The kids come into class excited and tired from the summer day.
To center them, I have them stand in a circle and have them toss an object to one another. I ask each child what their favorite nursery rhyme is.
After each child gets a chance to tell me, I tell them that yoga is like poetry and “music -- the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind.” (BKS Iyengar)
Following that, I recite this poem for them, to guide them through Sun Salutations:
Come, children now it is time to do
Sun Salutations they’re great for you.
Stand up tall, take your arms to the sky,
We bend forward and we hug our thighs.
Jump to downward dog, eager to move.
Then walk the plank, you are in a groove.
On the next breath become a snake
Return to dog and now stretch awake
Jump the feet in and become steady
Stand up again, repeat when ready.
I remind them that we are doing poetry with our bodies as we learn Sun Salutations, as we practice yoga (by connecting body and mind).
I ask them to notice how the shape of each pose and its name are connected.
We break the Sun Salutation down into its smaller pieces.
"Lengthen your arms way high over your head, and lengthen from head to toe like you are trying to reach the sun," I tell them as we reach up to Upward Salute. We repeat Mountain Pose to Forward Bend several times to make it fun. I tell them to step their feet a little apart and bend at the waist to go into Forward Bend. "Relax your head, relax your arms and feel like a doll waiting to be picked back up," I add. We learn the next two lines of the poem.
Next I have the kids jump from Forward Bend to Downward Dog, and back in again. "From Forward bend, jump your legs back!" I ask them. "Like a dog waking up from a long nap, stretch up towards your bottom and back towards your feet," I tell them while they're in Downward Dog.
For the jump, I give them something to jump over, like a block or a small mat." Maybe high jumps, slow jumps, far jumps, short jumps. Lots of jumps! This is fun and refines the children's gross motor skills. We then repeat the next two lines of the poem.
"From Downward dog, walk your hands forward like you are creating a plank of wood, slowly straightening your body into a line like a wooden plank or door," I tell them, guiding them to Plank Pose. "Who can be the straightest plank? Who can not wiggle going into plank?," I ask them. There are even more challenges one can do with kids as they walk back and forth in and out of Plank Pose. We continue to learn the poem.
I then guide them to their bellies, into Cobra Pose. "Lay on your belly with the palms of your hands on the floor next to your sides. Keep your elbows close to your body. Inhale and lift your trunk and chest like a snake," I tell them.
Now they are ready and itching to practice the entire thing! We go through the last few lines of the poem, and I help them help them learn it, then go through the entire sequence with them as they repeat the poem.
Then I lead them to rest, guiding them to lie down on their back. "Listen to your breathing," I say to them. After some time to rest, I guide them to their right side to then sit up.
We recite the poem all together one more time before I dismiss them from class.
Ashley Fontes is a mother of three beautiful children and live in California. She's spent the last eight years being a mom, teaching yoga, and writing children’s stories. Her goal is to create children’s books that stand as thought provoking-stories, and also include hidden surprises such as yoga sequences.
Ashley finds inspiration all around her, yet her children are often her biggest inspiration. Her yoga practice has at times been suddenly interrupted by poems coming to her. Outside of writing and yoga, she is a stalwart mental health advocate -- especially for utilizing yoga as a co-treatment for mental health disorders. She is also an advocate for deaf and hard of hearing children learning through American Sign Language, as their primary language. You can learn more about her at www.rootedwithgrace.com.
This week, we go over the Turtle Pose. Inspired by the patient turtle, this pose increases mental focus and stretches the arms, back, and legs. This pose looks like a turtle withdrawing into its shell!