Spring Equinox Yoga Celebration

Have you been noticing the daffodils making their buttery appearance? Or the mama birds already sitting on their nests? Perhaps the first bud sprouting on the branch? These signs of spring herald the Vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.yoga for kids teaching training

This year, Spring Equinox falls on March 20th. This traditionally marks the beginning of spring. Equinox is a time when day and night are of approximately equal lengths due to the position of the Earth’s equator as it relates to the sun.

Spring Equinox brings us Easter, Ostara, the Festival of Isis, the Feast of Cybele, and New Year in many traditions. These are all centered around new growth, welcoming the change of the weather, the sprouting of flowers and plants, and new life.

We can mark the turning of the year in many ways. Doing this with children or as families is a great way to bring a little mindful awareness into everyday life. The more we learn to connect with the outer seasons, the more we can also notice our inner seasons.

Ways to Celebrate the coming of Spring with children:

Plant seeds or bulbs to celebrate growth and life. You can write your hopes or aspirations on little pieces of paper to plant with each seed. As they sprout up, you can imagine your aspirations coming to life.

Spring Cleaning! Let in fresh air and make space for newness in your home. Donate or recycle unwanted items that clutter your space. It’s amazing what a little cleaning can do for your environment. Be sure to open up your windows and let in the fresh air. (And here’s a blog article about playing with Yoga while doing your cleaning.)

Decorating eggs is often associated with Easter, but in fact egg decorating is rooted in many different traditions. Eggs are a symbol of fertility, which spring reminds us of. What are the fertile aspects of your life? Where is the potential? You can bring some mindful intention to decorating eggs as you contemplate the richness your life 9204694422_f816632241_zpossesses. You can also use different natural substances to make dye for the eggs.

Decorate your home with plants and flowers! This is a reminder of the beauty of life, the freshness of spring and new starts. You can get really creative with this. Garlands, wreaths, and endless possibilities.

You can do sun salutations AND moon salutations (there are many variations) as you talk about night and day being equal lengths. What do we love about daytime? And what do we love about night? Finding beauty in both light and dark, and balance in our appreciation of them helps us find balance in our own lives.

You can grow into your own plant. Start with everyone in a very tight child’s pose– as a seed. Someone comes around and puts scarves over each seed, which is the dirt. Then you “water” each seed by waving a scarf over them. Then you bring sunlight by ringing a gong or a bell. Each seed begins to sprout, growing into its very own expression. This is a great way to play with moving your body in whatever ways feel good.22679150833_b350bb59c6_z

Practice poses like FLOWER, TREE, and all the animals- coming out to greet the spring! EAGLE in her nest, COBRA and BABY COBRA (a super low cobra), or CROW and BABY CROW (crow prep).

Practice Sky Gazing meditation. Now that the weather is nicer, find a nice spot to lay on the ground outside. Look up at the sky. Imagine your mind like the sky. Thoughts are like clouds. Watch as the wind blows them past, to reveal the deep clear blue underneath! It’s a great visual for children and adults to understand the nature of mind.

Practice Tree meditation. Sit or stand outside on the earth. Imagine roots extending down from the bottoms of your feet or your seat. As they go through the earth, they find nutrients and water. They create stability for your trunk which is your torso. Feel how strong and firm it is. Now feel your branches extending toward the sky. You can feel this as your head and shoulders, or you can lift your arms and hands up. Feel the space all around. Notice the wind. See how joining earth and sky can help us feel strong.

However you celebrate, bringing awareness and intention toward aligning ourselves with the earth, with the natural world, and with the seasons helps us to find inner awareness as we ebb and flow with our human experience. Happy Spring!!

Winter and the Earth Element

What is the earth element?

          I heard that the groundhog saw his shadow this year, which means 6 more weeks of winter. You would never know it though, where I live: here in California, it seems that spring has already sprung! Even so, the days are still sort of short and we still have weeks before spring and months before summer. Winter is still here in the northern hemisphere, and it is a great opportunity to practice with the qualities of the earth element in mind. We might not be able to do Snowga in Coastal California, but we can take barefoot walks on the beach and experience the earth element as we feel the sand on our soles.

          Yes, sand is part of the earth element, which takes many forms. Before you talk about the qualities – patience, stability, heaviness, slow, dark – see if your yogis know what you mean when you mention the earth element. If they don’t know, you can give them an example: earth, like soil in the garden. What are some other forms of earth in nature? Mountains, sand on the beach, and rocks are some. You might mention briefly the other elements: water, air, fire (and some traditions consider space an element, while others include wood). I like to stick to a simple scheme of four elements. Give them an overview: what is water like? Flowing, wet? What is fire like? Hot, bright? What about earth?

