After researching how practicing yoga can benefit hikers, I was curious about how families can benefit from practicing yoga together in our favorite setting: nature! I enlisted the help of my mama friend and yoga-instructor, Jolene McGuire, to discuss some of the benefits of family yoga. Jolene is the woman responsible for pulling me out of a recent yoga hiatus after some bad experiences with a few instructors, and she helped me fall back in love with the practice. She is 200-hour RYT certified and practices in southern Georgia. Together, we compiled a list of tips and strategies for encouraging kids to participate in yoga, along with some fun nature-inspired poses you can try on your next hike or outdoor adventure.
Practicing yoga together benefits families
Practicing yoga is a healthy way for families to bond, spend quality time together, unplug from everyday distractions and stay active together. It can bring a sense of stillness, joy, awareness and compassion that may be overlooked as we sometimes monotonously move throughout our daily lives. It’s also a very fun and creative way to allow our children to see us in a different light and perspective! It allows us to be silly, calm, engaging and it can also allow for the kids to be able to show the family some cool yoga moves that we as adults may be limited to do! There are various poses you can incorporate into a practice that can also be done as a couple or even together as an entire family (such as tree pose), which can increase the bond that much more.
Finding a connection between yoga and nature
One of the major components of yoga is developing self-awareness and exploring how we are linked to the environment around us and the earth beneath us. That is why many of the poses are focused on nature (tree pose, mountain pose, animal poses, etc.). When you practice yoga outside, it provides a greater union between your practice and nature, and intensifies the yoga experience. This is especially true if you use the elements in your practice (such as matching your breath to the breeze or letting the warmth of the sun help your muscles become more pliable). Or in the case of family nature yoga, using what you see around you to inspire your poses, even if they are not “true” yoga poses.
Encouraging kids to participate in yoga
- Focus on fun over form. It’s more important that they are making fun family memories rather than how perfect their form is for the down-dog pose.
- Grab a “stick” almost like a communication stick so the child can take a moment to be the leader. Have them pick a yoga pose from something they’ve learned prior, like a list of relatable animal/nature pictures or make up their own, and they can “teach” everyone how to do it. Each child can take a turn at each designated yoga break.
- Have them use the wind as their guide to practice breathing techniques (“breathe in the breeze”).
- If you are ready for a break in your hike, ask the kiddos what they see (tree, bird, flowers, etc.) and ask if they can pretend to be what they see. You can do the pose yourself first to show what you mean or let them come up with one on their own!
- Use the letters of the alphabet to encourage a certain pose from yoga using kid-friendly names, such as alligator pose (any pose with chomping arm movements), butterfly, cat/cow, down dog, etc. Don’t hesitate to make stuff up as long as they are learning and having fun!!!
Looking to Nature for Yoga Poses
Below are examples of some yoga poses inspired by nature and includes kid-friendly descriptions you can use. You can do these in any way you prefer, and they help break up the hike or refocus the kiddos.
- Mountain – Stand up tall with your feet planted on the ground and your palms facing forward. You are strong and steady like a mountain!
- Tree – Stand up tall and bring one foot to rest on your other leg, above or below the knee. With your leg rooted like a tree trunk, bring your arms up like tree branches. Grab hands with your friends to make a forest! Repeat on the other side.
- Bird (Warrior 3) – Starting in Mountain pose, extend your wings (arms) out to either side. Lean forward, lifting one leg straight behind you. “Fly” on both sides so your bird is balanced (bird noises are encouraged!).
- Rainbow – Stand up tall and reach your arms up, touching your hands together at the top. Then lean to one side to create half a rainbow. Repeat on the other side. You can also find a partner and create a whole rainbow together!
- Flower – Sitting up tall, bend your legs and place the bottoms of your feet together. Place your hands under your ankles and grab on to them. While sitting up tall, see if you can lift your feet off the ground and balance on your bottom. You are a blossoming flower!
- Butterfly – Sitting up tall on the ground, bend your legs and bring the bottoms of your feet together. Gently bounce your knees up and down as you flap your butterfly wings!
- Turtle – Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Slide your feet closer to your body and let your knees fall open to the sides. Slide your hands underneath your legs so they look like turtle flippers under your legs.
- Snake – Lie on your stomach with your hands on the ground under your shoulders. Pushing through your hands, lift your head and shoulders up off the ground and give a great big hissssss.
- Downward Dog – Start on all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart. Spread your fingers and press your palms flat into the ground. Lift your tail into the sky, making an upside-down V shape. You can “walk” your dog by bending one leg at a time while straightening the opposite leg. (Barking and tail wagging is optional.)
- Frog – Start in a standing position and lower into a deep squat on your toes. Put your hands on the ground in front of you for balance. Once you are comfortable, jump into the air like a frog, being sure to “ribbit” as you hop.
- Lion – Start by kneeling on the ground, sitting on your heels with your hands in your lap. Clap your hands in your lap three times and then come up onto your knees. Open your claws, stick your tongue out, and make your eyes wide as you let out a great big ROAR!
Does your family practice yoga together outside? Do you have other nature-inspired yoga poses you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos courtesy of Rebecca Hosley.
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