The first ever National Kids Yoga Conference was a great success with a turnout in the hundreds. It was held on Saturday September 27th in Washington, D.C. George Washington University donated the space at their Milken Institute School of Public Health. Three floors of the building were used for the conference, and lunch was provided for attendees.
The conference brought kids yoga studio owners, teachers and professionals together from all over the world. This was the first opportunity for many people to connect face to face with other kids yoga business owners from different areas.
“It helped entrepreneurs like us realize that there's a market out there,” said An Dang of the Little Yoga House in Austin, Texas.
Other presenters included Bari Koral of the Bari Koral Family Rock Band, Sat Bir Khalsa, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Ali Smith of the Holistic Life Foundation.
“It’s like you were born with a banana on your head and all of a sudden you found a bunch of other people with bananas on their heads,” said Bari when asked about her experience at the conference. From talking to the founders, participants and presenters it was clear that the main goal of the conference this year was bringing people together to connect and share ideas.
At the end of the day participants were able to stretch and relax with a yoga class lead by Eddie Stern.
As Michelle said at the closing, “I could say thank you for a really long time.” There were many sponsors in order to make this conference happen and as long as there is interest next year, the founders want to continue the conference. Plans are for next October; keep an eye out for details in the future. If you’re in the kids yoga industry you don’t want to miss it!
For more information visit their website: www.kidsyogaconference.org
When I was younger my mom put me in dance class. Once a week I would take a combined Jazz, Tap, Ballet class and as I got older focused on Jazz and Modern dance classes. Then at 11 years old I was diagnosed with Scoliosis. Then guess how often I practiced dance? Not at all. It became very painful to do most things. What would've helped ease the pain however was yoga. That was more than 10 years ago and kids practicing yoga is a fairly new trend. I only was introduced to it some years after my surgery, as a teen. I was lucky to discover it then.
The first benefit of yoga is that it can be done with just about any illness/disability without a problem. Even if injured or working with a disability, it is still important to stay active to stay healthy. Sometimes even the easiest movements can make a tremendous difference. Practicing breathing exercises to help with lung capacity, easy twists, all the way to moving fingers and toes is doing something toward well being. I've held numerous classes for children to adults with disabilities to help them find relief. There is always something to do.
The second benefit is that it teaches children much more than any physical activity they will do. I was suggested yoga to help with back pain from Scoliosis, but I ended up getting much more out of it than just pain relief. Teenagers have many emotions and it is far from easy. There is stress from kids at school, changes physically and all while establishing their identity. Yoga teaches kids how to channel their emotions in a positive way. Yoga teaches kids about their mind and body, without even trying. This awareness is what starts the ball rolling. It's not what emotions are present, it's what is done with them. Yoga teaches kids how to manage that.
The third benefit is teaching kids how to breathe for optimal health. As I just mentioned yoga brings awareness. Breathing is something that we do without effort and we aren't consciously aware that how we breathe effects our health. Breath is our life force, yet we often take it for granted because it's not something we have to work for. What if you were told that if you took 10 deep breaths every day it would improve your quality of life; younger looking skin, weight loss, less stress, etc. We do and buy many things because of the claim it will improve our quality of life, but the one thing that is free and completely in our control we often do nothing with. Yoga teaches kids how to use their breath to expand their lung capacity, so they can swim farther, be healthier and manage emotions.
There is always a time and place for yoga; 10 minutes, one hour, in a hospital bed, living room, class setting... There is no right or wrong, there's only the first step. The benefits are too great to ignore any longer. Don't take my word for it, give it a try!
This chakra is known as the thousand petal lotus, the meaning of the sanskrit word, and is what connects us to the spiritual side of life. The element of this chakra is thought, and that is what creates our world. Lack of strength in this area might come through as apathy, aimlessness and materialism. Truth and reality are the ways to associate with this chakra. There isn't a particular food associated with this, but rather a rest from eating can help energize it. Possibly a juice fast or something light would be helpful. Check this one out here.
Here are 7 other things about the Sahasrara chakra:
1. The color associated with this is white or purple/violet
2. The symbol is like a lotus flower representing the name and the idea of the infinite spiritual power of everything
3. It is located on the top of the head, which is where the term "crown" comes from and you might recognize this like a halo in some religions or a light at the top of the head
4. The seed mantra for this is AUM, repeating to yourself or out loud
5. It is associated with the brain and the entire nervous system
6. The best yoga practice for this chakra is meditation. Balancing poses like tree, click here to try, and warrior 3, click here to try, are also beneficial to this chakra
7. Physical symptoms of this area out of balance might be fatigue and light or sound sensitivity
This chakra is one that I can relate to. Often people that are quiet, or have a hard time saying what is on their mind needs to work on balancing this chakra.
It is the third to last one, and is located above the heart. This is a good time to be aware of this chakra, when allergies are prevalent and taking good care of your throat will keep you healthy. It is said that this area is the bridge of your body, connecting the mind with other vital organs. Here are 7 more fun facts for this chakra:
1. The color associated with Vishuddha is blue/turquoise.
2. Expression through this chakra comes from singing, speaking, music, dance in relation to rhythm.
3. Vishuddha means "pure"
4. Unbalanced throat chakra can lead to neck stiffness, thyroid problems, throat problems, teeth grinding and other mouth conditions. If too much there is a lot of talking, or stuttering.