          I tend to think of earth as low and slow. I also think of it as solid (except when it is lava, but then lava might be considered a mixture of earth, water, and fire. Then it becomes solid and here’s a moment where kids can learn that lava makes earth). This begs to be explored through an earth salutation!

Earth Salutation

          Begin in CHILD pose, which we can refer to as SEED pose here to stick with the theme. Imagine you are a SEED waiting in the dark earth to sprout. Inhale, lift up your bottom and raise arms up toward the sky in SPROUT pose. Exhale, slide hands forward and slither into COBRA; stay for an inhale, then exhale, roll over onto your back and bring knees to chest. Inhale, stretch out into TWIG pose and exhale, roll back over onto your mat. Inhale, SPHINX pose; exhale SEED. Inhale, sit up into FLOWER. Please feel free to modify to suit your little yogis!


Poses and props

          If you want to keep it simple and just teach some poses that help yogis embody the earth element, here are some: TREE, WARRIOR, TRIANGLE, RAG DOLL, CHILD, SQUAT. Why are these earthy? Simply because they either require you to activate the legs to root down into the earth or they bring you low to the earth. These actions help yogis get grounded and bring some stillness into their practice (another quality of earth).

          Most young kids love quick movements, loud sounds, and big expressions, both vocal and physical. That’s why one aspect of earth I find useful in teaching kids is to help them experience and practice slow movements. Props can be handy in these situations, for instance: kids stand in a circle, each one in GODDESS pose. Put on some slow music, or just have silence if that suits the group. One yogi starts with a yoga block or some other prop in both hands; slowly, they shift to one side (let’s say the left) and hand it to the person on their left. The prop progresses around the circle in this way. Make sure everyone keeps both feet firmly on the ground. This can also be done with a different standing pose, such as WARRIOR.

          A more challenging form of this activity can be done lying on backs with legs up to the sky. For the earth theme, I call this posture ROOT pose, since there is much focus on engaging the core and stabilizing the upper body where it contacts the ground. Have the yogis arrange themselves in a circle with feet pointing toward the center of the circle. Then everyone extends legs up to the sky; these are our tree branches stretching up! Get a bean bag or something similarly soft and have them pass it in one direction around the circle using their feet. You can play music – think of one of our KAY favorites, Orange You Grateful. One of my favorite songs on the elements is The Earth, the Air, the Fire, the Water, Return. Whatever you do, remember to remind your yogis to notice the parts of their body that are in contact with the earth. That’s the real felt experience of the earth element.

The elements in urban settings

          Yoga is so much about connection, and that’s why I think that using the idea of the elements can be a powerful tool: we are all connected by the elements of nature that comprise us. In nature, it is usually easier to sense and experience this, while in an urban setting, it takes some creativity to see those aspects of nature. If you teach in a city that has some nice parks, it might be lovely to offer a class in the park. If the beach is an option, the contact with the sand can be nice, as long as it’s not so windy. Other times, it makes more sense to bring relics of the earth element to the class: stones to hold during meditation, a small tub of sand for yogis to plunge their hands in.  Make it your own! Go for walks and look around: what is solid, stable, heavy, slow, and dark? Let the earth element bring an awareness to your yoga and your time off the mat and outside of the classroom!

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!


Play Ball!

Leading a fun and focused kids’ yoga class can be an easy task if you simply use a ball! An old-school, readily-accessible, ever-popular ball. A collection of various sized balls can create a collection of yoga-based games and activities ready to play in no time at all.

Plank Pinball: Players come into plank pose in a circle. Roll a beach ball or two (or more) into the middle of the circle. Players hit the ball with their arms/hands, keeping it within the circle. Add to the challenge if you have a big class by having a couple kids come into poses (like warrior or dog) in the middle of the circle acting as bumpers and deflecting the ball as it moves past. If kids get tired, have some switch to reverse table and whack the ball with their feet instead.

Plow Pass: This is a fun relay race. Divide the class into teams and have them line up on their backs, head-to-feet. The first player on each team hold the ball with their hands, lift it above their chest and grab it with their feet. Keeping the ball in their feet, they carefully lower it to the next player’s hands. That player then grabs the ball with their hands, lifts it above their chest and passes it to their feet. The feet lower and pass it to the next person’s waiting hands. Continue until everyone has handled the ball.

Over Under: Again, divide the class into teams. Each team stands in a line. The front of the line holds a ball. When you say, “Go” the player with the ball passes it between their legs to the person behind them. The second player lifts the ball up and passes it over their head (in a backbend) to the third person. That player passes it under their legs, and so on. You could do this in a circle as a whole-group activity and include several balls of different sizes in the race.

