Guided Relaxation for Teens & Adults

Relaxing guided audio meditation for teens and adults. Use this meditation before bedtime for a peaceful night's sleep or anytime you want to release stress and find peace & relaxation.

Narration by Andrea Creel, founder of Shining Kids Yoga http://www.shiningkidsyoga.com

Music by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) "River Flute" Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Image from Pexels

Make Your Own Meditation Bracelets in 5 Easy Steps!

Meditation bracelets, also known as malas are a wonderful tool for helping children learn to meditate. The purpose of the bracelet is to use the beads on the bracelet as a counting mechanism during a meditation practice known as mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase that you can repeat to help protect your mind from negative thoughts. Mantra meditation helps you to focus, concentrate, and feel more calm.

A traditional mala has 108 beads. For a meditation bracelet with children, I recommend 27 beads, which is a multiple of 108. On the bracelet is a “special” bead, known in sanskrit as the Guru bead. Including the Guru bead, the bracelet will have a total of 28 beads.

To make your own meditation bracelet, you will need:

elastic jewelry string

beads

scissors

“special” beads

Instructions:

  1. cut the elastic string to approximately 12 inches. Tie a knot in one end; make sure the knot is large enough that the beads will not fall off.

  2. Pick out 27 beads and string them onto the elastic in any order you’d like.

  3. Tie the two ends of the elastic together and knot 2-3 times. Then put one “special” bead on the end of the elastic (the part that’s already been knotted).

  4. Knot the two parts of the elastic together again, fixing the “special bead” to the bracelet.

  5. Cut off excess elastic off the ends. Voila - your meditation bracelet is ready to use!

Mantra Meditation

Once you have created your meditation bracelet, you can use it to practice mantra meditation. To use the meditation bracelet for meditation practice, start by holding the bracelet in your dominant hand. Lay it over your middle finger, point your index finger out, and use your thumb to push the beads. Always start with the bead next to the Guru bead. Do not touch the Guru bead, it is a placemarker to let you know when you have gotten all the way around the bracelet. When you make it back to the bead on the other side of the Guru bead, start pushing the beads backwards with your thumb to circle back to the original bead. Each time you push a bead with your thumb, you will repeat a mantra either out loud or silently.

Here are some examples of child-friendly mantras:

  • Om Shanti (peace)

  • Peace

  • May I be happy

You may pick any word or positive phrase to repeat during meditation. Whatever you pick, repeat it for 27, 54, 96, or 108 times. Your meditation bracelet will help you keep track of the repetitions so you don’t have to count in your head.

The practice of moving the beads with your fingers helps build fine motor skills in children and adults and strengthens the brain/body connection. Mantra meditation has been shown to improve memory, concentration, and reduces stress.

Mantra meditation is a great way of helping children learn how to calm and focus their minds. It can be done at home in the morning or before bed, or any other time a child would like to feel more calm and peaceful. During the day, they can wear the bracelet on their wrist to help remind themselves of the positive, calming energy inside them.


Andrea Creel, MSW, LMSW, E-RYT 200, YACEP

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and is part of the teacher training faculty at Extend Yoga.

Andrea is the creator and facilitator of the Shining Kids Yoga Kids Yoga Teacher Training, a 17-hour certification program in kids yoga.

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!


Bubbles + Yoga = Endless Fun

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

It’s no secret that children of all ages love bubbles. They’re fun to look at, fun to blow, and make any activity infinitely more enjoyable. As a kids yoga instructor, I use bubbles in many of my yoga classes. For the youngest age groups (0-3) bubbles are a staple of almost every class. For the older kids (Pre-K and Elementary) bubbles are a fun treat to spice up a yoga sequence or game. Below are a few ways to incorporate bubbles in a yoga class or when practicing yoga at home with your child.

Babies - if you are teaching a baby & me yoga class, bring out the bubbles during savasana so the babies have something visually entertaining to watch while parents/caregivers can close their eyes and relax. You can also sing a calming song while blowing bubbles. Listen below for one of my favorites:

Toddlers/Pre-K - Before relaxation time, have children lie down as you blow bubbles over them - looking at the bubbles helps them focus and relax.

Preschool/Pre-K- pick a yoga pose, for example, tree pose. Have them hold the pose while you blow bubbles to them; after a few rounds, call out a new pose.

Pre-K and Up - Get child-friendly bubble containers and have the children each take turns blowing bubbles to practice deep breathing

Elementary - play “bubble pose freeze tag” by having each child “freeze” in a pose. When a bubble lands on them, they can unfreeze and pick a new pose. They are then frozen again in the new pose until another bubble lands on them

Wishing you many of hours filled with yoga, bubbles, giggles & fun!

