Changing The World with Family Yoga
No mobile phones, no iPads or TV, no other duties…it’s just you and your children. You might be surprised, but that does not happen often in the 21st century.
Family is so important, and time and care are needed to nurture it and make it work; yoga is perfect for this! Children, parents, and even grandparents get to enjoy practicing yoga together and strengthen their bonds while they support each other and have fun.
The Importance of Play
In their constant struggle to juggle all of their responsibilities with the numerous things they need to do to care for their children, parents have become policeman and policewomen.
Being so busy keeping the kids safe, telling them what to do and what not to do, many parents have become way to serious! (I am exaggerating…but just a bit.) So this is my favorite thing about Family Yoga: it teaches parents how to play!
The most common response we hear from parents after a few Family Yoga classes is that things are different at home now, and EVERYTHING is more playful and fun!
Bridging The Gap
Family yoga is very special; it is a rare opportunity for both parents and children to observe and learn from each other and a great way to bridge the huge age difference between them.
While playing yoga together as a family, we exchange roles a lot. For example, while doing Dog Pose, parents, who are usually the leaders, get to be led on a dog walk by their children. Children, who are usually the receivers, get to give to their parents when they massage them while in relaxation.
- Parents get to see how their children learn and how they interact with other children and adults. And children get to see their parents as learners, something that doesn’t happen very often, setting a great example for their children.
- Until a certain age children think that their parents are superhuman; that they never get tired, never run out of time or money, and that there is nothing that they can’t do. It is good for the children to realize that their parents are not perfect.
- There are many poses that the children can do and the parents can’t, and some activities that the children can do better than the parents. This humanizes the parent and eases the pressure that their children’s expectations can create.
In addition to all of the other great benefits of yoga, all of these gestures help to relieve tension in the parent/child relationship.
Teaching A Family Yoga Class
When you teach a Family Yoga class, emphasize the following:
Bring People Together
To feel alive and nurtured, to feel that we have found our place in this world, we need to feel connected.
Sometimes we are so far apart even when we are seated next to each other; have you seen family dinners where everyone is on their mobile devices?
We need Family Yoga to help us reclaim our closeness. That’s your mission in Family Yoga…to connect people!
Group and Partner Poses
It is all about the connections!
Do as many group and partner poses as you can! Don’t waste the precious time parents and children have together in doing individual poses. Make sure that they physically touch and connect in every pose. It’s transformative and it is always more fun to do yoga TOGETHER!
You can find ways to connect in all poses; facing each other, one behind the other, back to back, side by side, one on top of the other, or holding hands!
In most poses it is easy to adjust the size differences between the parents and the children, so be creative! Some poses where we are one on top of the other might only work with children on top.
Two parents and a grandparent can come with one child or one parent with four children. Most poses can be done in little groups or you (the teacher) can partner with a parent or a child if there is an odd number.
Bring as many loving gestures into the class:
- Looking into each other’s eyes
- Coordinating the breath
- Holding hands, massaging each other
- Sharing experiences
- Positive feedback
- Teaching each other
- Supporting each other in balancing poses
- Helping each other stretch
- Laughter and smiles
- During the final relaxation, the children can lie down side by side with their parents, holding hands, or even on top of their parents
- Waking each other from relaxation with hugs and kisses
- Whispering beautiful things in each other ears
The communication skills and loving connections we develop during the safe and relaxed atmosphere of the yoga class will go a long way in serving the family during stressful times.
Don’t Neglect the Parents
Parents are people too; they want to be appreciated and recognized as individuals. Make sure to cherish them and value them, they deserve it so very much. Parents work so hard and rarely get the recognition they deserve. Praise them and fatten up their ego, it will be a breath of fresh air for them in a world where they mostly just get criticized.
Here are some ideas of how to care for the parents:
- Call them by their own name, never by their child’s name (Amanda, and not Zoe’s mom).
- Tell them how beautifully they are progressing in their yoga, and how awesome they are for coming to Family Yoga with their children. Parents don’t usually get enough positive feedback from anyone. They will be all yours if you keep telling them that they are doing a good job!
- Show them ways to help and support their children in the poses.
- Give them variations in the poses to make it more comfortable/challenging to fit their abilities.
- Tell them a lot about the benefits of the yoga poses so that they’ll know how great it is for them and for their children.
- Help the parents to be calm and playful; this will go a long way in facilitating the same feelings in their children. It’s fun to be silly, and it provides a great release for serious adults just as much as it does for children!
- Focus a lot on the interaction between parents and their children, complimenting the parents about how wonderful it is to see the family so close together.
Creating A Community
Becoming a mom can be an isolating experience. Sometimes it involves moving to a new place, having a new job or no job, everyone around you is busy and you are double busy now with children. Family Yoga is an opportunity to meet other parents and create a new community of like-minded people.
People come to your class not just for the yoga, but also for the social part of it. Putting in time and effort in connecting the people in your class is a worthwhile investment.
Here are a couple of things you can do to help build a community and form friendships within your class:
- Come before the class and stay after – Create the space and time for people to connect on a personal level.
- Give contact sheets (with everyone’s permission).
- Encourage conversations/discussions between the parents in your class about parenthood and other topics, sharing ideas and helping each other out.