5. Breathing exercises are great for this chakra. Practice the dandelion breath and other fun activities that get kids focusing on their breath.
6. Juices, and fruits which are highly water-based are great things to help bring this chakra into balance. Soups or sauces are also appropriate foods to help this chakra.
7. The mantra for this chakra is "HAM" with a long A. This is a nice exercise to practice with your kids. Get creative and say it to help focus and relax them.
There are many more things to learn about this chakra, and it is important to practice some poses to help balance. Things that stretch the throat are generally going to help. Camel pose, bridge pose, and even the snake can benefit your child. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment, or email me with any questions!
The location of this Chakra is the chest area, above the heart. It represents love, or ourselves and others. This is the center of the chakras, with three below and three above. This is the chakra associated with love and peace. Even though Valentine's Day has come and passed we can be mindful of celebrating love every day and giving in a more loving way. Again, here are seven things about his chakra that everyone should know.
1. Appropriately for March, the color associated with it is green!
2. Air is the element associated with it, therefore breathing exercises will help balance this chakra.
3. Any back bends will help to balance this chakra and build energy.
4. If this chakra is unbalanced you might notice jealousy, shallow breathing, and as you age it can turn into heart disease and high blood pressure.
5. A related organ is the thymus, as well as the circulatory system and lungs.
6. Green foods are balancing for this chakra, like peppers, kale, cucumbers, and string beans to name a few.
7. "Yam" is the seed mantra.
Throughout the month of March practice sharing rounds or speaking, "yam" with those in your life that you love. Cultivate compassion by taking a moment to take a deep breath when things get tough. When you know you're frustrated with someone take a moment of silence to think about the situation from their perspective. Add some healthy natural green foods to at least one meal per day. Yoga is a practice, and most importantly, don't beat yourself up if you don't do these things all the time. Practicing compassion for yourself is the first step to loving others.
The Manipura Chakra is located around the abdomen and is third in the series. This area is where self esteem and willpower come from. Often you’ll hear people say that the stomach is the second brain and this chakra is directly related to that idea. It is in charge of metabolism and digestion and therefore, transformation in many other ways.
1. The color yellow is connected to this chakra.
2. It’s associated with the stomach and other digestive organs like the spleen and gall bladder.
3. The mantra to help balance this chakra is Ram; say it out loud.
4. Yellow foods help to balance Manipura, like bananas, yellow peppers, squash, and complex carbs.
5. When there is an imbalance in this chakra the body will experience a variety of stomach troubles, ulcers, and lack of confidence.
6. If your Manipura chakra is overstimulated it can result in feelings of anger and hatred, as well as a desire to control people and situations.
7. Poses to help balance this chakra are: boat, as well as any abdominal work, sun salutations, twists of any kind, and the warrior series. If this chakra is too strong, backbends are a good counter to ease the energy.
Finding balance in this chakra will bring vitality to your entire body. “20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life…” according to nationaleatingdisorders.org. In adolescents eating disorders and conditions like IBS are prevalent. Developing a strong abdomen is a good way to build strength throughout the body and help the organs get stronger as well.
Our YogiDance symbol resembles this chakra because of it’s importance in the whole of life. When this area suffers, it can affect others areas of our body and life.
With kids it is fun to pretend they are rowing a boat; try to make a habit of doing this with them every day to build strength in their core. Being mindful of staying away from processed foods, sugar, and just about everything in the freezer section of the store will help to build strong healthy bodies!
The next chakra to learn is the Sacral chakra, where the energy, life and creativity is housed. This is also where people hold emotions and can be a very powerful region. Coincidentally it is considered to be a feminine chakra, whereas the first one in the series, the root, is masculine. Often we can see a relation to these chakras and the normal behavior of either gender.
1. The sacral chakra is associated with the reproductive organs, as well as the hips and entire pelvic region. It is located around the navel.
2. The color orange represents this chakra.
3. The mantra for the sacral chakra is Vam. When speaking this mantra repeatedly the tongue hits certain points in the mouth that help to balance the chakra.
4. Foods to balance this chakra are anything orange like carrots, pumpkin, and also seeds.
5. This chakra houses creative energy, and life since it is related to birth. Emotions are also housed in this region. When you feel like you are in a creative flow, this chakra is strong.
6. Lack of energy and ideas, can mean this chakra is out of balance.
7. The poses that help balance the sacral chakra are ones that work the legs hips, and pelvis. Poses like pigeon, bound angle, and goddess. Practice these carefully if you are aware of an imbalance. These poses can be very emotional and it is not uncommon to be overcome with strong emotions or even cry when holding these poses for extended periods of time.
Having a healthy handle on our emotions is an important aspect of our overall health. That means it is very important to be aware of when this chakra is out of balance. With your children you might notice more temper tantrums, lots of crying and any physical problems of the organs in that region, like the bladder. If any of these things are standing out to you I would suggest adding more balancing foods to their diet and practice the poses at home. You can even make a fun game out of saying the mantra!
