Old McYogi Had a Farm...

This past week, I taught a 30 minute farm-themed lesson to a great class of preschoolers.

We warmed up with our opening Om song, "Rub Your Hands" by Karma Kids Yoga. We started out seated, but we got sillier and sillier as we progressed. By the 10th verse, we had rubbed our hands while we jumped up and down and while we wiggled our hips, and then back to seated where we rubbed together our feet, our knees, and our elbows.

Next we moved into a seated stretch sequence with "Tick Tock, Little Yoga Clock." We added "Horse Lips" to that one, with a lip flapping exhale while winding up our toes, our knees, our belly buttons, etc.

We galloped around the room to get to the farm, and then we sat down and sang, "Old McYogi had a farm, shanti shanti om." This song can be found on ChildLight Yoga's "I Grow With Yoga" CD. Each child was invited to suggest an animal they see on the farm, and then we posed accordingly. We also rattled our shaky "chicken" eggs in time with the music of Laurie Berkner's song, "I Know a Chicken."

We began learning a new song (adapted from Betsy Rose’s song, “Take a Breath” -- who told me about this great singer? I can't remember, but I want to thank you!):
“If you’re happy and you know it, take a breath. If you’re happy and you know it, take a breath! If you’re happy and you’re breathing, all your joy will be increasing, if you’re happy and you know it, take a breath!

If you’re angry and you know it, take a breath. If you’re angry and you know it, take a breath! If you’re angry and you know it, take a breath before you blow it, if you’re angry and you know it, take a breath!

If you’re scared and you know it, take a breath. If you’re scared and you know it, take a breath! If you’re scared and you’re breathing, all your fear will soon be leaving, if you’re scared and you know it, take a breath!

If you’re sad and you know it, take a breath. If you’re sad and you know it, take a breath! If you’re sad and you breathe, it will give your heart some ease, if you’re sad and you know it, take a breath!”

We passed around the breathing ball (Hoberman Sphere) to remind us to take calm, belly breaths. Then the kids relaxed quietly for Yoga Rest (savasana pose), and enjoyed soft music, fleece blankets, and mini foot rubs. It was a very sweet class.

Have you done Farm yoga? It's a very basic theme, but so very fun for this age group.

Yoga for Adults with Special Needs

This summer I began teaching yoga at a group home for adult women with special needs. Their challenges include extremely limited expressive language (nearly nonverbal), Down Syndrome, William's Syndrome, and very poor muscle control and coordination. I was prepared for that.
What I was not prepared for was their gifts.
These are the most patient students I have ever had. They are eager to help one another. They laugh easily. They are hardworking. They are comfortable with themselves. They are happy.
Today's lesson began as it always does: The Breathing Ball is passed around as we coordinate breath and movement, support one another, and enjoy the song, "We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands," by Hullaballoo.
Next I switched to Pop music, which the girls love. We enjoyed some Taylor Swift, and we warmed up our joints - wrists circles, shoulders circles, ankle circles, yeses and nos with the head, and a spine warm-up (seated cat-cow, gentle twists, and a lateral stretch to each side).
Two of the girls love One Direction, "What Makes You Beautiful," and with the energy of the song it was a perfect match to our most challenging sequence: the Warrior. We do Warrior 2, Proud Warrior, and Extended Side Angle.
From there, we sat down. I passed out men's ties (cute animal print ones from a recently retired teacher in my neighborhood), and we stretched our hamstrings in a modified finger to big toe pose.
After that, I asked the girls to take turns as the teacher. I gave each girl a card with a pose on it, and they were able to determine what to do and were willing to model for all. We had bridge pose, tree pose, downward dog, cobra, boat, and lion's breath. Some were poses we had done before, and others were completely new.
After that hard work, we all were ready for Savasana. I did a silly spaghetti test to check for loose legs, then massaged their ears as they settled in, and finally gave each student a mini foot rub. We listened to the beautiful song by Josh Grobin: "You Raise Me Up."
I'm always at peace when I leave this class. The pressure is off of me to "entertain" while I teach, which is sometimes the case with my preschoolers. To feel such love and acceptance is really amazing.

Do you have experience with Special Needs Yoga? Please share!


Pictures!

It's a challenge to get pictures during a yoga class, but a friend of mine shot some great ones.

I hope you enjoy them!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ux6YOZFpF0g&feature=plcp

Family Yoga

Today I taught a family yoga class, and the students' ages ranged from 3 to 72! It was really fun. Here's the lesson plan I used:

We started out with an explanation of "belly breath" and passed the Hoberman Sphere around the circle so everyone could use it and picture their diaphragm expanding with their inhales and contracting with their exhales. For this we listened to "Colors," by Kira Willey. That is one of my favorite of all favorites.

