Time for a field trip! Head over to http://www.kidsyogastories.com/chinese-new-year-yoga/ to read my guest post on the Kids Yoga Stories blog. Learn about and celebrate the Lunar New Year through movement games, music and yoga. Kids Yoga Stories is an excellent resource with well-written articles and ideas. Bookmark the page and sign up for author Giselle Shardlow's free weekly newsletter!
With record lows expected around the nation today and early this week (-20 Fahrenheit before wind chill in my native state of Iowa!), schools are already announcing closures for tomorrow. If you're braving a few days of hibernation with kids, use these poses and activities to warm up, burn off energy and face the IMBOREDWHATCANWEDO's!
-A cup with an ice cube or two (if your house is drafty and just won't warm up, skip this one!)
-Wax paper (2 shoe-sized squares for each child... and yourself! This activity is best with a carpeted area or rug)
-Some crayons for the snowman mandala (see below lesson)
-A beanbag or soft ball for each child
-A cotton ball
-Some music (my suggestions are listed but feel free to use your own or none)
-A yoga mat or towel per person
Silly Little Story
I found this poem somewhere a long time ago and it usually makes preschoolers giggle (and think a bit--the whole "Frosty the Snowman doesn't live forever" concept plays in a bit! Read it for your child(ren) and talk about what happens to snow and ice when it's indoors:
I made myself a snowball, as perfect as could be
I thought I'd keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me
I gave it some pajamas and a pillow for its head
Then, last night, it ran away--but first, it wet the bed!
Ice Cube (Music: Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker or something else upbeat)
Just like Hot Potato, but with an ice cube! Pass it back and forth or around your circle until it's too small and slippery to hand off.
Breathing: Warm Up Your Hands/Cool Down the Cocoa
Hold hands cupped together in front of face and breathe in through your nose and then breathe out of your mouth. Can you make your breath hot to warm up your hands? Repeat several times. Now make a little mug with your hands. Imagine it's full of steaming hot cocoa. Breathe in through your nose and out through rounded lips. Feel the cool breath on your hands as though you are cooling off your hot chocolate. Repeat several times. Which type of breathing feels better to you today?
Penguin-Egg Shuffle (Music: Jump N Move by Mark Criss--Happy Feet Sdtrk)
Stand with your feet close together and put the beanbag, soft ball or other small stuffed animal on top of your feet or hugged between your ankles, the way a penguin keeps their egg safe and warm on their feet. Make your arms straight, hands on your sides like penguin wings and try to move around the room without dropping your "egg."
Snow Salutations WarmUp (Music: Snow Day by Toby Lightman)
-Icicle: Stand up tall and reach arms up, palms touching like a sharp icicle hanging from the porch.
-Snowflake: Fingers spread out, hands float and spin slowly to the floor like snowflakes, land in a forward fold.
-Upside-down Snow Angel: On belly, head, arms and legs lifted, move arms and legs like you are making a snow angel.
-Snowball: Curl up into Child's Pose, knees tucked under torso, forehead resting on ground.
-Snow Dog: Lift up into Downward Dog, an upside-down "V" shape, paws on the floor. Lift one leg at a time and shake it off like a dog trying to shake snow off its paws.
(Return to standing in Icicle Pose and repeat sequence as many times as you can, speeding up and then going in slow-motion)
Wax Paper Ice Skating (Music: Skater's Waltz by Waldteufel)
(Works best with shoes or bare feet, and on a carpeted floor or large rug). Stand on two pieces of wax paper that are each just a bit bigger than your foot. Bend your knees and push down into your feet as you start moving your legs to glide around the carpet. Smaller children might need to hold on to a hand! This is great for working balance and strengthening leg and core muscles.
Yoga Poses for Winter Fun (Music: The Four Seasons: Winter by Vivaldi)
Mountain Pose: Stand tall and firm, fingertips pressed together in front of chest like a mountain peak.
Skier (Chair Pose): With feet hips distance apart, bend knees and sink hips back as you lean your chest forward. Pull arms back as though holding on to ski poles. Lean side to side as you "ski," dodging trees and other skiers!
Ski Lift (Boat Pose): Balance on sitting bones and lift legs. Reach arms out to sides and slightly tip from one side to the other
like you are hanging from the ski lift and swaying in the cold breeze as you ride up to the top of the mountain.
