Have a snuggle bunny that likes finger food and mini-me clothes? Even your youngest can get into your yoga practice with some bite-sized suggestions they can sink their teeth into.
Spirit Voyage spoke with one inspiring family on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica where parents Gabriela and Forest, both yoga teachers, are raising their two daughters, Ananda 10 and Surya 6. Both of the kids have a yoga, chanting and meditation practice that compliments their lifestyle of surfing and horseback riding. The kicker? Ananda and Surya LIKE doing yoga and yours can too. How can you help your kids explore their spiritual side? Gabriela suggests several ways of introducing yoga to your little munchkins that make it fun for them.
1) Diet is very important. Her kids have been vegetarian their whole lives and she says that eating the right foods helps to keep kid’s emotions in balance. A diet full of sugar, meat and processed foods will make it hard for them to remain calm and focused. Try oranges and carrots instead of chips and cookies. Make a yummy pink smoothie to get them to eat berries instead of handing them some punch.
2) Kids do what they see. Gabriela and Forest have an open invitation to their little ones to join in their yoga practice whenever they would like. This not only makes it seem natural to do yoga every day, but it also builds a strong family foundation. Remember that yoga happens off that mat too. Be conscious of how you are responding to the challenges life throws your way…your little ones are learning yoga by watching you react gracefully to the hard stuff. Make a family yoga night to learn and grow together!
3) Animals make everything more fun. Practice the asana with your kids that correspond to an animal they get to act out. Fish, camel, cobra, crow, and frog are just some of the asana that kids find fun and energizing. Get some ideas from books like Fly Like a Butterfly. Make pranayama practice as empowering as it is entertaining by creating games around breathing and imagination. Build a bonfire with Breath of Fire. Start an ice storm with Sitali breath. Rule your pride with Lion’s breath.
4) Reading is reinforcing. Books like My Daddy is a Pretzel and Babar’s Yoga for Elephants make yoga an even stronger part of their day and life. Got a kid that insists on TV? Make Snatam Kaur’s Shanti the Yogi the go-to video.
5) If you can dream it, you can do it. Meditation for young kids is usually either creative guided visualization or involves chanting. Kirtan Kriya is an excellent example of a meditation that children can learn and then do themselves. Snatam Kaur’s Feeling Good Today has songs that children can sing meditations with that are engaging and age appropriate, including Kirtan Kriya (Sa Ta Na Ma). Little one having trouble with nightmares? Cuddle up with a soft rendition of “Feeling Good Today” and watch the light return to their eyes.
What’s the most important thing about yoga for kids? Cherish your time together and remind yourself that yoga, true union with the divine, happens every time you share a hug and a kiss. Smooch-asana, if you will!
Gabriela Power teaches yoga at Playa Negra Yoga Center in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.