~ Andrea

Andrea Creel, MSW, LMSW, E-RYT 200, YACEP

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and is part of the teacher training faculty at Extend Yoga.

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!

How to Do the Yoga Macarena

For those who are not already familiar, The Macarena is a popular song and dance from the 1990s. It’s popularity has continued for the past few decades, and remains a wedding and bar/bat mitzvah staple, ensuring that many elementary school-age children know the dance moves. For those who don’t already know how to do it, you can watch a how-to video at the bottom of this post.

Since kids love to do the Macarena, a fun way to adapt it for yoga class is to do the “Yoga Macarena!” Simply turn on the song, and for each chorus, call out a different yoga pose to hold while doing the Macarena arm movements. In Yoga Macarena, we don’t jump/turn to a different side, we just stay facing the same way because holding a pose while performing the arm movements is hard enough!

Here are some poses you can hold while doing the Macarena:

Tree

Chair

Eagle Legs

Airplane

Triangle

Warrior 1

Warrior 2

Stork

Boat

Butterfly

Peacock (seated wide-legged forward fold)

low lunge

high lunge

River

Seated Twist

Starfish

Are there other yoga poses you like to do with the Macarena? Comment below!

Don’t know how to do the Macarena? Check out this YouTube video:




Kids Yoga Teacher Training - March 15-17 in Gaithersburg

Are you interested in expanding your skill set and career opportunities? Consider becoming a children's yoga teacher!

Shining Kids Yoga will be offering a weekend teacher training March 15-17 at Opus Yoga in Gaithersburg, MD. You DO NOT need to be a yoga teacher already to attend, just a familiarity with yoga and an interest in sharing the benefits of yoga with children! This training is perfect for parents, educators, counselors, health professionals, and anyone who works with children and wants to share this special practice with children!

If you have any questions about the training, email Andrea Creel at info@shiningkidsyoga.com. Payment plans and full-time educator discounts are available.

www.shiningkidsyoga.com/training

Why Do We Color in Yoga Class?

If your child has taken a before or after-school yoga class with Shining Kids Yoga you may have noticed them coming home with coloring pages. You may wonder why kids are coloring in a class that’s supposed to be about stretching and moving your body, but actually, coloring is a yogic practice, too!

Many of the designs we color in yoga class are mandalas, a sanskrit word, that means “a symbol representing the effort to reunify the self”. According to the site, 100mandalas.com, mandalas are “circular designs that have repeating colors, shapes, and patterns radiating from the center. Mandalas can be precise, carefully measured, geometric, and perfectly symmetrical, or in contrast, free flowing, organic, and asymmetrical. Mandalas are often drawn in circles but they can also be drawn in squares.“ Mandala coloring is a form of meditation because it is a practice that helps to focus and quiet the mind.

Coloring mandalas is an activity that children as well as adults can enjoy (you may be familiar with the recent adult coloring books craze). The practice of mindful coloring has many benefits, including:

  • concentration - when coloring a mandala, children focus their attention to color within small spaces

  • fine motor skills - using colored pencils or crayons requires dexterity and strength in fingers and hands, as well as coordination between the eyes, brain, and hands.

  • relaxation/stress relief - coloring mandalas has been prescribed by doctors, psychologists, and other health professionals for decades as a way of relieving stress and helping people feel more calm. It is actually a form of meditation.

  • decreases anxiety and negative thought patterns - Dr. Nikki Martinez reports that “Doing therapeutic artwork can help reduce feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness associated with lengthy medical treatments. The focus we place on the project at hand, and on an object can replace negative and unhelpful thoughts from entering our minds. The step of acting and doing vs. observing is a powerful deterrent to focusing on physical or emotional pain. “

After a long day at school, starting yoga class with mindful coloring is a simple way to help children to change gears, relax their minds and bodies, and create a bridge to the other yoga & mindfulness activities we practice in class.

Coloring and creating mandalas isn’t just for yoga class - it is a calming and meditative activity that you can also do at home with your child!

There are many sites that offer free, printable mandalas for you to use. Or if you and your child are feeling adventurous, you can make your own mandala drawings by following the instructions in this tutorial from Thayneeya McArdle of art-is-fun.com: How to Draw A Mandala.

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Here is the result of one of the mandalas my 10 year-old-son, Quinn, and I created by following the tutorial above

Coloring helps children to get out of their thinking minds, and into the creative, focused, and relaxed place inside of them. So the next time your child brings a coloring page home after yoga, you will know that they have spent class developing their concentration, creativity, and fine motor skills - a truly yogic activity!

Andrea Creel, MSW, LMSW, E-RYT 200, YACEP

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and is part of the teacher training faculty at Extend Yoga.