Ski Slope (Side Angle Pose): Step one foot as far behind you as you can and bend your front knee, resting your elbow on your thigh. Reach your other arm up over your head creating an angle like the side of a mountain from your fingertips to your back foot. Hold and count to ten--for ten imaginary tiny skiers to slide down the side of your body! Try the other side too.
Figure Skater (Warrior 3): Balance on one leg and lift the other leg up behind you as you tip forward, shoulders and hips facing the floor. Send your arms out to the sides gracefully like an ice skater. Change legs.
Slippery Ice Splits (Wide-Legged Forward Fold): Stand with your feet far apart and drop your hands to the floor under
your shoulders. Let your feet start to slide further apart until you catch yourself with the elbows on the floor (or fall down
onto your bum).
Sledding and Snow Angels Cool-Down (Music: Frosty the Snowman by Ella Fitzgerald)
Sit at the back of your yoga mat or towel and fold the front edge over your feet and shins. Hold on to the edge of the mat as you lean back at the top of the hill and tip forward toward your feet as you zoom down the hill. Lean from side to side to steer your sled.
When you fall off, lay on your back and make imaginary snow angels by moving your arms and legs.
Snowvasana (Music: Still Nacht by Mannheim Steamroller)
Rest on the floor in whatever shape feels cozy to you. You might want to cover your body with your towel or a blanket. Close your eyes while you feel a soft snowball roll across your face (Mom/Dad: gently brush the cotton ball across your child's nose, forehead, ears, fingertips, toes.
Snowflake Mandala Coloring
Mandalas are circular patterns found in nature. They're fun for kids, as they can color the pattern differently or the same each time they rotate the paper.
Snowflake Mandalas(Google search)
Good luck to everyone in the now-arctic regions of the US this week, and stay warm, active and hydrated!
A Yoga & Creative Movement Class Inspired by the Traditional Christmas Ballet
Guests are marching through the snowy night to the Stahlbaum family's Christmas party.
Music: The Nutcracker Overture
March in place, backwards, and march in a line or circle with the other students.
Clara and her brother Fritz, and their parents are trimming the Christmas tree as guests arrive to the party. They reach up high to put ornaments on the tree, and then bend down low to place gifts under the tree.
Music: The Nutcracker: The Christmas Tree
Trimming the Tree Pose
(Upward Reach/Urdvha Hastasana
Repeat several times, breathing in as you reach up and out as you fold to the floor.
Fritz receives a hobby horse as a gift. He gallops around the room, shouting loudly and frightening some of the smaller children.
Music (for next pose too) : The Nutcracker: The Children's Gallop
Fritz's Horse Pose (Horse Kicks/Shakti Kicks) Begin in Downward Dog with hands firm on the floor and knees bent. Kick both legs up, trying to hit your seat with your heels. Repeat several times.
Clara receives a Nutcracker from her godfather, Drosselmeier. It is her favorite gift, and she is quite upset when Fritz breaks it, but Drosselmeier fixes it for her. She leaves him under the Christmas tree when she goes to sleep.
Music: See previous pose
Nutcracker Pose (Mountain Pose/Tadasana)
Stand tall and straight as a wooden doll.
Lion's Breath Breathe in deeply, breathing out through a wide open mouth, tongue sticking out as far as possible.
Clara wakes up in the middle of the night and goes to the parlor to check on her Nutcracker. She finds herself shrinking--or everything around her to be growing! Giant mischievous mice begin creeping out of the shadowy corners. Eventually the Christmas tree rises up into the night.
Music: Departure of the Guests (at around 3:30 you hear the clock strike 12, and then mice make their entry. At 4:35, Clara and even the mice watch in awe as the Christmas tree grows)
Mouse Pose (Chair Pose/Utkatasana)
Sit back as though in a chair, with feet together. Wiggle fingers in front of your cheeks. Turn side to side. Try lifting your heels and moving on tiptoes as you sneak around.
An army of tin soldiers comes to life. Under the direction of Clara's Nutcracker, who has also become life-sized, they battle the mice, who are led by the Mouse King. As the battle becomes more and more chaotic, Clara removes her shoe and throws it at the Mouse King, who tumbles to the ground as his mice retreat, the battle lost.
Music: The Nutcracker: The Battle
Tin Soldier Pose (Warrior 2/Virabhadrasana 2)
Stand in a deep lunge with back foot firmly planted. Use one hand to salute and the other arm extended over straight back leg. Listening to the battle music, alternate between Tin Soldier and Mouse.
