that in working with other families and children, we take a small prize back to our own families?   Ahhh, the hum of the universe.  ‘Om’…