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.