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!


Make Your Own Aromatherapy Relaxation Spray

Aromatherapy uses the power of smell to affect our mood, usually with the use of essential oils. At the end of almost every Shining Kids Yoga class, children are offered lavender aromatherapy spray during relaxation to help them feel more calm and peaceful. For the youngest ones, I often call it “flower spray” and invite them to imagine that they are taking a deep breath and smelling flowers. Kids love the relaxing scent, and for many, it is their favorite part of yoga class!

Aromatherapy spray is very easy to make at home either with your child as a fun and relaxing project, or on your own to use with your child at bedtime or any other time they want to feel more relaxed. And of course, you can use the spray as a calming treat for yourself, too!

To make the spray, you will need the following materials:

Directions: Simply open the spray bottle and add 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil, then fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake well.  Voila - instant relaxation in a bottle!

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The spray can be sprayed on pillows or sprayed directly over the child (make sure their eyes are closed!), reminding them to take a deep inhale as you spray to receive the relaxing effects of the spray.  When my son was younger, I called it "sleepy spray" as a reminder to him that the spray would help him relax and fall asleep at bedtime.

Of course, if your child doesn't like lavender, choose another essential oil of their choice - other scents known for their relaxing qualities include ylang ylang, orange, and rose.

One note of caution about essential oils: essential oils should NEVER be ingested. Please keep essential oil and aromatherapy bottles out of the reach of young children.

I hope you and your children enjoy making your own aromatherapy spray!

Wishing you peace, love, and yoga!

xoxo,

Andrea

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

Andrea Creel, MSW, LMSW, E-RYT 200, YACEP

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and Extend Yoga, where she is on the yoga teacher training faculty.  

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!

Andrea's Favorite Yoga Books for Children Part 2

Did you miss Part 1? Check it out, here!

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A few months ago, I shared recommendations of my favorite yoga books for pre-school aged children. This post will focus on favorite books for elementary school children (ages 5-10).

There are so many amazing yoga and meditation books written for children in this age group, it’s hard to choose just a few! Below are my top 5 favorites:

My Daddy Is A Pretzel by Baron Baptiste

This fun book introduces yoga poses in the context of talking about jobs that moms & dads do each day. Before reading this book, I always ask each child what job(s) their mom or dad does and sometimes we create our own yoga poses for those jobs, too! One of the great things about this book is that it gives step by step instructions on how to do each pose. A great companion to this book is the Yoga Pretzels card deck! Although I’ve listed this under the elementary aged book recommendations, this book can be used with preschoolers, too!

Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean

This book reminds me so much of the classic book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, except the main character is a cow, and he uses meditation to get over his bad day! Kids can all relate to having a bad day and feeling mad and frustrated, but the real bonus here is how the book helps to teach children a simple meditation practice that they can use to let go of these feelings. There are step-by-step instructions in the back of the book that explain how kids can make their own “Moody Cow Mind Jar.” Also, as a bonus for parents who love reading books out loud (like I do), this book is really fun to read aloud and act out with fun voices and facial expressions!

Master of Mindfulness: How To Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress by Laurie Grossman, Angelina Alvarez, and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th grade class

Whenever I share this book with children, I make sure to let them know that it was written, in part, by a group of 5th graders! This book is most appropriate for upper elementary-aged students (grades 3-5) and includes lots of personal anecdotes from kids about situations where using mindfulness helped them, and kid-friendly instructions for how to practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises.

Audrey’s Journey: Loving Kindness by Kerry Alison Wekelo

This book teaches the practice of lovingkindess meditation in a simple-child friendly way, through the eyes of a girl named Audrey. Audrey offers wishes of lovingkindness to herself, her brother, her mom, her dad, and all beings. Children can easily repeat these wishes along with Audrey. After reading the book, I like to ask each child in my class who else they want to offer lovingkindness to, and I love hearing all of their sweet responses, including wishing lovingkindness to their cat, their stuffed animals, grandparents, and friends. Even though I’ve recommended this book for ages 5-10, I’ve also had great success reading it and practicing the meditation with older preschool/pre-k students, too!

The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami

This book is longer than the other books I have recommended and focuses more on a story rather than teaching specific yoga poses or meditation practices. The book tells the story of a girl named Meena who suffers from low self-confidence and worries that she doesn’t have the skills or talents to participate in the school play. After beginning to practice yoga she starts to feel more confident in herself and her abilities and realizes "I can change my body by how I feel inside…If I am quiet inside, my body will be still. That’s what yoga is all about.” Many children have worries and anxiety about different parts of their lives; this book helps children to see they are not alone with their worries, but that yoga can help them develop skills and tools they can use to feel more calm and confident and remember how wonderful they truly are!

