The end of winter is finally upon us. So as the snow begins melting and the green buds start peeking out from the hibernating trees, it’s time to start planning, and planting a yoga garden for your children. For a kid’s yoga class, a gardening theme is a perfect way to welcome back spring.
One of my favorite centering practices for kid’s yoga is using sounds. When children have to listen closely to sounds, it helps their brains focus on just one activity. They have the chance to mono-task, rather than constantly multitasking. For spring, find a recording of birds singing. Of course, if you are lucky enough to practice yoga outside, just listen to the actual sounds of nature around you. Allow children to sit in any comfortable position and listen to the birds, not just with their ears but with all of their senses. Can they feel the sound waves of the birds’ chirping on their skin? What color would the bird songs be? Would the song they hear smell like lemons? Bread? Flowers? After listening for a while, challenge them to really listen for bird sounds during the day as they are playing outside.
A story about a Yoga Garden is a nice way to introduce and review poses. Some poses to consider including in your imaginary walk through a garden could include: flowers (lotus), frog, fish, grass (reed), butterflies (cobbler), rabbit, snake, rock (child’s pose), tree, lizard, and dead bug (happy baby). Humming bee breath (plug the ears and hum on the exhale, noticing the calm feeling that settles on you after) fits the theme nicely, especially if you share how important bees are to the world’s food production (50%-80% of the world’s food supply is affected by honey bee pollination).
A group game of “Pass the Flower” is challenging, but a great way to encourage cooperation and build those core muscles. Players lay on their backs, arms overhead and legs long, in a line. The first child takes a flower (real or fake) in his hands. He reaches his feet to the ceiling and passes the flowers from his hands to his feet. Then he lowers his feet, still holding the flowers, to pass them to the next child’s hands. She moves the flowers into her own feet, and lowers them into the hands of the next yogi in the line. Another activity that encourages observation and teamwork uses the Beatles’ song, “Here Comes the Sun”. One child is the “sun” and holds a big yellow ball (or a picture of a sun). The rest of the children are flowers and lie on their back. Their legs are the flower stems and their feet are the petals. As the sun moves across the sky to the music, arcing slowly and moving up and down, the flowers follow the sun’s path. Kids can switch positions to try both roles. The sun has to watch the flowers to be sure she isn’t going to fast, and the flowers have to watch the sun to follow his movements.
Now that your flowers are blooming, it’s time to smell them! Bunny Breath is a perfect breath practice to relieve any last bits of tension and encourage long exhales. Have children imagine they are holding a flower (or they could make a tissue paper flower as a craft – see www.wikihow.com/Make-Tissue-Paper-Flowers) and take four quick sips of air in through their noses, like they are sniffing the flower. Then take a long exhale through their mouth with a sound, like it was the most beautiful scent they’d ever experienced. Repeat Bunny Breath a few times. Invite children to describe what feeling their flower smelled like (peace, energy, triumph, etc.)
When it’s time to rest in Savasana, invite them to create their own Secret Garden. Perhaps revisiting the bird songs from the earlier centering practice would help the young yogis settle into their gardens. An envelope of flower or vegetable seeds is a nice takeaway from the Yoga Garden practice, their “OM-work” being to plant the seeds and when they sprout, give them to someone who needs a little extra kindness. May your yoga garden grow flowers and fruits for years to come!