Friday 30th June - Down (Dog) with the Kids - doing yoga with children

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. My children are nearly grown-ups now (my daughter will be 21 in August and my son will be 17) but if I had to go back and do it all again one of the things I'd do differently is to involve them more in yoga.

They grew up with it being part of their lives - they saw me practicing, teaching classes, they listened to my music, and leafed through the books that were always lying around - but they didn't really do yoga themselves. I didn't invite them to. I wanted to keep it to myself. My time on the mat was just for me, where I could let go of the distractions of the day and drop the busyness of being a working mum.  I'd wait until they were asleep or at school and do my practice on my own. If they interrupted me I would stop, breathe deeply and try not to get cross, deal with whatever it was that needed dealing with and then start again. But I think my kids missed out on learning some valuable skills that could have helped them through the inevitable challenges of school life and I think we all missed out on some fun. 

In the USA there's a growing movement to teach yoga and meditation to children and classes are being introduced as part of the curriculum in many schools.  It has lots of benefits - getting children moving between lessons where they sit at desks for hours at a time, calming busy minds, teaching tolerance and compassion for themselves and their peers, teaching them to breathe well, be mindful of their posture and of their habits and helping them to overcome anxiety and stress during exams are just a few.  And they are really seeing good results. 

Here in the UK we're a few steps behind with this movement but it is starting to happen. Schools are realising the benefits that yoga offers and how it helps the children's behaviour and performance and they are beginning to schedule it into the day. Previously, if yoga has been offered at all it has been as an after-school activity but studies have found that doing the class within the school day, especially after lunch break with all it's high energy fun and games, leads to better focus and more productive learning.  Click here to read an interesting article from a class teacher from a UK school explaining why yoga has been so useful.

Children's lives are busy and scheduled and pressured, so anything that helps them feel better about school, their work, their abilities and their bodies has to be a good thing.  Just as with ourselves, it is so important to learn acceptance of the things that we can't change, and encouragement and empowerment to change the things we can and yoga has all the elements to help them do that.

Here are a few resources that you might like to look into yourself or share with friends and family members:

Both of my children found the relaxation cd's by Relax Kids very helpful at bedtime when they were little - lots of lovely stories and gentle tunes that will take them on guided meditation to help them get to sleep. 

Sing Song Yoga has dvd's and an app where you can follow along with a group of children doing yoga class. The instructions to get into the poses are sung by the teacher to help keep their attention - it's ideal for the little ones. 

If you are, or know, a teacher who might be interested in including yoga classes in the school day, take a look at www.yogaatschool.org.uk which offers training courses so that class teachers can learn basic yoga postures and lesson plans to share with their students.

For teenagers, yoga can be so very empowering. It teaches them self-reliance, shows them how to focus on their strengths and how to quieten all those busy and often negative thoughts and self-doubts. General yoga classes are often a little long and adult-oriented to hold their attention so a number of yoga studios are now including special classes for teenagers into their schedules.  Red Hot Yoga in Guildford (who don't just offer hot yoga) have a dedicated Teenagers' class on Monday evenings that is worth checking out. For those who aren't living in Surrey a Google search for teenage yoga will help to locate your nearest one. 

There are a number of books on Amazon about yoga for children. I recommend choosing one that incorporates stories and games for the little ones, and just inviting the older ones to join you on the mat can be good fun and a great way to connect. My son now does a bit of yoga to stretch after his runs and workouts and my daughter knows how to rock a good tree pose. How about you - do you share your yoga with the children in your life?


 Yoga with my daughter - Rachel and me in Tree Pose (Vrksasana) on my Yoga Retreat in Goa, India in February 

This Week's Interesting Word...

I came across this word on a Pinterest post. I liked the definition because I think it describes why many people come to yoga - they want to make a change. Some want physical changes - to move more easily in the body and to become strong and flexible. For others it's more of a spiritual thing - it helps them look at the way they view themselves and the world and to change their behaviours and habits so they can live a life that flows more freely. And for some it's a combination of both. But although I like this word and it came up a number of times during my research,  I couldn't find it listed in the dictionary. So maybe it's not a real word after all....  

So let's go for this one instead. It has a similar meaning and it is in the dictionary...

This Week's Recipe... Mango Ice-cream

I really enjoyed this healthy ice-cream over the hot weather. It's got just 4 ingredients and only takes a few minutes to make - there's none of that 'putting it into the freezer, getting it out and stirring it, and putting it back for a bit longer' stuff involved as there is with some homemade ice-creams - it's ready to serve immediately you've made it. Yummy! I must credit the website I got it from: www.happyhealthymama.com - it's a US website, hence the measurements are done by cups. I used a coffee mug to measure mine. 

You will need: 

A blender, food processor or Nutribullet

3 cups of frozen mango chunks (available at most larger supermarkets)

half a cup of tinned coconut milk

half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 - 4 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey to sweeten to taste (I used just one tablespoon initially and I had to add more)

And here's how to make it:

Put all the ingredients into the blender and whizz until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.  

Please note: I did encounter a problem whilst blending! The mixture got stuck a number of times because of the frozen chunks and I needed to scrape it down and stir to free it all up. But, even though I had to do that a few times, it was worth it - it ended up as a lovely smooth, creamy ice-cream and I ate it straight away! If you don't want to eat it immediately you can put it in a tupperware in the freezer for later use. 

This Week's Musical Offering... 

This track is completely gorgeous and a bit hypnotic but beware, it might get stuck in your head and you might, as I did, find yourself humming and hey-ohhing the tune for some time! It's called Lullaby and it's by Tina Malia.  

 

This Week's Video...  is a very short documentary by some children asking other children what they think about yoga... it's sweet...

 Enjoy your yoga this week and, until next week, Namaste and thanks for reading.