I’d love to hear what yoga books you and your children love! Comment below or email me your book recommendations to info@shiningkidsyoga.com

Wishing you peace, love & yoga!

~Andrea

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

Andrea Creel 

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and Extend Yoga, where she is on the yoga teacher training faculty.  

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!

4 Essential Yoga Props for Kids Yoga Teachers (And Parents, too!)

As a children’s yoga instructor for over 10 years, and the owner of Shining Kids Yoga, I am often asked by new instructors what items are needed when teaching a yoga class for kids.

Over the years, I’ve acquired more and more items that I’ve found helpful in engaging children and bringing a quality of playfulness to classes; however there are 4 absolutely essential items that I recommend every yoga instructor who teaches children includes in their toolbox. If you’re a parent, these items are also helpful when introducing yoga and meditation to your child at home!

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  1. Hoberman Sphere (aka the “breathing ball”) - The Hoberman Sphere comes in several sizes, but I’ve found the large size to be the biggest hit with the children I teach. The Hoberman Sphere is a staple among kids yoga teachers because it helps children to visually see how their breath works and how to take deep breaths to promote feelings of peace and relaxation - when the ball opens up, children take a deep belly breath, and when the ball closes, children exhale. Children love the opportunity to open and close the ball themselves and practice deep breathing, but the real fun is getting a turn to go inside the ball!

  2. Zenergy Chimes - Ringing the Zenergy chime is a wonderful tool for helping children develop focus, concentration, and listening skills (aka - meditation!). When the bell rings, children close their eyes and focus their attention on the sound of the bell as it gets quieter and quieter. When they can’t hear the bell anymore, they raise their hands. Kids love the opportunity to have a turn ringing the bell themselves! In a group yoga class, this chime can also be used as a classroom management tool - when the children hear the chime, it is a time to come back to their mats, get quiet, close their eyes and focus. As a teacher, I’ve found there is a noticeable difference in being able to keep kids focused and on their mats when I have the bell with me vs. when I don’t. This is definitely a must-have item for any teacher of children’s yoga classes, and a fun and engaging meditation tool for parents to have at home, too!

  3. Yoga Pose Cards - there are so many wonderful yoga cards out there that it’s hard to choose just one deck - so I chose two! The Yoga Pretzel Cards and the Yogi Fun Cards. There are many wonderful yoga card options for kids, but these are the two decks I use most. There are several game ideas included in each deck, or you can simply use them as a visual aid in teaching the poses. A reminder to keep pose instruction for children simple and positive - if their body is in the general shape of a pose and they are not doing anything unsafe, I don’t correct children’s poses. If they are doing something that could hurt or injure them, I will give them instructions on how to move their body differently and explain that I am giving these instructions so that their body stays safe and they don’t get hurt.

  4. Eye masks - this was a game changer for me when teaching yoga and relaxation to children! In my experience, I have found that it is so much easier for little bodies to stay still and relax when they have an eye mask over their eyes. The masks give children the sensory tool to help them close their eyes and relax both from the tactile sensation of the mask over their eyes as well as the darkening of the visual field around them to give their brains a cue to calm down and promote the relaxation response. Children as young as 2 (with supervision!) love putting on an eye mask and lying down for a few minutes to relax.

There are so many more props and tools that are helpful for a yoga teacher (or a parent) to have, but I hope this has provided a good foundation! You can also check out my recommendations on yoga books for pre-school aged children and yoga and relaxation resources for helping children have a restful night’s sleep

Want even more ideas about props, toys, and other tools that can be used with practicing yoga & meditation with children? Check out my post on how to make your own Yoga Jenga game and stay tuned for my next blog post, entitled “Parachutes, scarves, and bean bags…oh my!” coming very soon!

TEACHERS AND PARENTS: What props or toys do YOU find essential when teaching yoga to children? Share your ideas below or shoot me an email at info@shiningkidsyoga.com

Wishing you peace, love, and yoga!

~ Andrea

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

Andrea Creel 

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and Extend Yoga, where she is on the yoga teacher training faculty.  

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!

What To Expect In a Kids Yoga Class

If I had to describe a kids yoga class in just one word, it would be FUN!  Here's what to expect when your child goes to a yoga class.

Many parents who have taken yoga classes themselves (and some who haven't), wonder what a yoga class for kids is like and whether their child will enjoy it.  A yoga class designed for children is very different from an adult class that you might take at your local studio.  It's filled with games, songs, stories, imaginative play, and activities that engage children and give them the tools to feel calmer, happier, and more peaceful inside!

For younger children (pre-school through early elementary), poses are often introduced with simple songs. One of the favorites in my classes at Lily Pads Childcare in Bethesda, MD is "Dance for the Sun" by Kira Willey.

