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?