I remember when my two sons were small. We did a lot together.
I would take them hiking (often with much protect), kayaking, swimming, to the library, to the movies. I signed them up for Martial Arts and summer camps. I wanted them to have experiences and access to people that would enrich their lives.
As a yoga teacher now, I look back and wish that family yoga had been available to me and my boys as they were growing up. I didn’t even know what yoga was or had even taken a class until they were well into middle school. By then, the egos had kicked in and asking them to go to a yoga class where they would have to do something with their rapidly changing body in front of a room full of other people was out of the question.
Now that I am a yoga teacher, I realize how amazing yoga is and the many benefits it can have in people’s lives - young and old.
I’ve set an intention to create opportunities for families and kids to experience the benefits of yoga, to help families and kids learn about the benefits of all aspects of yoga. A family yoga class with me is going to include:
Learning about and practicing the yamas (personal observances)
Learning about and practicing the niyamas (social observances)
Breathing exercises for energy and relaxation (called pranayama)
Asana (yoga poses to move the body) which can be individually or as partners
Learning about practicing different meditation practices so children and adults alike can learn to quiet their mind
Throughout all of these practices is a focus on mindfulness. This is a bit of a buzz word today and rightly so since it is very powerful to shaping who we are as people and the world around us…but that is a subject for another future blog post.
When families come together to take a yoga class together so many things happen:
Parents see how their children interact with others and help them develop social skills - anytime parents and children can come together in a group dynamic there is incredible opportunity for learning vital social skills like patience, taking turns, giving something away, sharing your parent, playing carefully with others. It can also help them learn how to focus and pay attention, work as a group, and listen to others.
Children get to interact with other children of all ages - older children learn compassion and empathy for younger children and may start to see how powerful they can be as a role model. Younger children remind older children (and even adults) to be more playful and remember to be a kid! Life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.
Families get to PLAY - Giving families time to truly play and be silly is so important to developing healthy bonds as a family, learning about each other, developing trust, and helping to sooth common health issues like anxiety, depression, and stress (which YES is ever present in children today not just adults).
Families get to be active together - Children have a lot of opportunity to be active today but many times parents are watching on the sidelines as their kicks play t-ball or soccer or working out at the gym while their child is in martial arts. While children and parents need their own time, it is important to foster family activity time too.
Parents can connect with other parents - At every stage of development parents face new challenges, and parents can often feel alone in their efforts and challenges. But when parents come together we can share stories and support one another.
Building a strong family bond - It is easy to have a strong bond with your child when they are small and more reliant on you, but as children grow into junior high and high school there are so many social influences that can pull them away from this family bond. By building a strong family bond when the are young you build up a foundation of trust, support and love that is hard to shatter. With a strong family unit (WHATEVER that looks like) children, parents and families thrive.
These are just a few of the many benefits of Family Yoga and perhaps you can start to see how these benefits trickle into society as a whole.
Family yoga classes can be offered in a group setting or done individually for families, the latter option is very valuable for families who have children with special needs. I have group classes where many families come together to learn and play, and I have created programs that families can use at home too!
I hope you will consider the ways you can bring family yoga into your life and if you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.