Instructors may also tell stories that encourage creative and imaginative play along with yoga poses to increase gross and fine motor skills - for example, we might take a trip to the beach where we see crabs (crab walk), fish (fish pose and some fun fishy songs), dolphins (dolphin pose) and starfish (starfish pose AND starfish breathing).  We can also create the sound of the ocean with our breath (for you adult yogis, that's ujayi breath) and create waves with our bodies.  Kids love to offer suggestions of other animals they see at the beach, and their favorite beach activities, too!  

Elementary-aged children LOVE playing yoga games and doing partner poses with friends.  There are hundreds of yoga games (get ready for a separate blog post just on games soon) and kids this age just love making up their own yoga games, too!  In fact, some of my favorite yoga games come from the creativity of the kids in my after-school yoga classes.  A simple favorite is "yogi says" - like Simon Says, but with yoga poses, of course!  Another favorite is the Yoga Garden Game by YogaKids - or as many of my yoga students prefer to call it - the Pizza & Ice Cream game, because they think the flower pieces look like ice cream cones and the nighttime pieces look like slices of pizza (or maybe they're just really hungry after school).  I love this game because it is a cooperative game where everyone works together to win, and it is adaptable to play with a wide age range all the way from preschool up to 5th grade.  Children ages 6-11 also really enjoy partner yoga with their friends, especially double-dog and lizard on a rock (see photos).

double down-dog (with a little yoga "puppy" underneath!) at one of our Shining Kids Yoga Outdoor Family classes!

double down-dog (with a little yoga "puppy" underneath!) at one of our Shining Kids Yoga Outdoor Family classes!

Lizard on a Rock pose with the children at Ronald McNair Elementary in Germantown, MD!

Lizard on a Rock pose with the children at Ronald McNair Elementary in Germantown, MD!

Breathing - there are so many fun and creative ways to teach deep breathing to children, but my absolute favorite (and I'm pretty sure the children's favorite, too) is with the Hoberman Sphere aka "the big breathing ball."  The ball offers a visual cue to help children practice taking deep breaths as they open and close it, and then each child gets a chance to go all the way inside the ball or put it over their head like an astronaut helmet! 

Relaxation - Every Shining Kids Yoga class ends with a period of  deep relaxation & aromatherapy.  Even the youngest children love putting on a special eye mask and receiving flower relaxation spray (lavender aromatherapy spray), listening to peaceful music, and relaxing.  For pre-school children, I call this a "yoga nap" and we usually only rest for 1-2 minutes.  For elementary school-aged children, relaxation can last for 5-10 minutes, and children really enjoy the chance to close their eyes and relax their minds and bodies, especially after a long day at school.  I often use guided visualizations from the Imaginations book series by Carolyn Clarke to help children calm their minds.

Kids yoga classes are so much fun, but also filled with building important tools that children can carry with them including increased body awareness, strength and flexibility, and self-calming/emotional regulation skills (via breathing and relaxation exercises). 

If your child has taken yoga classes before, what is their favorite part of yoga class?  Post in the comments below, or share with me via email at info@shiningkidsyoga.com

Wishing you peace, love & yoga!!

~ Andrea

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

Andrea Creel 

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and Extend Yoga, where she is on the yoga teacher training faculty.  

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!

Andrea's Favorite Yoga Books for Children - Part 1

I get asked frequently what books I recommend for doing yoga with children, and to be honest, there are a lot!  Some books are better for younger ages, and some for older.  Below are my top three favorite yoga books for preschool and kindergarten aged children. 

Yoga Bug: Simple Poses For Little Ones by Sarah Jane Hinder

This book has very simple words along with easy to see pictures of yoga poses that correspond to different insects.  Children as young as age 2 can do most of the poses, though some of them are challenging like grasshopper (but can be adapted for all bodies!). When I teach with this book, I often add in extra songs like "Itsy Bitsy Spider" for spider pose, and "Fly Like A Butterfly" for butterfly pose.

Little Yoga: A Toddler's First Book of Yoga by Rebecca Whittford and Martina Selway

Again, simple words and pictures make this book very appealing to toddlers and preschoolers.  Each page is a different animal/yoga pose. The end of the book includes photographs of a young child doing each of the poses so kids can visualize the poses by seeing a real child doing them.

ABC Yoga by Christiane Engel

Another great book for preschoolers and toddlers - this one follows the alphabet and includes an animal pose for each letter of the alphabet. Each pose has a short poem with it that you can read as you and your child practice the pose together.  The book can be read in order from A to Z, or you can pick a few letters (maybe the letters of your child's name!) and do those poses together!

