A Family Affair

Mother and daughter doing yoga

Want to make yoga a family affair? Here are a few tips to get you started:

Find a quiet spot in your home or yard to set up your mats.

Chat with your child about yoga. Let her know that it’s a physical practice and that breathing deeply is important. Listen to her concerns and ideas. As you practice, compliment your child on her efforts. Create a sense of lightheartedness, and convey that yoga is meant to feel good and be fun!

During the practice, remind your child often to breathe deeply through her nose. Hold poses for about 2 to 5 breaths. And check in every so often by asking her how a pose feels or where she is working hardest.

How can parents who want to practice with their kids follow her lead? First, says Roades, know that your child might not be hooked right away. Like adults, kids want to be good at things, and yoga can seem strange at first. “By the third time it’s usually not so foreign,” Roades says. She also encourages incorporating positions that your child already knows (like sitting cross-legged) into each session to build confidence. Once they are in a pose, tell them how many breaths they will stay in it, to help them feel safe. Finally, limit practices to 30 minutes or less and use language they’ll enjoy and understand.

Most of all, says Roades, make it fun, and your children will begin to feel stronger and calmer in their daily life. “Giving children the tools to feel confident is priceless,” Roades says. “Teaching kids how to relax and deal with their emotions is incredible.”

Before You Begin

Set Up. Find a quiet spot in your home or yard to set up your mats.

Communicate. Chat with your child about yoga. Let her know that it’s a physical practice and that breathing deeply is important. Listen to her concerns and ideas. As you practice, compliment your child on her efforts. Create a sense of lightheartedness, and convey that yoga is meant to feel good and be fun!

About the sequence.

During the sequence, remind your child often to breathe deeply through her nose. Hold poses for about 2 to 5 breaths. And check in every so often by asking her how a pose feels or where she is working hardest.

1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Stand up straight with your feet together. Lift your toes up and spread them. Roll your shoulders back and place your hands on your belly. Take 5 deep breaths and feel your belly move. This pose can be called “home base” in yoga.

2. Crescent Moon Pose

Bring your left arm up toward the sky and spread your fingers wide. Keep reaching your arm long as you tip over to the right. Take 2 to 5 deep breaths and then switch sides. Remember to reach as high as you can before tipping over.

3. Rag Doll Pose

Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Take a big breath, then exhale and bend over, letting your arms and head be loose and hang toward your feet. Shake out your arms and nod your head “yes” and “no.”

4. Ostrich Pose

Step your feet wide apart. Breathe in and reach both arms up. Exhale as you fold over. Place your hands on the floor or on your legs while you look through your legs. Ask your child why this pose is called Ostrich. (Answer: Ostriches sleep with their heads buried in the ground.)

5. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), with a partner

First try Warrior II individually. Then try it as a partner pose. Stand shoulder to shoulder and to the right of your child. Place the outer edge of your left foot next to the outer edge of her right foot (these are your “inside feet”). Step your outside feet wide and turn them out 90 degrees. Hold each other’s inside wrists, reach your outside arms away from each other, and bend your outside knees to 90 degrees.

6. Partner Frog Pose

Try Frog Pose individually first. Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Lower yourself into a squat. (If necessary, bring your feet farther apart or rest your heels on a rolled blanket.)

Place your elbows inside your knees and press your palms together at the heart. If you are tipping back, bring your head forward; if you are tipping forward, take your head back. After a few breaths, come out of the pose and try it together. Stand face to face, holding each other’s wrists. Take a big breath, then lower into a squat as you breathe out.

Mother and daughter doind exercise

7. Butterfly Pose

Sit face to face, pressing the soles of your own feet together. Scoot your sitting bones close to your feet. Interlace your fingers and place them around your feet. Sit up tall and take 2 to 5 deep breaths. If you want to deepen the pose, stick your chin out and bend forward. Instruct your child to breathe into her hips.

8. Mixing Bowl

Sit facing each other and extend your legs out wide into a V shape. Press the soles of your feet into the soles of your child’s feet (or have your child place her feet higher on your legs, if she needs to). Reach forward and hold each other’s wrists, hands, or fingers. Slowly begin to lean forward and back until you each feel a stretch. After a few breaths, rotate your bodies in a circle like you are mixing something in a bowl. Move one way and then the other, making sure to communicate if you want more or less of a stretch.

9. Mirror Me

Sit comfortably, facing each other. Bring your hands up, fingers spread wide, in front of your chest. Move your palms very close to your child’s, until they are almost touching. Move your hands up, down, and side to side very slowly, while your child mirrors you. Then allow your child to become the leader. Encourage quiet focus and concentration. Practice this exercise as long as you like. Afterward, ask your child if she preferred leading or following.

