Children today are plugged in. It can feel constant and relentless. Sometimes I feel I am fighting an uphill battle with my own two children. From television and video games at home to communicating with friends and family and even checking for homework assignments online, kids today spend increasing time in front of a screen. Many parents wonder, “How do I keep my child grounded in our technology-driven society?” For my own family, I look to the ancient practice of yoga for answers, and I also teach Family Yoga at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center. Many poses promote grounding and a return to Earth. Yoga also promotes family fun. I enjoy discussing elements of biology, anatomy, physiology, psychology and sociology when exploring yoga with children. Honestly, I do this with my adult students too! I have found that it keeps all more engaged and it helps solidify their practice into concrete terms. When practicing with children, I like to use simple English yoga terminology to keep things more clear and to expand on the term’s connection to our movement. Here are five grounding yoga postures the entire family can share.
1, One of the most grounding of all yoga poses is Child’s pose. One of the important posture attributes to take into consideration when grounding is how much of the body is connected to the floor. Looking at Child’s pose, the connection points are many: forehead, knees, shins, feet, arms, and hands. When I have my young students in Child’s pose I encourage them to imagine themselves as a rock, heavy and sinking into the ground. This promotes relaxation and calmness through the body and mind.
2. Another great pose for grounding is Butterfly. In this posture imagine that your sitz bones and tailbone are drawing into the floor as the feet and ankles are also drawn down. As the sacrum and lower part of the spine ground, the muscles of the core; the abdominals, oblique muscles, and muscles of the back, engage to support the spine and elongate the body upwards. I’ll ask my students to check in with their own bodies and notice if they feel different muscles working here and throughout our practice. When working with a younger group I also like to take a few minutes and have everyone lean forward into their Butterfly stretch and take big ‘ol whiff with their feet! We call this “Stinky Feet Check.” This creates a moment of comic relief and fun. We get to discuss either how wonderful or how disgusting our feet may smell! It has proven to be fun for kids of all ages and a challenge to get your nose that close to your toes!
3. In Tree pose we balance on one leg placing the opposite foot at the ankle, calf, or inner thigh as our hands either rest at our hearts or reach for the sky. During Tree I like to discuss the foot on the floor as being the root of the tree trunk and have the Littles imagine their toes and heel actually growing roots through their yoga mat and into the ground. Our arms are branches that can grow to the sky. Here I often discuss gravity and how the strongest trees have the straightest trunk. When trees grow crooked, or at a diagonal, they tend to be less strong and may fall over. The same thing happens to crooked children, they may come crashing down to the floor! All silliness aside, I share with my students that straightness and strength in their core will keep their Tree standing tall. Balance and strength in body coincide with balance and strength in the mind. Additionally, one needs great mental strength and focus to remain in Tree for any length of time.
4. The grounding qualities of Downward Facing Dog are slightly different. Both hands and feet are pressing into the floor and pushing away so that the booty may rise up. A well-placed “bark” will emphasize that your rear end is sky high! Some may experience Downward Dog as a resting pose, but I assure you, if you are actively pushing away from the floor you will feel the muscle engagement of the fingers, hands, shoulder girdle, core, hamstrings, and quadriceps. A well-balanced and sturdy Downward Dog can also accommodate the stacking of a friend! Downward Dog is a great pose for people stacking! Partnered yoga a great time to discuss the importance of control of our bodies for the safety of ourselves and our friends with whom we are practicing. Partnered yoga is where communication becomes of utmost importance. Both parties must work through postures together to assure that each is ready for the next step. This is also a great time to discuss consent. We have to ask our partner if they are ready to move forward. Moving forward without consent can cause falls, injury, and our friends not feeling respected or heard.
5. Our final pose pairs the ultimate grounder with partner fun. Lizard on a Rock is a crowd-pleaser every time. This pose can be done with parent and child or similarly sized friends who want to practice together. The base, or Rock, takes Child’s pose. When they are ready, the Lizard steps near their feet, facing away from the Rock, and slowly begins to sit on the sacrum of the Rock. Then, the Lizard slowly lies back, extending their spine, and opening their arms to stretch the muscles of the front body (abdominals, diaphragm) and chest. The Rock is in a state of bliss as the weight of the Lizard on their low back decompresses the spine allowing space to be created in the vertebrae of the lower back. Lizard on a Rock is another opportunity to discuss communication, safety, and consent. The Lizard needs to be checking in with the Rock. The Rock needs to be checking in with the Lizard. When either is satisfied with the stretch, The Rock can press their hands into the floor, pushing up to assisting the Lizard to sitting with less strain. Partner work at its finest!
Yoga with children is a time to forget what we think yoga is supposed to be and to enjoy movement and connection with our children. Laugh with your children. Relish the current stage they are growing through. With pre-school age children, I will discuss right vs. left and opposites. At this age, I will also discuss different animals and the sounds they make as we take their postures. Practicing with school-aged children I discuss introductory terms of biology, anatomy, and physiology. As children age into middle school and beyond, I like to expand on psychology, sociology, and mindfulness. There is great power in understanding what it means to be in control of one’s mind as well as body. “Grounding” plugged in children is essential to raising balanced and conscious adults. Life lessons just seem to fall in between the postures and the smelling of our nasty feet!
About the author:
Rori Lee’s calling for movement began at the tender age of four years old when she began dancing. She is a classically trained ballerina who, as she grew, moved into competitive dance including modern, lyrical, tap, jazz, and hip hop genres. She then rediscovered her love of movement and performance as an adult through a very different medium; fire! From there she assembled additional forms of flow arts into her repertoire including yoga, stilting, and aerial artistry. She shares her passion for movement with children through Family Yoga at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center on Wednesdays at 3:45pm. Rori Lee is the owner of Reno Tahoe Unified Flow, a company committed to teaching and performing in all areas of the flow arts. She lives in Reno with her two children.