It’s always wonderful for me to witness families returning to visit Londolozi. Each year we welcome back families and watch as children grow and change from each of their visits. Our Cubs Den is a favourite amongst many of our families, but it’s important to remember that in actual fact most of the Londolozi experiences can be tailored towards your family and children. For instance – organising a family yoga class.
While each day brings a variety of bodies, ages and abilities on the yoga deck – all are welcome.
At Londolozi, we tend to encourage children below 13 years to arrange a special time for a class, due to the mere fact that the child’s body below 13 years of age is hyper-mobile and very flexible. With this knowledge in mind, it becomes important for the class to be structured around more simplistic and animated poses, rather than sequenced flows, in order to protect the child’s body from overextension and injury. We use imagery to lead the children through the poses as it helps spark their imagination and stay focused on the poses at hand while exploring their bodies through fun movements and balancing postures.
One of my favourite classes recently was a family of four that came for a private yoga class, consisting of Mom, Dad and their two children- the girls were nine years and twelve years old.
“Hello! Welcome to our beautiful studio”, I jiggled with excitement when I saw the children step onto the deck wearing their bright exercise pants and shy smiles. “Choose a place – wherever you would like to be – at the front or the back or somewhere in between.” I opened my arms wide and they each chose a mat – two at the front and two at the back – both children beside a parent. “We have never done yoga before – but the girls both do gymnastics back home and so we’re excited to try” said their mother. I smiled at the girls and replied, “That’s wonderful – it is always a great idea to try something new and I am sure you will be surprised at how much your bodies can do.”
We began in a butterfly shape – knees bent out to the side and feet brought in close to the pelvis. “Flap your knees up and down, as if they are wings taking you somewhere wonderful.” I encouraged while lifting and lowering my knees. The children began to flap their knees up and down as if they were wings and I saw the little crease in their foreheads as they concentrated hard on where they were going.
We then moved to a cat and camel pose, opening up the spine and breathing deeply into the belly. “Drop your belly, lift your neck and lift your chin like a camel does with its long neck… Then round your shoulders, tuck your chin under your chest like an angry cat… Hisssss.” The girls giggled at their Dad who hissed like a cat when he moved into the pose and they all mimicked him.
We then worked into a Downward Dog, lingering there. I peeked under my arm to watch the girls shake their upside-down hips as if they were wagging a tail. Next was the Sphinx pose and then into a Frog squat. The girls giggled at their Dad again as he loudly objected to crouching low into a squat pose due to tight hips – “HMMMPHHH. My hips don’t allow me to go as low as you ladies can go.” This spurred on a sense of enthusiasm to show off and the girls bent even lower into their grounded feet.
I then encouraged them to create a bind underneath their squat, threading their arms underneath and around their pelvis and back and grabbing hold of opposite hands. They watched me do it and then dived into the bind, lifting their smiling faces with delight and glee. Halfway through I noticed the reddened cheeks of the girls and the beads of sweat dripping down the parent’s foreheads and guided them all into a restorative Seed Pose. (Also known as a Child’s Pose.)
“Relax your hands, elbows and shoulders. Let your hips become heavy – like a stack of rocks sinking towards your heels behind you. Close your eyes. Take a few big breaths in through the nose – all the way down into your belly – feel your belly balloon as it fills with the new oxygen, and softens with the exhale.”
The youngest girl gazed up and looked around for reassurance that she was meant to be resting and then tucked her head under and closed her eyes. We then moved from a folded Seed Pose, slowly unravelling like a growing sprout into a standing Tree Pose moving in the wind. “Look – we can sway like a tree in the wind!” said the youngest child as she used her arms to sway her body from one side to the other. “Haha – absolutely – I love it. We can all sway in the wind and try to stay balanced on one leg as we do so.” I added, mimicking her.
“The next posture is called Dancer’s Pose, ” I told them and the girls eyes brightened. “I love to dance! I dance back at home!” said the oldest child excitedly. “Well then you’ll love this one,” I added. Aeroplane or Warrior III Pose was next which included lots of wobbles from everyone and even more giggles. We took time on each pose to wobble out and then climb back in – encouraging the girls to persevere when the poses needed more than one attempt at finding the necessary balance. The girls asked if they could try the Dancer’s Pose again and “Of course!” was my response. I showed them how to carefully move into the pose, taking time to build focus and balance, and at the right moment, to begin kicking their leg back out behind them as their opposite arm extended out infant. The parents both stood and smiled at the girls’ efforts and we all clapped as they both gently landed their airborne foot back onto the mat with focus and control. “I feel beautiful when I do the Dancer’s Pose and don’t fall out, but I don’t really like the Aeroplane Pose – it makes my knees feel funny” said the youngest child. “It’s lovely to experiment with the poses and see how they all make you feel and find the ones you enjoy the most” I replied.
We finished off the class with a relaxing Savasana – with the whole family lying on their backs with closed eyes, taking a few deep belly breaths. The youngest child peeked through her eyes once again to make sure that everyone else around her was doing what she was doing and then settled into a shut-eyed stillness. Within a few moments, the Dad began to snore and the girls erupted into loud laughter and they all sat up on their mats. I looked at the joyful family unit in front of me and felt a flood of contentment. The lessons that come through practising yoga with the children in the mix are immense.
Their enthusiasm to try new things shows us how creative pursuits are fun and good for you. They remind us to laugh at the simplest, silliest of things, including ourselves. They remind us to get excited about things, regardless of how slight. They remind us to put ourselves fully into things when trying to do something, without the fear of failure. They also highlight the importance of expressing yourself sincerely and honestly, as people appreciate hearing what works and feels good (also what doesn’t work and what doesn’t feel good).
Children live in each moment and remind us that each one is a fleeting fragment that must be focussed on for everything that it is, as fully and wholeheartedly as we are able to. At the end of the class, the entire family sat up and smiled at one another. “ Dad you were funny!” said the youngest child. “Well I was just having fun!” said Dad. The girls left with their Dad, while their Mom stayed behind to chat further – “I can see how the girls enjoyed and benefitted from the class. What are the actual benefits of children’s yoga?” She asked.
- The classes strengthen growing bodies.
- It helps build concentration.
- It improves self-esteem, inspires creativity and provides opportunities for discovery and fun through movement.
- Yoga relieves stress and anxiety in the children, as well as aids in the development of coordination and self-control.
- The interactive practice creates a physical and emotional sense of Well-being within the child and leaves them feeling confident in their own bodies.
“Wow. It sounds like a fun, happy and positive space for the growing little souls to benefit from, in all senses. I will certainly sign the girls up for some of the children’s yoga classes at home,” replied the Mom.
On your next trip to Londolozi, I encourage you to organise a family yoga class where we can have some fun, get our bodies moving and build a creative space for your children to reconnect to nature.
Have your children ever done yoga? Let us know in the comments below.