10. Partner Breathing

Sit back to back and feel your partner’s back move as she breathes naturally. Next, try to both make the in breath and the out breath the same length. Take 5 to 10 breaths together, enjoying the fruits of your hard work.

After You Finish

Rest Lie together in Floating on a Cloud Pose (also known as Savasana, or Corpse Pose). Encourage her to close her eyes, be still and calm, and pretend that her body is floating on a cloud. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.

Connect Give your child a hug and thank her for practicing with you. Get her feedback by asking her what she enjoyed the most. Be open to your child’s response.

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Start a daily gratitude practice

BY FRANK JUDE BOCCIO  |  Originally published here in Yoga Journal

Count your blessings and you’ll find that even a “bad” day is filled with precious gifts.

At the grocery store, a friend was bowled over by the simplest act of kindness: A stranger let her step ahead of him in the checkout line. It was such a little thing, and yet it swelled her heart with happiness. What she experienced, she ultimately realized, was more than just gratitude for a chance to check out faster—it was an affirmation of her connection to a stranger and, therefore, to all beings.soft_love

What IS Gratitude?

On the surface, gratitude appears to arise from a sense that you’re indebted to another person for taking care of you in some way, but looking deeper, you’ll see that the feeling is actually a heightened awareness of your connection to everything else. Gratitude flows when you break out of the small, self-centered point of view—with its ferocious expectations and demands—and appreciate that through the labors and intentions and even the simple existence of an inconceivably large number of people, weather patterns, chemical reactions, and the like, you have been given the miracle of your life, with all the goodness in it today.

It is easy, as Roger L’Estrange, the 17th-century author and pamphleteer, said, to “mistake the gratuitous blessings of heaven for the fruits of our own industry.” The truth is, you are supported in countless ways through each moment of your life. You awaken on schedule when your alarm clock beeps—thanks to the engineers, designers, assembly workers, salespeople, and others who brought you the clock; by the power-company workers who manage your electricity supply; and many others. Your morning yoga practice is the gift of generations of yogis who observed the truth and shared what they knew; of your local teacher and of her teacher; of the authors of books or videos you use to practice; of your body (for which you could thank your parents, the food that helps you maintain your good health, doctors, healers, and the “you” who cares for that body every day)—the list goes on.

When you awaken to the truth of this incredible interconnectedness, you are spontaneously filled with joy and appreciation. It is for this reason that one of the most transformative practices you can engage in is the cultivation of gratitude. Patanjali wrote that santosha (contentment, or appreciation for what you have) leads to unexcelled joy, while other yogic texts say that this sense of appreciation is the “supreme joy” that naturally leads to the realization of the Absolute. Thankfully, gratitude can be cultivated. It simply takes practice.

Begin to See All Of Life’s Gifts

If you’re like most people, you notice what goes wrong more often than what goes right. Human beings seem hard-wired to notice how reality fails to meet some idea of how they think things should be. How many times a day do you sink into disappointment, frustration, or sadness because others haven’t met your expectations? If you limit your attention to how life lets you down, you blind yourself to the myriad gifts you receive all the time. Continue reading

Mindfulness Walking Meditation

By John Cianciosi  |  Originally posted here in Yoga Journal

Learning to establish awareness during walking meditation helps to develop mindfulness during the activities of your daily life.

In Bodh Gaya, India, there is an old Bodhi tree that shades the very spot where the Buddha is believed to have sat in meditation on the night of his enlightenment. Close by is a raised walking path about 17 steps in length, where the Buddha mindfully paced up and down in walking meditation after becoming enlightened, experiencing the joy of a liberated heart.

In his teachings, the Buddha stressed the importance of developing mindfulness in all postures, including standing, sitting, lying down, and even walking. When reading accounts about the lives of monks and nuns in the time of the Buddha, you find that many attained various stages of enlightenment while doing walking meditation.

The Forest Meditation Tradition of northeast Thailand, with which I am most familiar, puts great emphasis on walking meditation. The monks live in simple single-room dwellings dispersed throughout the forest, and in the area around each hut you always find a well-worn meditation path. At various times of the day or night, monks can be seen pacing up and down these paths, mindfully striving to realize the same liberation of heart attained by the Buddha. Many monks walk for long hours and actually prefer it to sitting meditation. The late Ajahn Singtong, a much admired meditation master, sometimes practiced walking meditation for 10 to 15 hours a day.

While I don’t expect that many will want to walk for such a long time, you may want to try this form of meditation; it’s a valuable method of mental training for furthering awareness, concentration, and serenity. If developed, it can strengthen and broaden your meditation practice to new levels of tranquility and insight.

Also see Guided Mindful Walking Meditation

Continue reading