Children’s Yoga: Take a (Virtual) Trip to the Zoo!
By Gina Mead, LMA yoga instructor
In children’s yoga, we use our imaginations to help foster creativity and engage kids in the practice of yoga. We also use age-appropriate imagery and language to make the art and science of yoga more accessible to children and meet them where they are, from a developmental standpoint. For most kids, asking them to “draw the earth’s energy up through their legs in Tadasana” (or other similar language often used in adult yoga classes) would simply be lost on them. Instead, we dance, we sing, we play, we practice yoga postures and sometimes….we go to the zoo!
Following is part of a zoo-themed yoga sequence you can practice with your children at home. Use your imagination and discover other animals to become. There are no hard and fast rules in children’s yoga, so let loose, connect with your kiddos and have fun!
Trip to the Zoo
Before we go to the zoo, it’s important to have the right gear. Be sure to put on your backpack (simulate putting on a pretend backpack), wear your comfortable shoes (simulate putting on shoes), put on your hat (simulate putting on a hat) bring your sunscreen, grab a healthy snack and some water. Here we go! (Begin walking in place, heading to the “zoo”)
BROWN BEAR What’s this?
It’s our first animal–it’s a brown bear!
For brown bear, stand tall on your mat. Spread your legs wide, because brown bears are B-I-G! And, brown bears have long claws that they use for fishing. Show me your long bear claws (simulate making long claws with your fingers). Bend at the waist and start fishing like a brown bear (sweep right arm down to the ground, then left arm, acting like you are a bear fishing in water). Bears also pick berries to eat. Stand tall, with your legs spread wide and begin reaching one arm at a time into the air, acting like you are picking berries from a tree. (Pose benefits: hamstring and side body stretch, improved balance)
Now, here’s the next animal. It’s a FLAMINGO
Did you know that flamingos often stand on one leg? They even sleep on one leg! Can you imagine sleeping while standing on one leg?!? For flamingo, stand tall on your mat. Press your feet down into the ground. Put your hands on your hips. Bend your right knee and raise your right leg up, like a flamingo. See how straight, tall and steady you can keep your body. Hold for a few breaths. Now, switch legs. This time, raise your left leg up and see if you can add flap your flamingo wings. Do you feel more balanced with your arms on your hips or flapping them in the sky? (Pose benefits: balance, body awareness)
Next up is LION
Come down to your hands and knees on your mat, just like a lion. Take a deep breath in, open your mouth wide and let out a great, big, friendly lion R-O-A-R! Repeat 2x. (Pose benefits: releases tension and calms the mind)
Next, let’s go into the BUTTERFLY house
Sit down on your mat, bend your legs and bring the soles of your feet together, making butterfly wings. Bring your feet in as close as possible to your body. Begin slowly flapping your butterfly legs and arms. Imagine you are a beautiful butterfly flying through the air. Where is your butterfly flying? Option: sing “Mariposa, Mariposa, fly, fly, fly” song. Your kids will know this song. (Pose benefits: hip opener)
Lastly, we will practice RAINBOW. Lie on your back and imagine you are still at the zoo, lying on beautiful, green grass. Gently close your eyes. Feel the warm sun shining down on you. Smell the beautiful flowers. Can you hear the zoo sounds? Now, imagine you are looking up at the sky and you see a beautiful rainbow! Can you see all the vibrant colors? (Pause for a few breaths after each color to allow kids to visualize the colors) First, there’s red. Then orange, then yellow, green, blue, indigo, then violet. Feel how peaceful and safe you are. Remain quiet for a few rounds of breath. (Pose benefits: calms the body, quiets the mind, and helps foster relaxation)