Want more yoga book recommendations? Check out my favorite yoga books for Kindergarten - 5th graders!

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

 

Andrea Creel 

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and Extend Yoga, where she is on the yoga teacher training faculty.  

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!

Gratitude Stones

Today's guest blogger is children's yoga teacher, Mariela Gomez! Mariela teaches the after-school yoga classes at Cashell Elementary and Candlewood Elementary.

Helping children learn to reflect on what they have and learn how to be grateful is so rewarding! Especially as children begin to use language like "This day was horrible". Teaching them to understand that one event does not cloud a whole day can help as they struggle with a negative event. 

Using a bell in the beginning of yoga class can help each child verbalize the things they love, but making a gratitude stone is a physical reminder of the things they are thankful for, grateful for, or love.

Below are step-by-step directions on making your own gratitude stones at home:

Supplies: You will need construction paper, scissors, sharpies, mod podge, and craft sticks if needed. 

  • Find a small flat stone, small enough for a child's hand. Clean the stone with soap and water, and then gather your supplies. 

To save some time in a classroom or at home, you can pre-cut and create a small packet for each child with a stone, paper shape, marker, and reusable plastic container for the modge podge. Have the child write out something they are grateful for (a warm bed, a home, family, friends, a pet, etc.). 

Add a small amount of modge podge on the stone and place the 'gratitude' on top to help it stick to the stone. Use a craft stick or finger to smear modge podge evenly over the top of the stone, making sure to cover their paper completely. Let dry for 20 minutes. Feel free to add modge podge to the underside of the stone as well to make the whole stone shiny.

Share with the children ways they can use their gratitude stone. Here's a few!

Family Dinner
Pass a gratitude stone around the table and share something or someone you feel thankful for.

To Calm Down Big Feelings
Hold the stone in your hands and think or write about all the things you feel thankful for. Rub the stone to help calm your mind and any anxious or unnerving thoughts.

At Bedtime
Think about “What was the best part of my day?” “I really love...” “I'm really grateful for...” Be sure to tell those who are part of your day what they mean to you.

Share a stone
Create extra stones and share them with friends and family along with a note! Let them know how thankful you are for them.

Grateful Community
An attitude of gratitude is contagious! Scatter your gratitude stones around your neighborhood or school to help others feel gratitude, and to remind them how important it is to reflect on each day.

Have fun spreading gratitude to the children in your life, it's a wonderful thing to witness!

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Create Your Own Magical Meditation Stones

Today's guest blogger is children's yoga teacher and professional artist, Meg Schaap! Meg teaches the after-school yoga classes at Travilah Elementary, Beverly Farms Elementary, Primary Montessori Day School, and Dufief Elementary.

Magical Meditation Stones

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Meditation stones are a creative and fun way to help children learn how to meditate. Kids love making their own magical meditation stones, or you can make one as a special gift for your child.  Check out the step-by-step instructions below!

What you need:

Once you have all of the materials, take a few minutes to get quiet, close your eyes, and think about what you are going to paint on it. It can be anything; some suggestions are: a flower, heart, flying bird, a tree, a butterfly, or anything you like.

Next, find an even spot on the rock, where it is easy to paint on. Get the paint, put all the colors you need on a plate and dip your paintbrush in the cup of water and then dry it a little on the paper towel. Decide which color you want to start with. I find it easy to outline whatever you want to paint and then you use other colors to color it in. Every time you use another color you clean your brush and dry it on the paper towel if you want bright colors. Make sure your paintbrush is not too wet or too dry when you paint. Also you can let the paint dry in between so the colors are not bleeding through each other.

If you make a mistake, you can easily wipe the paint off and start over again. Once you like what you painted, you let it dry for an hour and then get the spray sealer, and just spray one or two times and let this dry again.

There you are….. you have your own magical meditation stone!

The stone can be used as a focal point during meditation or relaxation - for example, your child can place the stone in front of them to look at the image, or lie down, close their eyes and place the stone on their belly as they relax.  I tell the children in class that the stone is magic; when you focus on the stone, all the magic goes inside of you!

- Meg Schaap

Creating Relaxing Bedtime Rituals for Your Child

I'll just come out and say it, bedtime with children can be challenging.  For some parents, "challenging" might even be an understatement.   I've definitely had my share of difficult times putting my child to bed.  Sometimes kids have a hard time unwinding from the busy-ness of their day and falling asleep (many adults can probably relate to having that problem, too!).    

Luckily, yoga gives us many powerful tools that can be used to promote calm and relaxation in children and adults.  Below are a few of my favorite, time-tested calming bedtime resources and rituals that I've used to help my son calm down and fall asleep more quickly and easily.  You can try them out with your child (and even use some for yourself!) and mix and match to find the unique rituals, routines, and resources that are most helpful for you and your child.

