Make Way for Elephants!
Ten minutes of kid-inspired and kid-engaged yoga.
As a yoga instructor, I'm constantly practicing at home. Whether it's for a class I'm leading or just to continue my own practice, my mat almost always stays spread out on the floor of our lower level. And when I'm not looking, or sometimes when I am looking, the kids enjoy hopping on to try their hand at mimicking my asanas.
Kids are natural-born yogis, always eager to bend and contort their bodies into fun and different positions. I've taught yoga for kids of all ages: preschool, elementary school, tweens. Given the chance, no matter how old, kids love being granted the permission to be a little crazy. For younger kids, lion's breath gets them giggling every time. Older kids and tweens enjoy the opportunity to flip over, balance, and even fall out of postures. All of them love music. I highly recommend putting on some fun, age-appropriate music (Kidz Bop, Greatest Showman, and Taylor Swift are fan favorites. It's also a chance to get your kids involved and have them create a spotify list they'll enjoy). At the end, try some soft, gente music to calm them down a little.
This sequence is for elementary-aged kids, approximately aged 5-9 (old enough to know how to move their bodies, but young enough to still have fun making animal noises! Start with inviting them to go to the jungle with you, then see how much wild fun you'll have together!
Also, grab a lovie or something soft they can use in savasana (yes, we'll do a quick one! Believe it or not, starting kids early with learning to meditate will serve them well through the rest of their lives!)
With that, let's begin our journey!
Start in Hero's Pose.
Sit on your knees, hips touching heels. Place hands on the tops of the legs and have everyone close their eyes.
Imagine that your lungs are a giant balloon. Breathe in deeply to fill the balloon. When your lungs are full, slowly breathe out like you're slowly letting air out of the balloon. Repeat two more times. If you're taking the "jungle trek", imagine that you're a jungle adventuring hero, flying there in a hot air balloon and your breath is filling up the balloon!
Open your eyes. Breath in through your nose. When your lungs are full, open your mouth, stick out your tongue as far as it goes and say "HAAAAAA" like you're a lion roaring. Repeat two more times.
Also familiar to kids as Cat/Cow pose, it's easy to change the names of these to accommodate your trek to the jungle!
Come forward to hands and knees. As you breathe in, drop your belly and lift your hips and chin. Feel free to throw in a hippo sound for effect. (Click here to listen to a hippo if you're not sure what sound they make!)
Now breathe out, slowing pushing the floor away with your hands and feet and arch your spine.
Add in a "purr" if the kids enjoy animal sounds.
Also familiar to kids as downward-facing dog, but monkeys are more jungle-appropriate!
From the previous posture, walk the hands a palm-print forward. Press through your hands, lift your knees and extend both arms and legs until you're in an upside-down V. Press your hands away from your body so your hips move up and back. On the inhale, add some oh-oh-oh monkey noises; on the exhales, try ah-ah-ah.
You know how monkeys love to use their tails! This monkey is being so silly -- wagging and moving his tail all around behind him!
From downward-facing "monkey", keep your body in the same position and lift your right leg high into the air; then, bend your knee and pretend it's your monkey tail reaching for a branch! Now, swing your "tail" forward up toward your hands, and step your back foot forward to meet it.
Ostrich Pose (forward fold)
Next on your journey, imagine you're an ostrich with its head in the sand.
Once you've stepped up toward your hands, fold forward and try to reach the top of your head to the floor. Take a deep breath in, as you exhale, gently shake your head "yes" and "no" to get the "sand" off your head! Sweep your arms all the way up to standing.
As you continue on your journey, you come to a river and see flamingos wading in the shallows!
Come to standing. Bend your right knee and lift your right leg up so your thigh is flat and your ankle is under your knee. Take your arms and begin to slowly wrap them around your shin, drawing your belly button toward your spine and rounding your chin toward your chest. For balance, gaze a few feet in front of your standing foot. Repeat this posture on the other side, then come to standing.
Finally, you've reached a clearing and there, in the middle is a beautiful elephant! You wave to the elephant, and she raises her large trunk to say hello back!
Take a small step back with your right leg, point your toes slightly out (45 degrees), then turn your hips forward. Inhale to lift your arms up and over your head, press your palms together, then fold forward over your extended left leg. Let your kids be creative with their elephant sounds -- see who can be the loudest/most realistic/silliest!
Ask your kids what animals they want to try! Here are a few postures that you might be able to "massage" into the animals they mention:
Tree Pose: (could even be a giraffe!) -- stand on one leg, and bring the other foot to the inside of the calf or thigh (avoid the knee). Leave hands on the hips, or grow your tree branches toward the sky!
Cobra/Snake Pose: Lie on your belly with your hands under your shoulders, then gently peel the upper body off the floor. Try hissing like a snake!
You've followed the stream down and you're ready to return home. Look! You see a boat in the distance, so you swim over and get it!
Start by making your way to the floor on your belly. Reach your arms out long and your legs long behind you. Begin to flutter-kick your arms and legs (like you're swimming!), then relax.
Kick your heels in toward your seat and reach back with both hands to grab the tops of the feet. Once you have your feet in your hands, bring the knees back together (in line with the hips, if they can), and kick your feet into your hands. Allow your body to rock back and forth with the breath, just like a boat floating down the river. Release your body and lie on the belly.
"Rock" Pose (Child's Pose)
Your boat floated all the way down the river, and it bumped into a large boulder, right where you need to get off.
From your belly, press up to hands and knees. Bring the heels to touch and the knees wide, then press back so you look like a big rock (child's pose. You also have the option of taking your arms down by your side to really mimic a rock. Take two full breaths in and two out.
At last, you've made it back home. Now it's time to rest and think about your adventure.
Make your way onto your back, laying with legs long and arms relaxing by your side. If you have a lovie or stuffie, place it softly on your belly. Take a deep breath in and watch your friend rise up. Now slowly breathe out and watch your friend sink. Do this five times.
Close your eyes. Imagine your favorite animal from the adventure. Keep that animal in your mind as you breathe in and out. Stay for 20 seconds to 5 minutes (depending on the child's needs.)
At the end of your session, ask your child(ren) what they enjoyed the most! You might be surprised by what they get out of your little trip to a jungle!