Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Resuming a Regular Yoga Practice as a Mom

Urdhva dhanurasana

Much has changed since I first wrote about my post-natal yoga practice.  For four years now, I've been doing what I can, when I can, which meant that my practice was broken up into a few brief sessions a day.

I've made the empowered decision to take back my practice time.  My son is at an age where I can reason with him a little better.  And I really believe that he needs to see me meditate and practice yoga so he knows that it is a significant part of who I am.  No longer am I going to wait until he's fast asleep at night before rolling out my mat.  And instead of just working out the kinks from a hard day of stay-at-home-mom-activities, I will work toward a practice that is consistent in developing my body, heart, and mind.

The Ashtanga Primary Series is my main go-to practice.  I've always loved the sequence, the routine, and the rituals and am really drawn to it these days.  Though it usually takes me at least 75 minutes to complete, shorter forms are presented in David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga Manual that make having a consistent practice truly attainable.  

So I have my practice method and time (usually in the afternoon before making dinner) along with strong internal motivation.

Now, how is this practice done with my son constantly demanding my attention and without resorting to the TV babysitter?  The answer continues to be: with practice.

Upavista konasana with a helpful adjustment

I try setting him up with art projects, play scenes with toys in his room, and the task of picking strawberries on our balcony.  But everything is more fun with me accompanying him, and eventually he comes stomping on my yoga mat.

Just like with Vipassana meditation, where everything happening in the present moment is included in the experience, my asanas and ujjayi breathing are approached in the same manner.  And I notice:

This is how it feels to be interrupted
This is how it feels to be annoyed
This is how it feels to be needed

I have to stop at least once to read books, watch him perform his own made up asanas, or stop him from lighting an art project on fire in a candle flame that was way too accessible for him (that was a close one!).

The important piece in this endeavor is that I continue after the interruptions and complete my yoga practice. I do so, knowing that I've satisfied my needs as well as my son's. And I notice:

This is how it feels to be connected


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kids Yoga - My Many Colored Days

A woman, who has taught yoga to adults for over a decade, has a child.  She loves her child dearly.  She loves her friends' children as well.  So you would think that teaching a yoga class for children would be an ideal fit for her, right?

This is what my friend thought when she asked me to teach a yoga class at her house for preschool-aged children.  With no experience teaching children other than my own son (who is only interested if he can jump on me while in a risky position), I was hesitant, but this was a single, donation-based class benefiting the preschool.  I figured that it would be a good test to see if this was indeed an option for me to pursue while I care for my son in these early years.

Once I agreed, immediately the ideas rushed into my head.  I remembered reading about how colored scarves are a great yoga prop for kids and imagined children twirling around with chiffon rainbows.  A fellow teacher recommended using books as the theme for classes.  I did an internet search and found a lesson plan based on "My Many Colored Days" by Dr. Seuss, which we already happened to have in my son's library.

It's a fabulous book that encourages children to become familiar with their emotions - perfect for a yoga class where we will introduce mindfulness practices.  Inspired, I quickly wrote up an outline for asanas that could correspond to the animals, colors, and feelings presented in the book (see bottom of this post for details).

I was so ready!

Did the class go as planned?  Um, no.

The yoga space that my friend offered was bordered by mounds of toys.  And not just any toys - NOISY toys.  Noisy toys that a child can ride on through the "yoga" room.  It was chaos and hard to control.  Basically, we adults did the practice while I tried to read the book and gently shout instructions.  Every once in while the children would stop and join us.  But for most of the class, they just played while we practiced yoga to a child's book.

Afterwards, I vowed to myself that I would never teach yoga to preschoolers again.  However, now that many months have passed, I may be interested in trying again.  I've added the outline of the class I did, below.  If you're interested in teaching this, I'd suggest working with kids older than 4 years if you expect to stick with the plan.  And remove any distracting toys.  (Please let me know if you need any clarification by asking questions in the comments section.)

I suppose it doesn't matter if the children are able to sustain their attention through the entire class.  It is not important if they experience the lengthened periods of peace that we adults strive for.  I think that it's most important that children realize that there is a method that exists for attaining peace and one they can revisit over and over as they grow.  But for now, watching adults practice yoga and noticing how it affects them may be the best way to introduce yoga to very young children.  ~ Namaste~

My Many Colored Days - yoga class for 4-8 year olds

I.   Introduce theme and how it applies to yoga & our lives

II.  Introductions (singing while clapping)- say name and pick out a scarf
"My name is ____.  ____ is my name.  I like the color ____ " (as child picks out scarf).

III. Breathing exercise - awake to sensations inhaling & exhaling with scarf over face…then belly

IV.  Warm-up 
  • Wake-up body parts by brushing scarves over them
  • Cat/cow stretches --> child's pose 
  • 1 - 2 sun salutations if possible
V.    Read the book - Yoga poses by color
  • Red horse - Downward dog, Donkey kicks/handstand prep
  • Blue bird - Pigeon, Warrior 3 with airplane arms
  • Brown bear - Squat
  • Yellow busy bee - Twirl with scarves
  • Gray Owl - Freeze!  Mountain pose
  • Orange seal - Flow down to belly for cobra/seal
  • Green Fish - Roll over on back for fish pose
  • Purple dinosaur - Knees into chest
  • Pink flamingo - Rock n roll to stand --> Flamingo leg balance
  • Black wolf - Warrior 2, Squat --> sit on heels for lion's breath
  • Mixed up day - Choose pose from above based on how child feels
VI.   Seated reflection - Basic mindfulness instruction on belly breath

VII.  Savasana

VIII. End with Namaste song
"Every day is a happy day, when we say Namaste.  Respect to you, respect to me.  We live together peacefully."