ESTABLISHING A FAMILY YOGA AND STORYTELLING PRACTICE

Spending time together as a family is one of the most precious ways to create stronger emotional bonds, strengthen the community that is a family, and come together to foster love and honor between each other. Establishing a family yoga and storytelling hour can enrich these bonds.

After my children were born I would practice yoga with them alongside me. Whether they were cooing babies or 2–year–olds crawling under my downward dog, I accepted that this was the way the practice would be. You may not get a lot done, but you will enjoy being with your children in a new way, sanctified by yoga, and they will enjoy being with you. I will never forget the moment when I bowed to my 2–year–old daughter and said namaste to her. She bowed back to me and said, “Mommy stay.” My heart melted, and I dove lovingly into her dark, extravagantly lashed eyes. As your children grow, so will your practice and your children’s practice. My 4–year–old and 7–year–old now practice with me twice a week, and we typically practice meditation three or four times a week. The practice of storytelling has enriched their lives in countless ways, in addition to making them highly literate.

Starting a yoga and storytelling hour is simple enough. Mark out a time and day that have some calm, open space in them. A Saturday or Sunday morning or afternoon may work best. Make sure, when you set the time, that it is one you know you can be consistent with. Practicing on the same day at the same time keeps the ritual alive, helps children value the practice and creates the all important force of habit.

Sanctity, ritual and ceremony are all things that children are instinctually drawn to. Create a simple family altar by gathering a few candles, special objects or family photos. This both focuses the energy of children in a special place, and may be useful to illustrate your stories. Children will learn to identify this special space with family time and yoga and storytelling time and look forward to it. After special family events, such as birthdays, family vacations, fun days or even a family death, ask children to find small objects that symbolize that experience to place on the altar. They can create an object with clay, paint, or make a craft to place on the altar. They can even draw something and fold it up and place it in a special box on the altar. Remember that the ceremonial is always important. Ask children to talk about the object, what happened, why they chose it and what it means. Share your feelings and stories, as well.

With supervision, allow children to light the candle, wave the incense stick or ring a bell. Then begin with a simple meditation. With young children, one minute of meditation is sufficient to listen to sounds, breathing, a mantra, or to remain quiet. Older children can sit for three minutes or more. Have a few warmups and then use Storytime Yoga or any other yoga method to begin your practice. After the story and yoga postures, you can continue with more yoga poses, or, with younger children, move into relaxation. It’s important to remember that there is no goal to achieve or results to be seen but simply to BE together and strengthen our relationships to ourselves and one another.

After the yoga session, telling a few stories is fun. After a few weeks of routine, the children can be centered and calm and very receptive. Children love to hear stories, which contain within them an internal frame of reference to which young minds are drawn. A few traditional folktales can be told, or simple rhymes and finger games for younger children. Children nearly always love to hear stories of their birth or funny things they did as a child. They also love to hear stories of their parents’ lives when they were young. Don’t forget to tell the stories about grandparents and ancestors. These stories create a sense of belonging, identity, rootedness and continuity of the family legacy. Old family photos are great for starting stories.

When you feel the time is right, invite children to tell their own stories. Even the smallest ones can express themselves in a few words. Asking questions is a helpful way to get little ones to think. It needn’t be anything fancy. A few words are fine, and older children become more expressive and can retell stories they just heard. Additionally, during the practice or storytelling children may bring up other thoughts and feelings they have been carrying, such as concerns about school, pressure, death or other issues. This is a good time to listen and be receptive and responsive to what your children have to tell you. After time has passed and there are several objects on the altar, have an altar storytelling time. In this practice, a child should choose a piece that he or she has placed there and talk about it.

Of course, visit your public library and teach your children how to read and conduct research on the Internet. Enjoy!

THE SHIPWRECKED SAILOR Egypt
Theme: Hope, courage, compassion

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago in ancient Egypt , there was a Captain of a ship. He had been lost at sea and lost his ship and everything it was carrying. He was very sad and worried he would get into trouble. Another Captain heard his story and said:

“Fear not, let me tell you a story. Once I was riding on a great ship. We had the strongest and most courageous men aboard. Their hearts were as fierce as lions. However, a terrible storm swept up and the ship was lost. I floated alone on a piece of wood from the ship, until I washed up on an island. There I found many trees with abundant food to eat, coconuts, figs and fish. I was so grateful, I made a fire and thanked the Gods.

“Just then, lightening struck and the ground shook and suddenly before me was a snake! It cried out, ‘Who are you? Why have you come?’

“Quickly I told him everything that had happened to me.

“‘Ah,’ the snake said. ‘I hear your cries. I, too, have lost things dear to me. A star once fell on this island and my whole family was lost. I was so sad. You and I, we are both survivors!’

“Just then, I thought of my own family and was sad, but he said:

“‘Don’t be afraid or be sad! Have courage! Good will come from your difficulty. You are safe here. And in four months, you will be rescued. A ship will come for you and you will see your family again!’

“I was so grateful! I told the serpent that I would send gifts of gold and many riches for his kindness and hospitality. But the serpent only laughed.

“‘I have all the riches I could ever need! Besides, this island will disappear forever under the waves once you leave. But it will always be with you inside your heart. Whenever you have difficulty, have courage and remember the island that lives inside of you.’

“Indeed the serpent was right! A ship did come for me! I thanked the serpent and said farewell. The serpent asked that I say good things about him upon my return. He gave me many gifts, such as monkeys, dogs and many precious things, which I gave to the Pharaoh, who gave me a lovely house and made me lieutenant.

“So my friend,” the Captain said to the other Captain. “Don’t worry. And never fear. You never know what good comes from hardship.”

THE SHIPWRECKED SAILOR – yoga poses

The Sailor — warrior II, virabhadrasana II.

Hearts as fierce as lions — lion pose, simhasana.

Boat — boat pose, navasana.

Island — downward dog, adho mukha svanasana

Tree — tree pose,vrksasana

Fish to eat — fish pose, matsyasana

Fire — bound angle pose, baddha konasana

Lightning — warrior III, virabhadrasana III

Serpent — cobra pose, bhujangasana

Star — half-moon pose, ardha chandrasana

Monkeys — jumping like a monkey — or — splits, hanumanasanaor — side leg pose, janu shirsasana

Dogs — downward dog, adho mukha svanasana

Remember the island that is always inside the heart — camel pose, ustrasana

Discussion

Ask children to talk about a time when they were scared. What happened? Who was there? How did they overcome their fear? Was there anything good that happened out of the difficulty?

Think of somebody who has had a hard time or problem. Ask children to relate similarities in their life to what happened to that person. How can we help others who are in distress?

 

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