This time of year for children is so magical — they can hardly contain their joy and excitement!
A regular yoga practice is so beneficial for kids today, and can also provide an opportunity for a story circle. Inspired by The Polar Express, this fun yoga sequence can keep little yogis entertained at home during the holidays, especially if they get snowed in.
It is such a fantastic time to be together as a family, as a classroom of students and of course, as friends. What better way than practicing some yoga together to pass the time, and retell this classic story in a creative new way.
Gallery Credit: Courtesy of the author with permission from St. Pius X/St. Leo School in Omaha
Before you begin, an OM chant is an ideal way to center and prepare your kids for listening to a story.
You can then kick off the practice with a structured game, if you wish. Here, the classic "Downward Dog Tunnel" is turned into a "Train Tunnel" and each little yogi gets a chance to travel through, perhaps saying, "Choo-choo."
Next, transition into "Train Breath." A deep single inhale, maybe to a count of five, is followed by a three part exhale.
During their audible exhale, give the kids the option to sound like a train coming to halt at the station.
We all know that trains go over bridges, so Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) is a perfect option.
Ask the young yogis to lie on their backs with soles of the feet on the floor. Invite them to reach and feel their heels with their hands. As they press into their feet and lift their hips up to the sky, remind them to tuck their chins and take long, smooth breaths.
Yogis can then lower slowly back to the ground, one vertebrae at a time. A second supported bridge, or a bridge "under construction" can follow, with a block placed at its middle height, underneath the sacrum.
"Rooftops" is a fun partner pose that mimics the tops of train stations.
Partners stand across from each other, pressing their palms together. While leaning into each other, partners lift their hands up to make a rooftop. To come out of the pose, the children can lower their hands and take a step toward each other.
This partner pose can be done a couple of times with different friends.
Invite your kids to take a seat on the holiday train and practice Chair Pose (Utkatasana).
Their feet and legs should be hips-width distance apart or touching, making sure they bend their knees and push their bums back like sitting on a bench.
This can be turned into a flowing chair by lifting up and waving arms, as if asking for some hot chocolate. Chair Pose can be repeated 3-5 times.
Gate pose (Parighasana) is a fun way to copy the entrance gates into the North Pole.
Young yogis start in a high kneeling position, then straighten the right leg off to the side. With arms out in a capital T-shape, they slide the right arm down the straight leg, opening the gate. Then arms can flow to the other side, closing the gate.
This flow can be done 3-5 times on the right side and then switch to the left.
A classic toy that could be found on Santa's holiday train is our next pose, the Jack-in-the-Box.
Young yogis start out in a Squat Pose variation (Malasana), where the heels can be slightly off the ground.
Then, que the kids to "pop" up and wiggle around. No doubt this silly pose will be a favorite and incite many giggles and unique interpretations. Repeat 3-5 times.
In the story, a bell is the first gift that Santa hands out.
Little yogis can become a bell in Forward Fold (Uttanasana).
While in a Forward Fold, the kids can gently sway back and forth as though they were a bell. Maybe you'll encourage them to make the sound of a few "dings" and "dongs."
After these active poses, it's time to begin to quiet down and prepare for Savasana.
"Peace on Earth" breath is done while sitting in Sukhasana (criss-cross applesauce). Once seated, invite the children to do Anjali Mudra by bringing their hands to their hearts. Anjali Mudra is a mudra of honor and peace, a holiday wish that we honor each other in hopes to bring peace to the world.
The children can inhale to a count of five, hold for one, and exhale to a count of five. The breath can be repeated 3-5 times.
And finally, we end in our final resting pose, Savasana.
Invite the children to lay down with their legs straight out in front of them and their arms to side with their palms face up. Their eyes can be heavy or closed, if they're comfortable with that.
During Savasana you could guide the young yogis through a meditation of your choice, or have 2-3 minutes in a silent meditation.
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