Bedtime stories that promote calm minds and open hearts

One of my all-time favorite bedtime book collections is the Buddha at Bedtime series by Dharmachari Nagaraja.  I have read the original book in the series, Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire with my son since he was 5, and he still enjoys reading and re-reading the stories at age 9.  All of the stories are short, usually about 2-3 pages, include colorful pictures, playful animal characters and simple, child-friendly plot lines. They focus on a specific teaching such as gratitude, forgiveness, and honesty, and end with a brief aphorism from the Buddha about the lesson in the story.  The book also includes instructions on child-friendly meditation and relaxation exercises that you can practice with your child before or after reading the stories. My son, who like many children, finds it difficult to wind down at night says he feels more calm and relaxed after reading these stories.

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We recently started reading one of the sequels, The Buddha's Apprentice at Bedtime: Tales of Compassion and Kindness for You to Read with Your Child - to Delight and Inspire, and found that it is just as entertaining and calming as the original.  There are additional child-friendly meditation and relaxation exercises in that edition, too.  Though I haven't read the rest of the books in the series, I would imagine they are all just as wonderful as the original.

Aromatherapy for a relaxed mind & body

Aromatherapy uses the power of smell to affect our mood, usually with the use of essential oils. One of the most popular essential oils for promoting relaxation is lavender.  There are several ways to use aromatherapy to help your child relax at bedtime.  The first way is to use a diffuser in your child's room to disperse the scent of lavender throughout the room.  I really like the SpaRoom diffusers from Bulk Apothecary because they are small, inexpensive, and effective.  However, any diffuser will work - so find your favorite one! Since every diffuser is a litte different, you should follow the instructions for your diffuser for adding essential oils.  Plan to start the diffuser at least 10 minutes before bedtime to give it time to fill the room with the smell of lavender.  

Another method of using aromatherapy at bedtime is through the use of lavender aromatherapy spray which you can easily make yourself by getting a small spray bottle and adding 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil, then filling the rest of the bottle with water.  I use this spray at the end of all of my yoga classes, and most children love it!  However, every child is different, so be sure to check in with your individual child's preferences.  The spray can be sprayed on pillows or sprayed directly over the child (make sure their eyes are closed!), reminding them to take a deep inhale as you spray to receive the relaxing effects of the spray.  When my son was younger, I called it "sleepy spray" as a reminder to him that the spray would help him relax and fall asleep.

Of course, if your child doesn't like lavender, choose another essential oil of their choice - other scents known for their relaxing qualities include ylang ylang, orange, and rose.

One note of caution about essential oils: essential oils should NEVER be ingested. Please keep essential oil and aromatherapy bottles out of the reach of young children.

Guided Imagery & Relaxation Exercises

Guided imagery is the practice of using imaginative stories to promote a quality of relaxation.  There are a number of books with child-friendly guided imagery prompts.  It is up to you, the parent, to read them aloud in a slow, calm voice as your child closes their eyes and imagines what you are describing.  There are a number of books that I think are really wonderful, especially the Imaginations series by Carolyn Clarke and Stress Relief for Kids: Taming Your Dragons by Marti Belknap.

Prior to a guided imagery practice, you may want to start with a practice known as progressive muscle relaxation to help your child's body relax.  To do this, tell your child that when you mention a part of their body, they will squeeze it tight when they breathe in, and then make it loose like jello or spaghetti when they breathe out.  Start at the toes and work your way up to their face and forehead.  Then finish by having them squeeze their whole body tight, and then soft.

Music

The music we listen to affects our brains and can influence us in becoming more energized or calm depending on the quality of the music.  While my son would prefer to listen to pop music on the radio at bedtime, he falls asleep 10 times faster when I put on relaxing music like you might hear in a spa.  Two of my favorite albums are Steven Halpern's Music for Healing and Chakra Suite.  

Eye Masks

I started using eye masks for the children in my yoga classes a few months ago, and let me tell you, it made a HUGE difference!  Children who had a difficult time relaxing and staying still at the end of class suddenly wanted longer relaxation time, and were able to keep their eyes closed and bodies relaxed longer.  The effect of having something over your eyes to keep light out as well as provide a tactile reminder to close your eyes is so powerful.  Plus, there's lots of cute ones for kids, including this Pokemon themed eye mask (which I may buy as a birthday present for my son!).

Massage & Oil

Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, recommends daily use of sesame oil massage to promote relaxation and overall well-being.  You don't have to use sesame oil, but massaging your child's feet, lower legs, neck, forehead and temples with lotion or massage oil is a great way to help their little bodies relax at night.

