Yoga Mornings: Hamstrings

Yoga Mornings are quick 15-20 minute yoga classes that engage kids in movement and mindfulness while having fun.  These classes are designed to fit into my school's Start Smart program which designates the first 15 minutes of each day to be dedicated to some sort of physical activity.  I work with lower grades (1-2) and upper grades (3, 4, and 5) each week.  Each grade level focuses on the same types of poses, but they are modified for the different ages as needed.  We start each session with three Sun Breaths (ideally inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth).  We always finish the practice with one Sun Breath/Om and sometimes a bit of LovingKindness.

During the previous week's Sun Salutation practice, I was in Forward Fold with my hands flat on the ground when I heard one student mutter "How do you do that???" While I have noticed that many of my students struggle to get their hands lower than their knees in Forward Fold, I have never explicitly talked to them about why. I figured this round of Yoga Mornings would be a perfect time to do so.  As such, I started our practice by sharing the student question above and then talking to the kids about their hamstrings, specifically where they are located and why they can be tight (i.e. sitting for long periods of time, running/biking without stretching, etc.).  Then we moved into the practice, which consisted of: 1) a wide-leg "Ragdoll" pose (Forward Fold), holding onto opposite elbows; 2) a narrow-leg (hip-width) "Ragdoll," 3) Pyramid pose on each side; and 4) Half-Hanuman (Half Splits) on both sides.  The latter was especially challenging for many students, and required a more detailed walk-through before students attempted it successfully.

This was a really eye-opening class for many students, who I don't think had given much thought to this area of their body before.  I gave them all a challenge to try Ragdoll and/or Pyramid each day for a few minutes and see if they saw progress after a week.  When I revisited with some students a week later, a handful said they did the challenge and saw improvements in their flexibility! Nothing like instant gratification :)

I also talked a bit about the need for a "long spine" and not to round their backs during these poses.  I used the analogy of their elbows/hands/heads having magnets to the wall as they reached forward before lowering down into Ragdoll and Pyramid. But this was still a tricky concept for a lot of the kids.  Definitely one I will revisit again, using some strategies from the Little Flower Yoga book.

Yoga Mornings: Balance with Sun Salutations

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Yoga Mornings are quick 15-20 minute yoga classes that engage kids in movement and mindfulness while having fun.  These classes are designed to fit into my school's Start Smart program which designates the first 15 minutes of each day to be dedicated to some sort of physical activity.  I work with lower grades (1-2) and upper grades (3, 4, and 5) each week.  Each grade level focuses on the same types of poses, but they are modified for the different ages as needed.

After Winter break, I wanted to reinforce the poses of Sun Salutations with my morning groups and revisit this incredibly beneficial and fundamental sequence of asanas.  We spent the first week just going through the postures for Sun Salutation A. However, the second week I added a twist, by introducing balancing postures throughout.  We did three rounds of Sun Salutation A, with increasingly challenging balances added to Plank pose. On the first round, instead of plank, students came to tabletop and lifted opposite arms/legs, and then lifted back to plank to continue the sequence.  On the second round, students stayed in plank but lifted one leg at a time and the opposite arm if they felt steady, before lowering both feet/hands and continuing with the sequence.  On the third round, students lifted one leg in plank and lowered to the ground for Cobra with one leg lifted (and then repeated with the other leg before coming back to Forward Fold to finish the sequence).  We walked through each of the balancing poses first before integrating them into the sequence.

This was a GREAT 20-minute class, as it provided challenges for all levels of students and reinforced the idea of a drishti (concentration) point.  And it was super fun :)  

Disclaimer: I did not do this class with my first-graders and I probably would have modified the last sequence a bit for them - but it was appropriately-paced for 2nd grade and up.

Yoga Mornings: Balance

sun.jpeg

Yoga Mornings are quick 15-20 minute yoga classes that engage kids in movement and mindfulness while having fun.  These classes are designed to fit into my school's Start Smart program which designates the first 15 minutes of each day to be dedicated to some sort of physical activity.  I work with lower grades (1-2) and upper grades (3, 4, and 5) each week.  Each grade level focuses on the same types of poses, but they are modified for the different ages as needed.

Balance is something I try to work into most of my yoga sessions with kids in some form.  Its fun and encourages risk-taking, but it also works the whole body. I often do whole practices dedicated to balancing poses, such as this one.  I especially like this short sequence as it delves into the combination of balance and core strength with some plank and side-plank work. I also begin to introduce the concept of mindful breathing into this session, which will continue in future sessions as well.

Yoga Mornings: Twists

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Yoga Mornings are quick 15-20 minute yoga classes that engage kids in movement and mindfulness while having fun.  These classes are designed to fit into my school's Start Smart program which designates the first 15 minutes of each day to be dedicated to some sort of physical activity.  I work with lower grades (1-2) and upper grades (3, 4, and 5) each week.  Each grade level focuses on the same types of poses, but they are modified for the different ages as needed.

This twisting lesson plan was a really fun one as it got kids to work on twists, balance and their core simultaneously. For the lying twist I actually added a "twist" to the pose by having the kids do Pilates-type core work, using their stomach muscles to move their legs from side to side while keeping shoulders on the ground.  This was really hard for so many of them!  The kids that were the most successful were those that went slow and steady, and I often stopped the class to have one of the students model.

This simple practice is also a great opportunity to talk about different types of breathing exercises (through the nose, through the mouth, Lion's breath, etc.) and also about finding symmetry and balance in your body.

