Nurturing your family with yoga
Four simple practices for nurturing your family with yoga, from the new book by Dr Kiki Morriss
I fell in love with yoga when I was six years old and the first yoga class I ever taught, 20 years ago, was to a group of energetic two-year-olds.
Since then, I have shared yoga with hundreds of children, including my own, and have witnessed first-hand how it helps them to build a strong and flexible body, achieve a peaceful and relaxed state of mind, sleep well, build self-confidence and improve focus, concentration and memory.
By introducing your children to yoga, you are giving them a gift for life.
he inspiration to behind my recent book, Nurturing Your Family With Yoga, came from a wish to demonstrate how yoga can be a real part of everyday family life and bring happiness and harmony to the home.
The book is filled with simple, fun and practical suggestions for incorporating yoga into your everyday family life and is illustrated with beautiful photographs of children and adults practicing yoga together.
Sharing yoga with children
Nurturing Your Family With Yoga is full of tips and tricks to help you develop a successful yoga practice with your children. I suggest keeping your family yoga practice simple, light-hearted and playful. A single pose or a conscious breath in and out may well be the seed that grows into a lifelong love of yoga for a child.
Many yoga poses are named after and inspired by animals and nature. Encourage your children to use their imaginations as they become a pride of ferocious lions, a group of jellyfish floating in the deep ocean or icicles hanging from the eaves of a house, sparkling in the sunshine. The ability to visualise and to create mental imagery has been shown to reduce anxiety and build resilience in young people.
Let your children do what they want and don’t put pressure on them to practice yoga. Children are often focused one minute and uninterested the next. This is natural and to be expected.
Here are four practices from the book for you to try: Yoga Nidra, Butterfly, Frog and Tree.
The first practice in Nurturing Your Family With Yoga is a Yoga Nidra meditation for parents or caregivers, as to nurture your children well, you must start by nurturing yourself well.
- Yoga Nidra is a gentle, guided meditation that will help you relax completely, both mentally, physically and emotionally. I suggest listening to one of the tracks on the Becalmed Yoga Nidra album, available on Spotify, iTunes or Amazon Music. This will help you feel calm, grounded and patient, before sharing yoga with your children.
Butterfly is a popular pose with children of all ages. It calms and reassures them, whilst helping to maintain the natural flexibility of their hips and to strengthen their back.
- Sit with the soles of your feet together and hold your ankles or feet.
- Close your eyes and take a few steady breaths in and out.
- Imagine the colour and patterns of your wings. After your practice you could try drawing or painting them.
Squatting in Frog pose will stretch your childrens’ hips and thighs, strengthen their legs and back and improve their balance and posture.
- Squat with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart
- Lower your heels down to the floor but don’t worry if you can’t bring them flat on the ground
- Place your hands on the floor in front of your feet Ask your children to imagine they are frogs with long, powerful legs and to see how far they can jump in the pose. They can make lots of frog-like noises, such as ‘ribbit, ribbit ribbit!’ Children’s yoga is often noisy and full of life, compared to the serene atmosphere of an adults’ class!
Many people have lost the ability to squat comfortably because they spend so much time sitting in chairs. Their hamstrings, the muscles at the back of their legs, become tight and their back muscles weaken.
Encouraging your children to squat regularly in Frog pose will keep their legs and back as healthy as possible. The pose will also support the healthy functioning of their digestive system.
Tree pose will strengthen your childrens’ legs and arms, improve their balance, relieve anxiety and develop focus, concentration and confidence. It will also develop their imagination, as they imagine they are palm trees on a sandy beach, fir trees on a snowy mountain, kapok trees in a tropical rainforest or ancient oak trees.
- Stand tall with your feet together
- Lift your right foot to the inside of your left leg
- Bring your hands in prayer pose in front of your chest and then above your head
- Balance for as long as you can and then repeat on the other side
There are lots of balancing poses in Nurturing Your Family With Yoga, as children love them so much.
You can hold hands with your children in Tree pose to help them balance or they can try it unassisted.
For more of a challenge, they can close their eyes in the pose. Very young children can do Sleeping Tree, by lying on their back in the shape of Tree pose. This is also a good option when children are tired.
Yoga and your family
Childhood is fleeting and we can easily get caught up in the rush and the pressures of being a parent.
A yoga practice, however simple, will support your family to nurture one another and will give you and your children precious moments together.
I hope your family yoga practice is full of joy and happiness.
Dr Kiki Morriss is a medical doctor, yoga teacher, yoga therapist, and founder of Primrose Hill Yoga, where she teaches adults, children and families. Visit: primrosehillyoga.com or Instagram @kiki.yoga
Kiki is also the author of the new book, Nurturing Your Family With Yoga, out now.