Thoughts on yoga for children, yoga and parenting, family, health, our community, mom-owned businesses, and other things we love.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Finding the Right Yoga Teacher for Your Child

by Lisa Flynn
A few days ago, I got a phone call from a parent seeking a yoga class for her son. She asked me a lot of questions such as, "How would you describe your teaching style?", "Do you use visual props?" and "How do you handle shy children?". Admittedly, it took me a little off-guard. Though these were all very good questions, I realized that no one had ever asked them of me before. Why not? We hand our children over to virtual strangers each time we send them to a class or lesson - shouldn't we all be asking such questions? As I thought back, I realized that though I don't ask these questions of my children's teachers, dance instructors, or coaches outright, the answers do present themselves soon enough.

Whether it's from my observations, comments from my kids, or from interactions with the various adults with whom I entrust my children, it soon becomes clear what the teaching style is, and how well (or not) these adults understand and have an ability to relate to children. Here is what I have observed through training others to share yoga with children, and through my observations of my own children's teachers and coaches (almost all of whom have been wonderful, by the way):

1) Teaching children comes more naturally for some than others. You either 'get' kids, or you don't. Typically, a willingness to be silly, play and not take oneself too seriously is the key here.

2) Great teachers are balanced in their demeanor and energy. The energy you emit gets sent back to you tenfold, so a balanced presence is a must. Have you ever noticed how your child is seemingly drawn to this type of teacher? There is a sense of safety created which enables your child to be his/her true self - trust is created, facilitating the learning process.

3) An understanding of, and ability to adapt to, student's varied learning styles is essential. There is a nice reference to how this relates to teaching kids yoga in an article titled, Doing Yoga With Kids, found at

...choosing the right teacher for you and/or your child is essential.

One of the things to consider is whether or not your potential teacher is aware of Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory. This theory states that there are various categories of intelligence that human beings have, and that each one of these areas should be nurtured to help children reach their full potential. Every person has intelligence in the following areas: intrapersonal, naturalistic, interpersonal, musical, visual, linguistic, kinesthetic, and logical. Yoga can be a strong tool to help children cultivate each of these areas and it is therefore important to know whether your child’s teacher knows how to use these ideas and apply them to the practice of yoga.

In a nutshell, we all typically have a dominant learning style or 'intelligence.' So, in a yoga class of say 8 students, it's a sure thing there will be more than one way that everyone learns best. One child may learn best by listening closely to instructions, another by watching a demonstration, and yet another by jumping right in to try something out. A good children's yoga instructor will have the ability to address each student's dominant intelligence, while also cultivating and encouraging development of those that are less dominant.

So, the next time you are looking for a kids yoga instructor for your child, don't be afraid to ask, "What is your teaching style?". If they are worth their salt, they will make it a point to discuss their teaching technique as addressing various learning styles.

For good reason, an understanding of multiple intelligences is at the foundation of ChildLight Yoga's Kids Yoga Teacher Training and many other reputable programs as well. Find a Certified ChildLight Yoga Instructor near you. Other recommended programs:

Karma Kids Yoga
Next Generation Yoga
Itsy Bitsy Yoga (for children 0-4 yrs)

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Kids Yoga Teacher Tips from Mini Yogis

For two years now, we have been receiving weekly emails from Shana Meyerson, Founder of Mini Yogis in Santa Monica, California chock full of teaching tips for children's yoga teachers. Shana is a well-known, experienced and talented teacher. She has written about everything from class behavior management to teaching children with special needs to how to teach Crow Pose to kids. It's like getting an insider tidbit from her children's yoga teacher training every week.

Anyone can subscribe to receive these teaching tips. To see the latest tip and to subscribe, go to Mini Yogis Tip of the Week.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back to School or Back to Stress?

by Lisa Flynn

It's almost back to school for many of our children - exciting for some and daunting for others. Families can easily become overwhelmed with thoughts of school supplies, getting the 'right' sneakers and backpack, packing nutritious lunches in the age of packaged snacks, getting to school on time, excelling on the soccer field, organizing carpools, and so on. It can be exhausting just thinking about it all...Imagine how our children must feel at times - especially when we, the parents, are the ones racing around with our heads spinning!