Clara's Nutcracker has become a handsome Prince. He leads her through a pine forest, where snow begins to fall and the snowflakes tumble and dance around them.
Music: The Nutcracker: Waltz of the Snowflakes
Swirling Snowflakes (Standing Twist)
Stand with feet planted, arms open and palms facing up. Twist from the waist, side to side. When you start to feel dizzy, drift slowly to the floor, where it might feel nice to lay in the snow and make snow angels!
Clara and the Prince leave the snowy forest and arrive in the Land of Sweets, where they are ushered in by golden angels, and greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy, who invites them to watch as the inhabitants of the Land of Sweets perform for them.
Music: The Nutcracker: Act II, Introduction
Angel Pose (Tiptoe Balance)
Stand with feet together, raise heels and balance as you slowly move your wings up and down. Try moving in a circle with the other angels, still on tiptoes and taking very small steps. This is called "bourree" in ballet.
Clara and the Prince sit down to watch the divertissements, a presentation of candies and sweets from around the world. First to dance are the Chocolates from Spain. They're dressed in elegant red and black, and proudly strut with their castanets and fans, like flamenco dancers.
Music: The Nutcracker, Act II: Chocolate (Spanish)
Chocolate (Low Lunge Variation)
Step one foot forward and bend deeply at the knee until the kneecap of the back leg rests gently on the floor. With one hand on the hip of the back leg, use the other hand to demonstrate the flourish of a bright fan above. Try on both legs.
Next to perform is the Arabian Coffee. With slow, fluid movements, the dancers demonstrate flexibility and grace.
Music: The Nutcracker, Act II: Coffee (Arabian)
(One-leg Upward Dog, Standing Splits, Full Splits/Hanumanasana)
Move slowly into these deep stretches that open up the front of the body and the legs. Start in Upward Dog or Cobra Pose and bend one knee at a time, pointing toe toward the top of the head. Next, from a forward fold, raise one leg up high into standing splits, and then switch legs. Finally, from runner's hamstring stretch, slide the front heel forward until you need to stop and breathe. Repeat on the other side.
Up next is the lively Tea from China. They bounce and spin with endless energy.
Music: Nutcracker, Act II: Tea (Chinese Dance)
Tea (Chair Pose jumping to Horse/Goddess)
Like quick jumping jacks, go from one pose to the other with powerful legs. Maybe even try turning in a circle as you jump!
Candy Canes from Russia are next. Springy and athletic, their leaps match the powerful music.
Music: Nutcracker, Act II: Candy Canes (Russian)
Candy Canes (Standing Side Bends and Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose)
With feet together and palms pressed overhead, lean from side to side to stretch like a candy cane. Next, coming back to the center, pick up one knee and reach for your toes. Try to extend the leg forward as you balance, reaching the other arm straight up. Change legs.
From Denmark, dainty shepherdesses carrying flutes made of marzipan perform next.
Music: Nutcracker, Act II: Dance of the Mirlitons
Marzipan (Tilted Tree and Toe Taps)
Start in Tree pose and slowly tilt upper body away from lifted knee with arms out for balance. Then begin to tip the other way, toward the leg as you bring your toe to the floor and tap. Return to Tilted Tree. Try both sides.
Mother Ginger, with her enormous skirt billowing about, appears very flustered as her many children, the Polichinelles, pop out from beneath her skirt one by one. They run and tumble like clowns, and there are too many of them for her to keep track of. Clara and the Prince are very amused.
Music: Nutcracker, Act II, Mother Ginger
Mother Ginger's Skirt Pose (Standing Wide-legged Forward Fold into a Somersault)
Place feet wide, hands on the floor and head and neck relaxed. If your head is close to the floor and you're on a soft surface, tumble forward into a somersault, like one of the little clowns rolling out from underneath the skirt!
A group of beautifully petaled flowers waltzes across the stage now. They fold and open their petals, swaying in the breeze.
Music: Nutcracker, Act II, Waltz of the Flowers
Folding Flower Pose (Seated One-Leg Forward Fold/Janu Sirsasana)
Sit with one knee bent, like in tree. Reach arms up high, slightly rounded like the petal of a flower and then fold down toward the extended leg. If you have a large class, try sitting in a circle and moving together, many petals to make one flower! Repeat with the other leg forward.
Finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy herself dances for Clara.