Warrior Catch: Either as a whole group in a circle, in teams or pairs, kids come into a warrior pose. Announce which warrior pose everyone should come into (warrior 1, 2, or 3). Then the warrior play catch with the ball, holding the posture while both throwing and catching. After a couple of tosses, switch which warrior pose they hold. Repeat. You could really kick up the challenge by using other poses, like boat, dog, or happy baby.

Orange You Grateful: Kids sit in a tight circle, knee-to-knee. The first child holds a ball in their feet and says, “Orange you grateful for ________”. Then they pass the ball to the next player using only their feet. That child then shares what they are grateful for.

Silly Story Ball: On a big beach ball, write the names of various poses all over it. To play, kids stand in a circle and toss the ball to one another. When a child catches the ball, he looks at his right thumb. Whatever pose his thumb is touching is the pose the class does and the player starts a story with that pose. If his thumb landed on “boat“, then everyone would do boat pose and he’d start a story, “Once upon a time, a boat was floating on a stormy sea”. Then he’d throw the ball to someone else and wherever their thumb lands is the next pose to do and incorporate into the story. Encourage imagination and silliness! Continue until everyone has had a turn.

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!

Sound: More Than Meets the Ear

When you hear a bell ringing, you are listening to energy making a journey. -Sarah Schain

Sound is an important part of the human experience. Just think about how music makes you feel! Songs, their melodies and rhythm, their patterns and harmonies can make us get up and dance joyfully or sit quietly and feel pain.

An article by Sarah Schain describes sound like this: “Everything that exists in the universe is energy.  We are all forms of energy. Sound is created by “sound energy” or additionally thought of as “mechanical energy”.  The thoughts and feelings we have vibrate at specific frequencies.  Frequencies can best be thought of in terms of musical notes. So, simply speaking; we are each individual energy forms vibrating at various and uniquely personalized frequencies.  Imagine that the feeling of happiness vibrates at a higher frequency than the feeling of sadness.  Envision each note on a piano scale correlating with a different feeling…..  You could answer the question “How are you feeling?” with a musical tune instead of a word! ”

As far back as the 17th century, scientists noticed that objects tend to begin synchronistic movements based on sound. Two pendulums placed next to each other eventually start swinging at the same tempo. Don’t believe me? Check out this video of 32 pendulums syncing up all on their own. Amazing, right?

So obviously sound waves have power. And water is an ideal carrier of sound vibrations. When you strike a chime or a gong, the air surrounding the chime also vibrates. The vibrations  spread quickly through our bodies, which are more than 80% water and this results in a very delicate massage of internal organs and even cells. Your body is literally bathed in the sound waves.

Harness that power, that universal energy, and use it to create an experience that will resonate with your kids long after the sound disappears.

  • Tibetan singing bowls are said to recreate the universal original harmonic frequency and stimulate the body to rediscover its own organic vibration. When exposed to the powerful vibrations of a singing bowl, the body is able to retune itself to its original, healthy frequency. This makes us feel more settled and calm. Tibetan singing bowls are easily purchased online and come in a variety of sizes and corresponding tones. You can also purchase singing bowl songs to use in class. Invite children to listen for the sound that seems furthest away and follow that tone until it disappears. When their chosen sound is gone, they choose another tone to follow. This keeps them focused, with their thoughts filtered out by the sound. Play the bowls (or the recorded bowl sounds) fairly loudly to recreate the strong vibrations. You can even place the bowls and the children’s bellies when you play them for an immediate recognition of the vibrations.
  • If you have access to a gong, your kids are in for a beautiful, relaxing treat. There’s something magical about a gong’s vibrations that just wash over and through your body. Have children come into Corpse Pose (simply lying flat on their backs, eyes closed) and begin to gently play the gong. At first, the sound may be overwhelming or strange to them. But eventually, the vibrations help the children calm down and even drift to sleep. If you don’t have a gong, you can find gong sounds on YouTube. Like the Tibetan singing bowls, you’ll want the volume to be fairly loud to create strong sound waves.
  • Try a walking meditation with little jingle bells! Give each child a jingle bell (or 2 if you have enough) to hold with their “monkey toes”. Then, very slowly, begin to walk. You want to be so careful, so mindful and smooth, that you don’t hear any jingles at all. I like to tell my kids to pretend they are walking in slow-motion on the moon. Make it a partner activity by having one child walk silently with a bell to their partner across the room. When they arrive, they jingle the bell and pass it to their partner to walk back without noise.
  • A great way to practice mindful listening is to use tingsha bells18402888735_434c64bd9a_z. Tingsha bells are like tiny cymbals joined by a leather strap that, when struck, produce a lovely lingering tone. Have children sit up tall on the floor (or in their chairs if practicing at school), eyes closed, palms up on their laps. Tell them their palms are going to act as extra ears, sensitive to sound waves (a science lesson, too!). Ring the tingsha once and as long as they hear the sound, their palms remain up. When they no longer hear the tone, they turn their palms down. Try this a couple of times. Then, you can use it to quiet the kids throughout the school day. When they hear the chime, they turn on their super-sensitive ears and listen for the end of the chime. Don’t have a tingsha bell? Any chime or bell can work.