Wishing you and your child a calm, peaceful, and relaxing night's sleep tonight and every night!  

- xoxo, Andrea

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

Andrea Creel 

Andrea is the founder of Shining Kids Yoga, which began as an after-school program at her son's elementary school in 2014. She has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  Andrea completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training & prenatal yoga training at Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D.C. In addition, she received specialized training in children’s yoga from the Radiant Child Yoga program, training in postnatal yoga from Baby OM,  and training in therapeutic yoga from  The Samarya Center.

Andrea is also a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She has taught yoga for children at yoga studios throughout the DC area, including Tranquil Space, Budding Yogis, Rock Creek Yoga and Warrior One Yoga. She also teaches classes for adults at Yoga Bliss Studios and Extend Yoga, where she is on the yoga teacher training faculty.  

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!

 

Teaching gratitude for happier, healthier children

"It is not happiness that makes us grateful, it is gratefulness that makes us happy..." - David Steindl-Rast

In almost all of my kids yoga classes, I start class (or sometimes end class) by going around in a circle and having each child name one thing that they are grateful for in that moment.  I remind the children that scientists have done studies that have proven that bringing to mind things or people we're grateful for helps us to feel happier (or in social-scientific terms "increased positive affect"). I let them know that we can actually change our brains by practicing being grateful - it is a super power inside of us that we can use to feel happier and more peaceful inside!

Practicing gratitude is such a simple, yet profoundly beneficial practice for children and adults. Here are a few simple practices that you and your children can do together to build up your "gratitude muscles":

1. Bedtime Gratitude Practice - each night at bedtime, my son and I tell each other 5 things that we are grateful for. It helps us both feel happier and more connected to each other.

2. Gratitude Board - one of the first things that people see when they enter my home is a big dry erase board, known as my "Gratitude Board."  Sometimes, my son and I have a competition to see who can write down the most things they are grateful for, sometimes friends and visitors add things they are grateful for to the board, and every time we walk by, it is a visual reminder to remember to be grateful in that moment.

gratitude board.jpg

For those lucky enough to have chalkboard paint on their walls, a gratitude wall is a beautiful addition to any room!

3. Gratitude Journals - Gratitude journals have been shown by social science research to be a validated method for increasing happiness.

For many years, I kept a gratitude journal where each day I would write down the things I was grateful for. Now, I use the Bliss app for a more high-tech version of a gratitude journal (though I'm thinking of switching back to my low-tech journal in 2018). Children and adults can create their own gratitude journals to write in daily as a practice for cultivating gratitude.  You can use any kind of notebook or journal you'd like, but I really like these journals because children can personalize and decorate the journal covers before writing inside.  Children who are old enough to write, can practice writing 5 things they are grateful for when they wake up and 5 things they are grateful for when they go to sleep.  Children who are too young to write, can draw pictures of things they are grateful for. Parents and children can sit down together and write in their journals together as a daily or weekly family ritual.  

There are so many practices that can help us to cultivate gratitude in our lives and in our children's lives.  I'd love to hear how these practices have worked for you and your family, and any other gratitude practices that you and your family enjoy! Please post in the comments section below, or send me an email at info@shiningkidsyoga.com

Wishing you peace, love, and yoga!

- Andrea

PS - special thanks to my amazing son, Quinn, for helping me write this blog post!

 

 

Back-to-School Breathing

Heading back to school can bring up a whole bunch of emotions - excitement, anticipation, and sometimes, anxiety.  If your child is feeling some back-to-school jitters, here are two simple breathing techniques that can help your child to feel a little more calm and peaceful:

1. Air conditioner breath (sitali breath) - lots of kids love curling their tongues, so if that is a favorite activity for your child, have them curl their tongue as they imagine sucking in through a straw (there will be a little sucking noise while they're doing this) and then breath out slowly through their nose.  Tell them to feel the cool air on their tongue as they breathe in (that's why I call it "air-conditioner breath").  Breathing in this way slows down the breath, which promotes a relaxation response in the body, it also produces a cooling sensation which can be helpful as kids can often feel warm or flushed when they're feeling nervous.

2. Starfish breath - have your child stretch out their arm in front of them and spread their fingers like the shape of a starfish.  Have them take the pointer finger of their other hand and trace up and down each finger slowly.  Each time they trace up, breathe in, each time they trace down, breathe out.  Instruct your child to do this as slowly as possible. Breathing in this way puts your child's focus on the action of looking at their hand and tracing instead of getting caught up in anxious thoughts and slows down their breath which promotes a relaxation response.

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Both of these breathing practices can be done at home, school, or any time your child needs to feel a little more calm and peaceful inside.   These and other breathing exercises are taught in our before and after-school yoga classes for kids!

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