Yoga stretches out the physical and mental kinks of motherhood, but should our kids be unrolling their mats too? Yogi Lara Cubitt says yes. She talked to us about the benefits of a family yoga practice and guided us through some kid-friendly poses that don’t get too serious. And since yoga literally means “to yoke” or “to join” it’s the perfect activity to bring the family together!
Lara, who has been practicing yoga for 11 years, is a certified yoga instructor from The Yoga Space in Vancouver. One of her gigs is teaching yoga to Girl Guides so she knows her stuff. “At a basic level, yoga releases endorphins which make you feel good”, says Lara. “That can help even out delicate temperaments in children and reenergize parents. More deeply, physical practice teaches us our strengths, tendencies and weaknesses. That helps with body awareness and acceptance in young people”.
Yoga is a fun way to encourage physical activity, especially for kids who are reluctant to join team sports. It can also complement any sport with stretching and strengthening. Lara, who has Multiple Sclerosis, encourages families with a disabled child to give yoga a try. “Yoga is creative”, she says, “Everyone has limitations and family practice is just about moving together. You might also find siblings are able to help think of movements in a way that parents haven’t”.
When planning your family practice be sure to keep it brief, at least to start. “Paying attention is a challenge for everyone and especially for young people”, says Lara. “Shoot for 5 minutes whenever everyone can get together.” She also warns that typical phrases you might hear in a yoga class, like “watch your breath”, are unhelpful. “Subtleness can cause kids to become rigid if they are trying too hard, or bored and lost”. Lara suggests incorporating poses that are named after animals like cat, cow, lion, cobra and downward facing dog. “Though things can get a little wild, making animal sounds in the poses can be fun!”
Here are some of the poses to get you started:
Downward Facing Dog – Begin lying down on your stomach with your arms hands beside your ribs on the floor. Curl the toes under and press into the hands pushing the hips back and up.
Upward Facing Dog – Begin in the same starting position as Downward Facing Dog. Press the inner hands firmly on the floor and straighten the arms while simultaneously lifting your torso up and legs a few inches off the floor. Pull the shoulder blades back and look straight ahead or tilt the head back slightly.
Warrior 3 (partner) – This is fun to do with family because it uses a partner. One person holds another’s hands at shoulder distance apart and leans slightly back for support. The person doing the pose steps back so the hips sit over the feet when bent forward. Hinge from the hips and hold for a moment before lifting the back leg. Keep the hips square. Then switch!
Camel – This one can also include a partner like in the photo for support. Come on your knees, placing the knees hip width apart and the body upright. Tuck the toes under and place your hands on your lower back with the heels of the hands resting on the lower back, fingers pointing down. Lean back against the firmness of the tailbone and shoulder blades.
The poses won’t be perfect. The room won’t be silent. But we promise it will be fun and a great lesson in flexibility of your body and your expectations.
Author: Alex Cubitt