Next we did a spine warm up, with seated cat-cow, lateral stretches, and gentle twists. This we did to the music of the Bari Koral Family Rock Band. The song was "Boom Boom," and the lovely grandmother in attendance chose to stay standing rather than moving from seated to standing to seated to standing, as the song suggests. But she was dancing around and helped keep the atmosphere light and fun.

After that, I walked the group through one Sun Dance, without music. Next week we'll tackle that again, with Kira Willey's song "Dance for the Sun." 

After this warm-up, we moved into our theme: Beach Yoga
We did a warrior/surfing series to "Surfin' USA". Then the music switched to "Octopus's Garden" and we did octopus pose (standing with feet apart, gentle twisting and swinging our arms side to side). We dove into the water, then sat in butterfly, which I renamed clam. We closed the clam shell best we could, and the adults marveled at the children's flexibility. From clam, it was a simple move to go to "sea turtle." We spotted danger and hid in our shells a few times. Then we challenged ourselves with flower pose, and congratulated ourselves with a round of applause - with our feet.


Next I played "Better Together" by Jack Johnson, and asked the kids to suggest some more animals we might see at the beach. We did dolphin, whale (volcano breath) and sea horse (I used a modification of dancer, but next time I'll ask the children for suggestions). The last suggestion was sea star, so we laid down, extending wide like stars. We were close enough together to hold hands, which was very sweet. And then I put rubber ducks on each person's belly, and asked them to rock the ducks to sleep with their belly breathing.

After that, we played with some feathers. I used music from Brave; a song called "Touch the Sky." I haven't seen the movie yet, but this song is lovely. We blew the feathers holding them close to our mouths, a little bit away from our mouths, even farther away, and then very far away. Then we experimented with holding them in our palms and blowing with much force, to send the feathers flying. And then again, but with such gentleness, the feathers stayed in our palms.

For a last stretch we opened our hips with a rock the baby sequence. Then we rolled gently to our backs and relaxed for savasana.

It was a wonderful group of participants, cheerful and warm.

How do you deal with the wide age ranges in a family yoga class? Do you gear it mostly to the children? Do your parents like to get silly?


Desert Yoga

This week I took my 3rd-5th grade yogis to the Mojave desert.

We began in pretzel pose, and warmed up our spines with seated cat-cow, lateral stretches, and gentle twists.

Then we rock n rolled our way to standing. This was an idea I found from a company called, "Yoga Rocks." The kids sit tall, knees bent, feet on the ground. They hold onto the backs of their thighs and rock backward a couple times, then roll forward to return to the starting position. The second time they do it, they roll into boat pose. And the third time they do it, they roll all the way back up to standing. It's tricky, and it's a fun challenge.

And now the Mojave desert adventure began -- with a sun dance, of course.

Next we did a Cactus series (aka various tree poses with cactus arms).

Then we moved into Warrior 3, aka Red-tailed Hawk.

We came into Jack Rabbit, which was chair pose, with arms extended above our heads as ears.

We dove down into runner's lunge, aka Road Runner. We held the pose while floating our arms (I mean wings) up and down slowly, with wrists touching above our heads.

Next we stepped into plank, aka Iguana. We paused here to stay very still and move only our eyes back and forth, up and down.

We moved into Gila Monster (another kind of lizard). We lay on our bellies, fingertips a few inches past our shoulders, elbows up.

Then, of course, we settled into Rattlesnake (Cobra) – and moved our bodies side to side, then shook our heads yes and no, then rattled our tails, and finally made a pillow with our arms to rest.

We pulled back into child's pose, aka Kangaroo rat.

Then we sat back and made Tortoises of ourselves, and also Flowers

Finally we sat in pretzel pose and did gentle twists to each side as Owls

And we straightened out after the twists with a forward bend, with creepy crawly Tarantula fingers walking to our feet. 

This concluded the desert segment. Next we did some breathwork: spinning a pinwheel on an exhale from our noses, and passing around the breathing ball - aka Hoberman Sphere - to remind us of soft belly breathing from our diaphragms.

We settled back into savasana, where I read aloud a progressive relaxation script. The children tensed and relaxed accordingly, then lay peacefully for a few minutes.
This was a fun class. I hope your students like it!


Storytime Yoga: "Little Gorilla"

Today was Storytime Yoga, and the book I chose was "Little Gorilla" by Ruth Bornstein.

