As part of her yoga and parenting series, Poppy Pickles decided to do a proper kids yoga lesson with her two children. After her daughter’s recent complaint that she didn’t like yoga, because it kept taking her Mummy away from spending time with her, Poppy took a different approach. This is what happened…
Over the past six years, yoga has taken me on a journey to myself. Going on a yoga teacher training course has accelerated that journey and sometimes the parts of myself I get to see aren’t all that perfect. But it has given me so much, not least a way of turning my ideas on their head and refreshing body, mind and soul.
The rest of my family unit are not so keen on the yoga though. My husband is supportive at all times, but it has meant a lot more time on his own with the kids, and the children have had to adjust to me being either busy on my mat at home, or busy on my mat somewhere else. My mat has a lot to answer for. And the truth is, that when I pass my teacher training course (whenever that may be) I will be yoga-ing away from them even more.
So, I thought it was about time that I gave the children a proper yoga lesson, so that they could experience it for themselves, and also so that they could see me in my guise as yoga teacher.
Planning The Lesson
I decided to keep it simple, whilst not over-simplifying it. I had a feeling that they wouldn’t appreciate me making it all babyish, so stuck to a traditional sequence, putting a handstand in there as I feel that this pose gives a great sense of achievement. I planned for an hour long lesson, which was possibly a little over-ambitious, but any less than that doesn’t really give the body and mind time to adjust and progress.
I laid out the room like a proper yoga studio, clearing the furniture in the sitting room and providing them with a mat each and plenty of equipment. I was determined that this was going to be a proper yoga lesson with them both staying focused and not getting silly.
Getting Started With Kids Yoga
The lesson started with the crucial decision of which mat to use. Rosie chose the pink mat, of course, and Daniel had the lime green one. We started with Tadasana, or mountain pose. I got them to lift their toes and spread them back down. Rosie’s toes spread out like a little starfish, while Daniel’s toes stubbornly stayed in a little wedge : the first interesting difference in their bodies.
We imagined we were mountains, with a firm base, and then our arms stretched up to the sky. After this stretching up my son collapsed to the floor dramatically. ‘I’m exhausted!’ he protested. This lesson was going to be harder than I imagined…
We moved on to Tree pose. Impressively they both managed to get their feet up high onto the opposite thigh, but their little sapling bodies struggled to balance and they both waved and wobbled like trees in a gale. I took Daniel to the wall, but determined Rosie stayed on her mat and eventually they both managed to stay upright with their arms stretched up for about a millisecond, before crashing dramatically to the floor.
I decided not to worry about the fact that they were unable to maintain any pose for more than the blink of an eye and decided to keep moving through the poses at a fast pace, letting them hit the poses for a brief moment and then trying them again. By the third time they were both able to hold the poses for a little longer and were making better shapes.
The funniest pose we tried together was Warrior 3. We tried it a few times both sides and eventually they managed to go into the pose and hold it without wibbling, wobbling and catapulting themselves across the room in an explosion of giggles.
Keeping Them Going!
The crucial difference between adults and children is that they don’t pretend to find something interesting. Adults might lose focus during a class, but they pretend they haven’t because they care about what other people think. My children don’t have that issue.
As their interest began to wane again after what seemed like an age to them but what was actually about ten minutes I began to put more imagery into the poses, and give each pose more of a story. For Virabhadrasana 1 I talked about the warrior Virabhadra, summoned into being by an anguished Shiva. ‘Make your legs strong and firm, shoot your arms up to the sky!’ I instructed, which they duly did with serious faces.
I strategically cut a few poses and it was time for handstand against the wall. Rosie, who has given this pose a go before after watching me, whizzed up into the pose and hung there like a little pro. Daniel was not so keen and felt a bit discombobulated being upside down, collapsing down and not wanting to try it again. But I didn’t want to leave him feeling that he couldn’t do it – it’s not healthy for him to feel that there’s something Rosie can do that he can’t.
So we tried starting from downward dog and walking his feet up the wall, which he did with ease, and then I stood behind him and he lifted one leg off the wall at a time. As I was supporting him I was able to give his legs a boost and he could then straighten his arms. Of course Rosie then wanted to try this method too. He came down with a sense of pride that he could do something he hadn’t initially thought he could do. (Phew).
The End Of The Lesson
Incredibly, the lesson actually lasted a whole hour. The time seemed to go by extremely fast as I was constantly ‘walking the tightrope of their energy and attention levels’ as my husband put it.
By the time we got to the end of the lesson the children had been properly exercised. They wanted to skip Savasana, but I told them it was the most important pose of all, and the one pose they mustn’t skip.
They lay down side by side and I covered their eyes and bodies. I checked that they were central on the mat, and then adjusted their featherweight shoulderblades, smoothing them down their backs. ‘Keep doing that Mummy!’ said Rosie happily.
Then as the lights went out and I began to go through the body, telling them to relax each part, a mini miracle occurred. They both went completely still, not a flicker of movement. Peace.
After the lesson I asked the children for some feedback on their first ever yoga lesson. Daniel’s feedback was succinct – ‘It was good’. I asked him what his favourite pose was and without hesitation he said ‘Savasana’, because it was ‘very relaxing’, and ‘like an organised snuggle’. His second favourite pose was ‘Warrior 1 as I felt it came naturally to me’.
Rosie did enjoy it but she admitted, ‘I found it quite hard’. Her favourite pose was also Savasana, because she found it ‘kind of quiet’ and, she said, ‘because it doesn’t hurt – it’s very still and peaceful and you made me feel heavy with your words.’
Her second favourite pose was handstand, because, ‘ it was so amazing to be upside down and looking at the world from the other side.’
What I Learnt From My Children
Just because bodies are little it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bendy and flexible. My daughter found it very hard due to her naturally tight hamstrings so I had to take that into account while not discouraging her.
Praise is transformative for children. When I pointed out that Daniel was doing a good Warrior 1 pose he perked up and listened much better when I corrected him later on.
Children need rest and relaxation as much as adults. Their response to Savasana surprised me as I didn’t think they’d be able to be as still or as quiet.
Your own children are your best critics. They will tell you how things are without any sugar coating.