Yoga Mornings: Warriors

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Yoga Mornings are quick 15-20 minute yoga classes that engage kids in movement and mindfulness while having fun.  These classes are designed to fit into my school's Start Smart program which designates the first 15 minutes of each day to be dedicated to some sort of physical activity.  I work with lower grades (1-2) and upper grades (3, 4, and 5) each week.  Each grade level focuses on the same types of poses, but they are modified for the different ages as needed.

These next two cycles of Yoga Mornings are focusing on the foundational poses of the Warriors (One, Two and Three).  To help the kids make a connection between the breath and the focus needed for these poses, we started with alternate nostril breathing.  While the demonstration and initial practice of course feels a little strange for the kids, they seem to get the pattern and movements a bit more on the second round.  We talked about how this is a great breathing exercise to do when feeling nervous, worried, or anxious as it calms the mind and helps increase concentration/focus.  We are going to continue working on this in the next cycle as well.

We went over each pose individually on the first round, and then put them into a flow practice.  As always, the first side was a little tricky, but by the second side, they got the hang of it.  We have talked about finding your drishti point for focus before, so the kids recognized the lingo and were able to find their balance so much quicker.  A 5th grade teacher told me later that her students were really proud of themselves after their Yoga Morning time as they could already feel improvements after just a few classes!   And just this morning as I worked with a group of 2nd graders, I could already see how their concentration during Yoga Mornings had improved and how quickly they took to the poses and the flow. 


 

Yoga Mornings: Sun Salutations

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Yoga Mornings are quick 15-20 minute yoga classes that engage kids in movement and mindfulness while having fun.  These classes are designed to fit into my school's Start Smart program which designates the first 15 minutes of each day to be dedicated to some sort of physical activity.  I work with lower grades (1-2) and upper grades (3,4, and 5) each week.  Each grade level focuses on the same types of poses but they are modified for the different ages.

These first two weeks of the Start Right Yoga Mornings with students focus on the much loved Sun Salutations.  There are some great songs/chants that you can use to guide Sun Salutations, especially for younger kids.  I was inspired by my OmSchooled teacher Sarah Herrington's chant to make up my own, which are below.  There are loads more ideas on Google - check it out!

For all grades, we started out by practicing some of the fundamental poses that we will flow through in a Sun Salutation.  This includes Mountain Pose, Standing Forward Fold,  Downward Dog, and jumping/walking from Downward Dog to the front of the mat,  We also reviewed cat/cow for the little ones (see below) and plank/cobra for the older kids (see below).  A Word document with the below lesson plans can be found here.

 Grades 1 and 2

Breath: begin with three sun breaths; Om on the third exhale

Connect: Explain that we honor the sun because it gives us light and warmth, and it helps plants and trees grow tall.  The sun gives us rainbows and beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  The sun adds all the color to the world.

Move: Demonstrates individual poses (mountain, forward fold, downward dog, cat/cow, jumping to the front, and extended mountain). Walk students through each pose on its own before moving to another one.

Focus/Flow: Put the poses into a Sun Salutation flow using the below chant

Arms up high 

Arms down low 

Walk your feet back 

Nice and slow 

Stretch like a dog 

Ruff Ruff Ruff 

Stretch like a cow 

Moo Moo Moo 

Stretch like a cat

Meow Meow Meow 

Back to dog 

Jump to the start 

Arms up high 

Hands to heart 

Sit on the final "hands to heart"

Relax:  Have students put their hands on their heart and walk them through a mini-meditation

Imagine you are outside in a big open field.  It is a beautiful day.  The grass feels soft under your feet and the sky looks the bluest you've ever seen it.  As you walk further into the field  you look up and notice the sun.  It is bright and shining and you feel your whole body start to get warm under the sun's rays.  You notice the trees and flowers growing a little taller as the sun shines on them.  You feel so happy and peaceful with the sun watching over you and taking care of the earth. You smile at the sun and whisper "thank you" in gratitude for all the sun does for is.

Close with one sun breath and Om

Grades 4-5 

Breath: begin with three sun breaths; Om on the third exhale

Connect: Explain that we honor the sun because it gives us light and warmth, and it helps plants and trees grow tall.  The sun gives us rainbows and beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  The sun adds all the color to the world.

Move: Demonstrates individual poses (mountain, forward fold, downward dog, plank, cobra, jumping to the front, and extended mountain). Walk students through each pose on its own before moving to another one.

Once upon a time there was a bright sun (mountain pose)

Every morning he rises up in the sky (extended Mountain pose)

And every evening he sets behind the earth (standing forward fold)

When Sun sets, he walks behind a mountain  (downward dog)

And settles in for a good nights sleep (plank to floor)

Right before morning, Sun's best friend Cobra wakes him (cobra)

Sun lifts himself up behind the mountain (back to downward dog)

Jumps to the earth (jump/walk to forward standing fold)

And rises again (stand up with arms extended, extended mountain pose)

High into the sky (hands to heart)

Relax:  Have students put their hands on their heart and walk them through a mini-meditation

Focus/Flow: Put the poses into a Sun Salutation flow using the below story

Imagine you are outside in a big open field.  It is a beautiful day.  The grass feels soft under your feet and the sky looks the bluest you've ever seen it.  As you walk further into the field  you look up and notice the sun.  It is bright and shining and you feel your whole body start to get warm under the sun's rays.  You notice the trees and flowers growing a little taller as the sun shines on them.  You feel so happy and peaceful with the sun watching over you and taking care of the earth. You smile at the sun and whisper "thank you" in gratitude for all the sun does for is.

Close with one sun breath and Om