We started class with "Wiggy Wiggles Freeze Dance" (instrumental) by Hap Palmer. It was a fun way to start warming up. Instead of a freestyle dance, we did follow-the-leader. We marched, jumped, twisted, reached to each side, and danced.

Then I used the "Warm-Up Song" from the "I Grow with Yoga" CD (by Lisa Flynn and Sammie Haynes). This cute song starts with the children standing and gently brings them to seated, with various stretches along the way. It brought us into butterfly, which is the position we use for our book song, "These Are My Glasses," by Laurie Berkner.

Then I read aloud "Little Gorilla." These are the animals as they appeared in the book:

Gorilla: we did the Tarzan tap (gently) and also forward bends with our feet stepping on our hands.
Butterfly: we flew (flapped our knees), slept (forward bend in butterfly) and extended each wing (leg).
Parrot: we went into tree pose, then flapped our arms to be a parrot in a tree.
Monkey: we did forward bends and swung our arms side to side. We also stood tall and leaned to the left and then the right. These stretches were banana pose.
Boa: we did cobra, hissed at our neighbors on each side, and then made a pillow with our arms to rest.
Giraffe: we did pyramid pose with our legs, then reached high for the leaves and bent forward to feed the little gorilla.
Elephant: we bent forward to gather water, then sprayed ourselves with a slight back bend. We also gathered water and sprayed everyone in the class.
Lion: we did lions breath three times.
Hippo: we did child's pose with our knees apart and used our hands to cover our nose and mouth while we peeked out. The idea was to be a hippo in the water with only his eyes showing.

The story ends on the little gorilla's birthday, so we baked a birthday cake. We sat in easy pose and reached up for ingredients. We also did gentle twists to get the ingredients behind us. We stirred with our bodies (waist circles) and put it in the oven (pike pose) for 10 seconds. When it came out of the oven, we put on the candle (namaste hands) and then everyone made a wish and blew it out. It was very sweet.

For the last activity, I played another song from the "I Grow with Yoga" CD. The song "Under One Sky" has a great message, plus it is a good review of many of the poses in the book. We came to standing then began with gorilla (Tarzan tap), then lion, crickets (rub elbows together) and starfish (stand in a big X and tip gently side to side, from one foot to the other). The next verse has mountain, eagle (we did parrot from earlier), tree, and volcano. As the song ended we did some sun breaths and came back to seated.

We ended with a short savasana, with blankets and soft music. Normally I don't include one in storytime, but this was a pretty small group and we had plenty of room.

I thought it was a fun class! I hope your yogis enjoy it.

Rainforest Yoga

Today I took my first grade yogis into the Amazon Rainforest. They are studying rainforests, so I enjoyed making that connection to our yoga class.

We started with a seated warm-up for our spines and then did one sun salutation. Then we began our journey to the Amazon. The instrumental version of "Jungle Adventure" by Linda Lara was wonderful background music. I also played "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley, "Teach the Children" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, various songs by Kira Willey from her CD "Dance for the Sun," and "Upside Down," by Jack Johnson.

I set a drishti for the class (a pom pom in the center of the circle) and then we practiced variations on Tree pose. Next we calmed ourselves with Monkey pose (gentle swaying in forward fold), and then came back up for another balance. We started with Warrior 3 with arms spread out to the sides for Macaw pose, and then with hands clasped and extended forward to make a large beak in Toucan pose.

Then we stretched to the sun, dove down to the earth, and stepped back in Jaguar pose (runner's lunge). The kids jump-switched their feet a few times.

Then we came to the front of the mat in a squat for Poison Dart Frog. We placed our palms on the floor and hopped our feet backwards, then slid our hands back to meet our feet. We went backward three times and forward three times.

From frog we stepped/jumped back into Iguana (plank pose). Then we came onto our bellies and stretched out our arms for Caiman pose (similar to an alligator). We moved into Anaconda (snake pose) and hissed to our friends on either side of us. Then we pushed back into Rhino Beetle (extended child's pose, with arms bent a little to simulate horns).

From there we sat back into Morpho Butterfly (cobbler's pose), then bent forward and tucked our hands under our legs for Giant River Turtle. We sat back up, nice and tall, lifting our feet off the ground and opening our hands into the mudra of wisdom. We were Water Lilies in the Amazon River.

From there we sat in pretzel and twisted to the left and then right as little Pygmy Owls.

Finally, we rolled onto our backs, hugged our knees, and rocked very slowly from side to side, as Sloths.
We stretched out and enjoyed a relaxing savasana.

It was a fun class, I hope your yogis enjoy it. Please let me know what you think!