School is out, but that doesn’t mean your kids can’t keep learning and growing all summer long. And what better way than through yoga, which offers something for everyone in the family—including fun! Moms, dads, and kids can get a workout together while learning how to link their minds and bodies through their breath, manage emotions in new ways, and stay flexible, fit and strong.
Yoga is completely portable: It can be done anywhere. So while you’re enjoying gorgeous summer weather, just grab a yoga mat, head outdoors to a nice grassy area, and strike some poses. Timothy, my four-year-old son, and I like to do that in Central Park. Timothy loves his Moodster yoga mat, and we take it with us in the stroller (while his twin brothers nap) and roll it out in the park so we can stretch, breathe, and soak up the sun.
First we start with Cat/Cow poses: Come on to all fours placing your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. On an inhalation open your heart, look up to the sky and lift your hips. On an exhalation, curl your chin to your chest and round your back like a Halloween cat. Continue arching and rounding for 8 to 10 breaths.
Then we move to Downward Dog: From all fours, tuck your toes under and stretch your legs out as you lift your hips up and back. Let your head drop forward and press your hands firmly into the ground. Lift your hips up as high as you can as you let your heels reach to the ground. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths and feel free to wag your tail or take your dog for a walk.
Peeing Dog: One of Timothy’s favorite poses is peeing dog! When you’re in downward dog, lift one leg [“OUT TO THE SIDE”?]up in the air and hold for 3 breaths, then switch to the other leg.
Warrior 2: From peeing dog, lower the lifted leg and bring that foot forward to the hands, moving into a lunge position. Press the heel of the outer foot down and come up to a standing position. Open your arms, hips, and waist to the side and stretch all the way through your arms in warrior 2. Hold for 5 breaths, then step back to downward dog before switching sides.
Tree Pose: From downward dog, hop or step to the front of your mat. Roll up to stand tall. Place your left foot on the upper inner right thigh or lower if too tricky to balance. Bring your hands to prayer position, or hold each other’s hands. Stay for as long as you can before switching sides.
Butterfly: Have a seat on your mat and place the soles of your feet together letting your knees drop open to the sides. Flap your wings like a butterfly and then let the legs stay open. Hold for 5 breaths and fold forward over the legs for 5 more breaths.
Ankle to Knee Pose: From butterfly, place one ankle atop the opposite knee, stacking the shins. Imagine fire logs one on top of another. Hold for 5 breaths, then switch sides. I love this hip-opening pose, and kids are so naturally flexible here. I want to encourage Timothy to keep his flexibility as he grows older.
Boat: While seated on the ground, stretch your legs straight out in front of you, then use your abdominal muscles to lift both legs up in the air (If it’s too difficult to keep your legs straight, you can bend them while you lift.) Hold boat pose. You can even sing “Row, row, row your boat.”
Sandwich Pose (Forward Bend): Lower your legs down and stretch them straight out in front of you. I like to imagine spreading something on one leg and then the other leg, or each half of the sandwich, then folding forward over both to taste it.
Lizard on a Rock: Finish with a fun partner pose. Someone assumes child’s pose position (as the rock) and the partner lies on top. If you’re the lizard basking in the sun, you can lie with your face open to the sky or lie on your belly. It is usually best to do this with someone of similar size and take turns as the rock. Or, if you’re practicing with a child, let him be the lizard and you be the rock.
When children learn to practice these poses on their own, they start to feel more connected and mindful of their bodies and their moods. Remind your little ones to take deep breaths whenever they are feeling frustrated or wound up. You can also practice a cooling breath when overheated: Just breathe in through the mouth.
Summer is the perfect opportunity to explore and grow, and yoga gives parents and children tools to open up and learn more about themselves and each other. I always discover something new about Timothy and myself when we’re on our mats.
Yoga is great for staying in the moment .And when we can be fully present with our kids, it’s the best gift we can give them.