Staying Active in a Winter Wonderland

Kids are inherently more active in the summer due to the freedom from school and, of course, the summer weather and the activities it brings.  Depending on where you live, keeping them active in the winter months can be challenging due to the cold weather outside.  Winter time, especially after the holidays, seems to be when my kids want to 23198553392_e8c4a14f20_zplay video games the most.  They complain it’s too cold to ride bikes, jump on the trampoline, hike in the nearest park, play laser tag in the yard or even run with the dogs.  It’s time to become creative.  Here are some tried and true tactics that have worked in my home to keep my boys active and off the couch.

Find a space in the house for some indoor activities like jumping rope or hula hooping.  This is usually our garage with the car pulled out.  And yes, I have attempted to teach my kids the age old practice of the hula hoop.  This usually gets us all into fits of laughter, which is also a good activity burner.  Turning on the radio or putting on some old records/CDs and having an old fashion free dance session also turns into fits of laughter for us.  Don’t forget those old games of hide and go seek, building an obstacle course (you’re gonna have to be ok with the couch cushions coming off for this one), or a scavenger hunt where you hide items around the house for them to find.  You can make all of this as high or low energy level as you need.

Check your local parks and recreation department.  We are very fortunate where we live to have a robust recreation department that offers classes and sports year-round.  Indoor sports leagues include soccer, basketball, volleyball, kickball and the dreaded dodgeball (or is that just me?).  If your local recreation department doesn’t make the grade, find “open hours” at places like MyGym, an athletics center, a gymnastics facility, an indoor pool, roller/ice skating rinks, indoor wall climbing facilities, indoor inflatable 22698676857_dd0e6447ef_zplay areas (such as Pump it Up), and indoor trampoline parks are up and coming as well.  Kidding Around Yoga also has kid and family Yoga classes all year round, all over the world. There are a few outdoor sports too.  They do involve playing in the snow like downhill skiing, cross country skiing, tubing, sledding and outdoor ice skating (ok, the last one would be hard in snow but you get my drift).

Don’t be afraid of the video games IF they are the active kind.  I’m thinking specifically of the Xbox Kinnect, Nintendo Wii, or Playstation Move where the games are played through bodily movements (not just the thumb and finger kind).  My kids have literally broken a sweat to some of their favorite action games and I sometimes can sucker them into a “dance off” on Just Dance (adult and kids versions).   That being said, join in on the fun with them!

I am also not above bribing my children.  When the pleas to play video22252190290_d8460be5c1_z games and boredom is too much to handle, I admittedly will cave.  However, it will most likely follow a statement like, “If you do (fill in the blank) for 30 (or more!) minutes, then you can play a video game for 30 minutes.”  Fill in the blank could actually be getting them outside playing fetch with Fido, helping Daddy with yardwork or Mommy with housework.  I also like the idea of a fitness challenge like a jumping jack challenge or even a squat challenge.  Let the child pick the challenge or just do different fitness activities.  And by all means, get the whole family involved.  That way, it’s more fun for everyone to take turns picking the challenge or the activity. The fitness activity can be as simple as arm circles or as fun as some family yoga.   Remember, the best way to get your child active is to join them…and have a blast making some memories this winter.

Winter Obstacle Course

The Holiday Season is almost here! I previously did a Halloween obstacle course class that my classes adored! It was challenging, fun, and relevant to yoga. These are my favorite ideas for a Winter & Holiday themed obstacle course! Feel free to print them out, glue them onto cardboard paper, and laminate them for easier use!

Polar Bear Crawl: Walk in your Downward Dog like an Arctic polar bear!1

Snowflake Breathing: Practice snowflake breathing with pretend snowflakes. Try to breathe all the snowflakes into a bucket!


 Snow Angels: Spread your arms and legs out wide and make a snow angel with your body!