Music: Nutcracker, Act II, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
Sugar Plum Fairy Pose (Dancer's Pose/Natarajasana)
Standing one leg, reach back for the top of the foot (same arm as leg), stretching the front of the thigh. Begin to push the foot further back as you balance, also stretching open the shoulder and arm. Gracefully, reach the other arm up for balance. Try on the other leg.
The magical evening has come to an end. Clara and the Prince wave goodbye to the Land of Sweets as they get into a sleigh pulled by reindeer that will return Clara to her home.
Music: Nutcracker, Act II, Final Waltz
Sleigh Pose (Boat Pose/Navasana)
Balancing on the sitting bones, lift legs off the floor, knees slightly bent. Reach arms toward toes, leaning back and keeping space under the lower back. Can you hold this pose as you wave goodbye to the Land of Sweets?
Snuggle up in Savasana, Final Resting Pose, visions of Sugar Plum Fairies dancing in your head.
Music: Nutcracker, Act 2, Pas de Deux: Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier
a yoga & creative movement lesson
for parents & teachers of children from preschool-5th grade
Some Animals Migrate
"Migrate" means to move somewhere warmer for the winter season, and then come back when it's spring.
- Monarch Butterflies fly to Mexico and southern California to escape the cold winters of the north. For Butterfly Pose, sit on the floor with the bottoms of your feet touching, and knees bent. Hold on to your ankles or toes with your hands. Sit up tall and move your legs up and down like the flapping wings of a butterfly.
- Snow Geese are large, white birds with black-tipped wings that take the Central Flyway route from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, passing over lots of rich farmland where they can stop and eat grain. For our Goose Pose (Low Lunge), let's stand on our knees and put one foot on the floor in front of you, leaning forward. Open your arms to the sides and flap them up and down, slowly and then faster and faster. Try putting your other foot forward, and flap your wings again. Can you take off into the sky from this shape? (If you have enough students and enough space, you can make a "V" shape and try to move together like a flock of geese.)
- Reindeer (Caribou) travel the farthest of all migrating animals, up to 5,000 miles, looking for forests where they can search under the snow for food. They are fast runners and can also swim across lakes and rivers to get where they are going. Stand up with your feet wide, like Warrior 1 Pose. Bend your front knee (toes forward) but keep the back leg straight (toes turn to side). Attach your thumbs to the sides of your head above your ears, fingers spread out like antlers. Lift your head and look up to the sky. Then lean forward, lowering head in front of knee to look for food under the snow. Then repeat with the other foot forward.
- Humans! Lots of people like to leave the cold weather and travel somewhere warm for part of the winter, or all of the winter. How do they get to a warm place far away? Let's try flying in Airplane Pose. Balance on one foot with your other leg lifted behind you like the tail of a jet. Tip forward and reach your arms out to the sides like sturdy airplane wings. Try changing legs.
"Adapt" means to change how you look or how you act. Let's talk about some animals who change when the winter comes!
- Squirrels gather and store extra food for the long winter, when they might not be able to find much to eat. Usually, they don't like when other squirrels come into their favorite hiding spots, but in the winter they share their homes, huddling together to keep warm. Stand up with your feet apart, as wide as your body. Bend your knees like you're about to sit in a chair--Chair Pose. Bring your elbows close to your sides, lifting cupped hands up in front of your chest like squirrel's hands. Wiggle your back side as though you have a tall bushy tail to wave.
If you have a group of students, try these Squirrel Games:
Pass the Acorn: Stand in a circle, everyone in Squirrel Pose. Pass an "acorn" (any small object about the size of an orange) from squirrel to squirrel, holding it only with the inside edges of your hands (no fingers). Make sure everyone keeps their knees bent until the acorn goes all the way around the circle.
Scatter and Huddle: Squirrels roam around the room in whatever ways the children imagine squirrels might--darting, shuffling, pausing to twitch their noses, until the teacher rings a bell or calls out "Huddle!" Move into the middle of the room to keep each other warm, until the bell rings again or the teacher calls out "Scatter!"
- Fish in some cold places spend their winters being very active and moving around a lot so their bodies don't freeze. Lay down on your belly and lift your legs and arms. Swish your feet like a tail and paddle your hands like fins, twisting your body from side to side. Move so you don't freeze!
- Snowshoe Rabbits are a rusty brown color... until it snows! Then their fur turns white so they match the snow and they can't be seen by animals who might try to eat them. Also, their feet are large and hairy so they don't sink down into the snowdrifts. For Rabbit Pose, sit on your shins and tip forward slowly till your head touches the mat in front of your knees. Reach your arms alongside your shins toward your ankles and start to lift your seat off your legs, keeping your head on the floor. Imagine you are hiding in the snow!
