A family yoga practice lets you to be sure that your children are being taught the values that are important to you - health, spirituality and deep family connection. Starting a family yoga practice in the morning can be beneficial way to start your day with the kids. At our yoga-home school here in Buenos Aires, I have settled into a nice morning routine 5 days a week with the kids. I keep it short and simple, no more than a half an hour, and emphasize the family connection and the routine that grounds us and sets the tone for the day.
You may need to adjust your times, but I rally the kids by 8:30 a.m. since they are older and like to (and need to) sleep in. I set up the mats in the living room and settle into a nice seat. I allow them to wake up, greet the day and then instruct them on breathing deeply, noticing how they feel this morning, and directing the breath into their bodies. I suggest they meditate, focusing on the breath. My son is almost 13, so today I taught him the Ujjai breath.
I asked them to set intentions, see themselves accomplishing whatever they desire today, and then we chanted three OMs.
I’ve been encouraging them to start their own yoga practice, not doing it only because Mamma says so! I emphasize the benefits of the sun salutation that they can directly experience – the increased energy, the flexing and strengthening of the muscles, the feel good feeling of increased oxygen and a balanced nervous system, as well as feeling a sense of accomplishment by starting the morning off right by practicing yoga and mediation.
“Five sun salutations a day will go a yogi-long way!” I teach them. If they were younger, I’d set a little tune to it, (and I do anyway, just for fun and myself! Because I like to sing!!) I ask them about how yoga has helped them, what benefits it brings. My son says it helps his foot hurt less (he has flat feet and it’s painful for him to sit cross legged. He has more energy. My daughter just loves to do the asanas.
I have the kids do the sun salutations on their own at their own pace and I give them a little bit of coaching and assistance in the pose. By emphasizing the sun salutations, it’s the basics of yoga that they can take with them everywhere and through life. Do sun salutations! Even if you don’t have time to do a full practice! I tell them. I tell my son that I can see the results in his body from the yoga. As he is on the cusp of manhood, these kinds of words boost their self-esteem as well as helps them take self-responsibility for their own physical care.
Some days we work on more asanas. I ask them to do their favorite poses – hand stand for my daughter, bound angle pose for my son because he says it makes his foot feel better. But I keep it short, and try to put in challenging poses to make it interesting and fun. Other days we have a longer, full asana class in the afternoon.
What I love about this morning routine is that it really brings us together as a family. The ritual cements us to start the day right. It’s a powerful grounding feeling that connects us closely. After a closing and bow, we have our morning duties. Home schooling is not just reading, writing and arithmetic, but every day life skills and teaching group responsibility. One child will make breakfast, while the other sets the table. Usually I help, or make fresh-squeezed orange juice. While we eat, we share our dreams from last night. Then I read an inspirational passage that relates to yoga. I have read from Stephen Mitchell’s interpretations of The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, The Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita.
I don’t’ expect my kids to understand the philosophical implications: I just present the readings. During the day, however, or when we have snuggle time at night, I may find the opportunity to bring the reading up as it applies to their life. I believe simple teachings by simply being with your child and talking about the day is the best way to bring up yoga philosophy, as well as connect with your child and coach them, increase their self-esteem and build on their talents and gifts. It’s a constant dialogue. An evolving relationship.
Our morning is over when the child who didn’t cook helps clean up, kids shower and dress, make their beds, and then everybody is supposed to be sitting down at the table in the dining room with their computers and materials ready school by 10 a.m.
It’s a lovely routine. It’s a joy to connect with your kids this way. And teaching my own kids at home infused with yoga gives me great satisfaction that they are being raised with the values I believe in and getting a quality education as well.