There are many levels of healing in yoga, and I’d like to focus the next 7 posts on chakras and teaching you 7 things about each one. Chakras are 7 centers on the body where nadis intersect. Nadis are energy channels that run throughout the body. Yoga poses help to open and balance the chakras allowing for better health. The 7 chakras are the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown. Each chakra relates to different parts of the body.
I’ll start with the root chakra.
1. The root chakra relates to our ability to be grounded, and stable. It also relates to organs in that area like the colon as well as the feet and legs.
2. It’s located at the base of the spine.
3. When out of balance in this chakra we can have anxiety and worry.
4. Each chakra has a mantra associated with it and when you say the mantra your tongue hits certain reflex points in your mouth that help balance the chakra. The mantra for the root chakra is LAM, you can make a fun activity out of saying this with your kids.
5. Each chakra has a color associated with it. The color of the root is red. Eating natural foods that are a shade of red will help to balance that chakra.
6. The root chakra is associated with being grounded, if there are times in your life where you are uprooted, like moving, or major life changes that make you feel unstable, doing the things associated with the root will help you find balance.
7. There are many yoga poses to help balance the root chakra. Focusing on any pose that strengthens the legs will be valuable. Practice chair, tree, or dancer based on your level of experience, and the warrior poses.
Always notice how your body is feeling, and what emotional state you’re in. When we become aware of these things, and how we’re reacting to certain situations in our lives, we can turn to yoga to help bring our mind and body back to balance!
“Take a deep belly breath” I tell the kids in my classes. One of the most important aspects of kids yoga is teaching children breath awareness. Belly breathing is really just diaphragmatic breathing – where your diaphragm muscle contracts in order to get the maximum benefit from each breath taken. According to a study done by Kajander and Peper, Newborns naturally breathe diaphragmatically. Then around age 10, children change to a shallow thoracic breathing pattern. If we are born breathing diaphragmatically, then it is the natural state we should maintain.
Teaching children to practice diaphragmatic breathing can help enhance their mind and body. Among many, here are a few of the benefits: it oxygenates the muscles, enhances stamina and can increase metabolism. Breathing is linked to mood and studies have shown that full, relaxed breathing correlates to a relaxed, healthy state of mind. On the other hand, according to Peper’s studies, “Thoracic breathing can cause dyspnea, fatigue, irritation, headaches, increased muscle tension in the upper chest as well as increased feelings of anxiety and panic.”
Breath awareness is a powerful tool for a child to learn. Breathing activities done when upset, anxious, nervous, or any other state of mind that is not natural may ease a child’s mood. According to Kajander and Peper, “In a survey of children who participated in a biofeedback program for a variety of psychophysiologic disorders, 80% identified ‘that breathing stuff’ as the component of the training that they used most and retained longest.”
You and your child can practice breathing exercises outside of bringing them to class, which I highly recommend. Here are three activities I use in class that you can try at home:
The Balloon Game: Tell your child to imagine that you need their help to fill up balloons for a party. Their belly is the balloon, and they have to take a deep breath and push their belly out to fill up each balloon. Instruct them put their hands on their belly so they can feel the movement of their stomach in order to teach them what it feels like to breathe diaphragmatically (and so the balloon doesn’t fly away). Have them tell you the colors of the balloons as they are filling them up. This keeps their attention and they will continue until they run out of colors. You can do this any time to help them get into the habit of breathing fully.
The Seed Game: Another fun breathing activity is to have them take child’s pose (sitting on their feet, with belly over their thighs and head resting on the ground). Tell them to imagine that they are a seed under the dirt. To grow into a big tree they have to pop their seed open by taking a deep breath and pressing their belly against their legs. Tell them to try it a few times, and then from there they can grow into tree pose. This would be a great one to try if they aren’t behaving, are angry or in a similar state of mind, which is often a time when children need time alone, so you can tell them they are under the dirt where no one can bother them. By folding over and putting their head down it is immediately calming; adding the breathing practice will help change their mood.
The Counting Game: Counting is another great way to teach children breath awareness, and helps them with focus as well. Have your child count “one” as they inhale and “one” as they exhale, then move on to “two” and go up to five before starting back at “one.” If it’s a young child they can repeat “one.” Be sure to tell your child to focus on the natural rhythm of their breath, instead of holding it or manipulating it in any way.
Begin all breathing practices for a short period of time; repeating activities three times is a good starting point. Once they get more comfortable with a practice, or if you notice they want to continue, encourage continuing for a longer period of time. In order to teach children that breathing exercises are good for them, do not force them to do it; instead encourage them, and don’t get frustrated if they don’t cooperate. Keep trying and eventually you will find the right moment, or they will start to develop an interest. Tell them they can practice these on their own so it gives them confidence and encouragement that they can do it alone. Let them know the best times to practice: when they are angry, sad, anxious, upset, unhappy, or before bed, a game or homework, for example. Any time they would benefit from concentration or relaxation is also a good time to practice.