- Humans! People adapt to cold winter weather by wearing lots of warm clothes and eating hot food and drinking hot drinks. Hot Chocolate Breath: Take a seat and hold your hands around an imaginary mug. Breathe in and smell your cocoa. Do you like marshmallows in it? Or some whip cream and sprinkles? Breathe out slowly through your mouth, so your breath warms your hands. Repeat a few a few more times, breathing in through your nose and breathing out warm breath through your mouth. If you want to add a movement game for a larger group, this would be a great time to play a Bundle-Up Relay Race, with two piles of oversized sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens, etc, at one end of the room. In two lines, a student from each team runs to the clothes, puts them all on and runs back, where they tag the next person in line to return to the former pile with them. The first player takes all the items off and goes to the end of their line while the next player puts them on. Continue till one team's last player is dressed in the warm clothes.
Some Animals Hibernate
"Hibernate" means to take a long nap during winter.
- Grizzly Bears sleep from 5-7 months of the year. They eat a lot before they hibernate, and then they don't eat or go to the bathroom until winter is over. Let's Bear Walk, on hands and feet, around the room, getting slower and slower and more tired until finally, we curl up and sleep.
- Box Turtles get so quiet during hibernation that they don't even breathe! Their skin takes in oxygen while they rest. Turtle Pose: Sit with your legs in front of you and the bottoms of your feet touching, so your legs form a diamond shape. Slide your hands, palms down, under your ankles and round your back, letting your forehead rest on your feet (or above your feet). It's nice and dark and quiet in your turtle shell.
- Humans! Of course we don't sleep for months, but many people in cold places are less active in the winter, staying inside and maybe curling up with a blanket next to a fire. Let's stack our legs in Firelog Pose, sitting on the floor and crossing one shin on top of the other. Rub your hands together until they feel warm, and then give yourself a big warm hug. Make a fire with the other leg on top.
"Dormant" is a way of hibernating, when the animal's body goes "on pause" for the winter. Part of their body may even freeze, but they wake up again when it gets warmer.
- Frogs can go dormant in the mud at the bottom of a pond, or by burrowing into old leaves on the ground. Their body temperature drops and they get almost as cold as the earth around them. Frog Pose, squatting low with your sticky, webbed hands gripping the floor in front of you. Try a few hops and then stop moving and show a frozen frog shape!
- Snakes in some places burrow into little tunnels underground, where the temperature is cold but not freezing. They do not move or eat for months. Laying on your belly with legs and feet touching, reach your arms by your sides as though you don't have arms at all, in Snake Pose. Lift your head and shoulders away from the floor and look from one side to the other, hissing. Wiggle into an imaginary burrow and show what a dormant snake might look like.
- Insects, such as the Ladybird Beetle (Ladybug) find a sheltered spot to sleep in a dormant state till it warms up. We can do Flipped Bug Pose (a nicer way to say Dead Bug pose) by laying on our backs with our knees bent toward our armpits, bottoms of feet up to the ceiling. Now hold on to your feet with your hands and rock side to side a few times. Then find a paused shape, like a sleepy ladybug.
- Humans! Though we don't hibernate or go dormant like some animals do, deep rest is very important to our health. Let's practice the best yoga pose of all, Final Resting Pose, or Savasana, for a few minutes and let our muscles, bones, heart and brain be soft and calm. Make yourself comfortable on your mat and feel very heavy and quiet. Listen to your breath. (Teachers/Parents, you may want to dim the lights, turn on soft music or count slowly to ten so the children know how long they will be resting for. After sitting up and stretching and yawning, talk about how good it would feel to wake up after months of sleep. Where would you go? What would you eat?
My mission in teaching yoga to young children is to foster creativity, confidence, and a positive attitude around physicality and motion. A foundation in mind-body awareness sparked during early development can last through childhood and adolescence to create strong, healthy individuals. In moving, breathing and playing together, we are connected in our humanity through the somatic experience. I invite parents, educators, and other kids' yoga instructors to use my sample lesson plans, comment on posts, and ask questions or submit their own ideas!
Chinese New Year
Final Resting Pose
National Parks Yoga
Props For Kids' Yoga
Sequences For Kids
Yoga For Little Friends
Yoga In Children's Literature
Yoga In Children's Literature
Yoga In School
Yoga With Books