 Balance Snowball: Put a white pom pom ball on a spoon. See if you can balance the snowball on the spoon from one end of a yoga strap to the other!


Ice Skating: Move and slide your feet across the floor like an ice skater on felt pieces. See if you can be strong and still in Dancer’s pose!


 Hot Chocolate Breathing: Holding a paper cup, pretend like you have steaming hot chocolate in it. Breathe in the nice chocolate smell and breathe out to cool your hot chocolate down.


Ski Jump: The ski jumper makes turns around yoga blocks and lands in chair pose. 7

 Snowy Tree: Balance a foam snowflake on top of your head while balancing in tree pose.



Holiday Lights Meditation: Focus on a tea light candle and practice deep breathing.9

 Sledding: Pretend to go sledding in your seated forward fold. Watch out for those bumps!



Freezing Toega: Pick up the little snowballs with your toes and put them on a plate!11

 Penguin Waddle: Walk slowly and waddle across a yoga strap like a penguin!12

I hope you enjoy this obstacle course with your family and students!

Halloween Yoga

Halloween is often a very exciting time of year for children . Between the spooky decorations, the piles of candy, and the pressure of choosing the perfect costume, kids 21304223858_45452b009d_zcan get pretty wound up. These Yoga activities don’t just settle the excess energy, but also add to the Halloween celebration.

I like to start my kids’ Yoga classes with a story, and this one is about Trick-or-Treating. (As you use it, change the children’s names to those in your class and add in any costumes you’d like to include):

One of my favorite things to do at Halloween is to carve Jack-o-Lanterns, and the bigger the better! First I pick out a bright orange pumpkin from the pumpkin patch (pumpkin roll, roll like a ball). Then I scrape out the pumpkin, really digging out the sides (Mula Bandha rolls: cross-legged and circle the rib cage in big circles left and right). Finally, I carve a face – sometimes scary and sometimes funny. What kind of face do you like on your pumpkin (show face)? Then I get to put a candle (shoulderstand) in it and display it on my front porch.
Once my pumpkin is ready, it’s time to go trick-or-treating! This year I’m dressing up as a witch with a point hat (triangle pose). Plus I’m riding a broom (chair pose, leaning left and right like you are riding through the sky)! Wouldn’t it be funny if the broom were very fat (goddess pose)?

I get to walk through the neighborhood with my friends this year, and you’ll never guess what their costumes are! Ben is dressing up as a troll, you know th9238518689_1b5e862f1c_ze little creature that lives under the bridge (bridge pose). Whitney is going to be a spider (spider pose). I wonder if she can spin a web? Ethan and Aly are dressing up as werewolves (up dog and down dog). Abby and Avery are both going as cats (cat pose). Cierra is a bat (eagle pose) and Loga is dressed as a lion (lion pose)…add more costumese/names…

It’s time to go! Remember, we are just going to keep a few pieces of candy, like the Tootsie Rolls (lie across the mat and roll it up around you). The rest we are going to give to the homeless shelter and send to the troops overseas. That way, everyone can share in the Halloween fun!
There are two different breaths I like to teach in a Halloween class. First is pumpkin breath. Inhale to fill your chest and round out the belly. Exhale and imagine that you are pulling out seeds from deep inside. These seeds are for things you don’t want to grow, like anger and sadness. The second breath is ghost breath. It’s a normal inhale through the nose, and then make a “Booooooo” sound on the exhale. You can be quiet ghosts, silly ghosts, opera ghosts, any kind you’d like.

Other activities for your Halloween themed class:
• Get a big bag of pompoms and “Bob for Apples”, but this time using your toes to pick up the pompoms and put them into an empty bucket (like one used for trick-or-treating). Kidding Around Yoga calls this game Toe-Ga and even has a song for it!

• Turn the lights off and practice candle gazing (tratak)
• Play Freeze Float – turn on some spooky music (like Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter) and float around the room, just as a ghost would float. When the music stops, you freeze and try to balance in whatever position you’re in. Then the music starts again and you go back to floating.
• Play The Ghosts All Fly – This game is also called, “The Big Wind Blows”. Everyone stands on a mat in a big circle, the farther away the better. The leader takes away her mat and stands in the center. She announces a command like, “The ghosts all fly if they like candy corn” or “The ghosts all fly if they eat pumpkin seeds”. Then anyone who does the activity the leader described runs to a new mat and holds a Yoga pose (can be their choice or one they’ve been instructed to do), but not the one on either side of them. On19790307691_0400ddac58_ze person is always left without a mat. The person without a mat becomes the leader. Get really silly with the commands!

Happy haunting!