Most children are too young to understand what 'stress' is but, according to the experts, children today suffer from stress now more than ever. In addition to hectic lifestyles, they are bombarded with news of terrorism, war and violence, and a culture filled with time-saving (??) and educational (??) technological gadgets. Sometimes, it's just too much for young, developing minds and bodies to absorb. With little to no coping mechanisms, children often end up suffering chronic stress, which can then lead to all kinds of health issues. Stress can manifest itself in many ways in children: night terrors, acting out, hyperactivity, feigned (or real) illness, lethargy, fearfulness, eating issues, bed-wetting, etc.

What can we do as parents to ensure that our families stay calm and healthy? One suggestion would be to keep things simple and allow for downtime - limiting after-school activities, for example. Parents may opt to save time and energy during the ultra busy school/work-week by making freezable dinners ahead of time over the weekend. How about sorting, ironing and lining up school and work outfits for the week on Sunday afternoon? Are missing shoes and backpacks typically an issue during your household’s morning rush? A cubby organizer system may be a worthwhile addition to your entryway area. Try working together as a family to find opportunities to simplify and save time and energy. Inevitably, this will lead to more time for play, rest and rejuvenation during downtimes – wonderful antidotes to stress.

As health and wellness initiatives increase in importance throughout the school arena, school administrations and teachers are seeking ways to short-circuit tensions in the classroom as well. After all, schoolwork, testing and ever-changing standards are stressors for teachers and students alike. More and more, teachers are recognizing the benefits of and then utilizing relaxation techniques in an effort to short-circuit tensions and anxieties in the classroom. Conscious breathing exercises, visual imagery and yoga poses are reportedly not only proving fun for children, but by accounts, extremely beneficial as well. The idea of using ‘yoga tools’ in the classroom is the brainchild of Tara Guber and Leah Kalish, respectively Founder and Director, of Yoga Ed.™, an organization based in L.A. whose mission it is to bring yoga to today’s increasingly stressed schoolchildren. As highlighted in the September, 2007 issue of Yoga Journal Magazine, Yoga Ed.’s Kalish “believes yoga can teach physical health in an engaging way while providing emotional and psychological benefits.” For two years now, teachers at Central School in South Berwick, ME have been utilizing ChildLight Yoga's Yoga 4 Classrooms program to incorporate yoga tools into their class day. Other schools around the nation are following suit.

Whether it’s yoga and breathing exercises, improved time management, fewer after-school activities or packing school lunches the night before, there are many ‘small things’ that can be done to reduce stress during the hectic school year. Do you or your family have an idea you’d like to share about managing school time stress? Please contact us or post your comments here. Your thoughts may be included in a related future article.

For more information about bringing yoga into the classroom environment, please visit

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Yoga songs make kids yoga fun!

Singing is a staple in ChildLight Yoga classes for children. First, it's a great way to activate the breath as singing naturally forces fairly long inhales and exhales. Second, it FEELS SO GOOD to sing and chant! It’s a fun use of language and when combined with movement, it also works to improve coordination, concentration and balance. The benefits of music in general are overwhelming on so many levels – imparting calm, clarity and brain development. Singing as a group creates a feeling of community and connectedness. Finding yoga songs for children however, can prove to be a difficult task. We have some suggestions, but here first is a little shameless self-promotion:

Award-winning children's singer & songwriter, Sammie Haynes and ChildLight Yoga founder, Lisa Flynn (yours truly), recetnly teamed up to create a lovely little CD for use in children's yoga class and beyond. A mix of original songs and new lyrics to familiar melodies make this CD a special treat for children, parents, school teachers, and instructors alike.

Sing along with the songs while following the movement cues for a fun and effective way to utilize the breath, while building self-awareness through yoga-based activities. Timeless messages of peace, community and self-love will warm your heart.

Vocals and music by Sammie Haynes. Young yogi back-up singers include Brooke Flynn (7), Lilly Whelan (6), Sophia DeCristofaro (5) and Mia Erdman (5).

Songs are most appropriate for children ages 2 - 9 years and include:
• Hello There • Welcome Song • Breath by Breath • Warm-up Song • Butterfly Song • Listen, Listen • Walking, Walking • Alligator, Alligator • Big White Star • Row, Row, Row your Boat • Old MacYogi • Love in any Language • Yogi Has a Cat • Triangle Teapot • I Grow with Yoga • Little Fish • Go Do Yoga Rap Song • If I Were • Under One Sky • Goodbye for Now
Listen to song clips HERE.

To learn more and to purchase I Grow With Yoga, CLICK HERE.
Wholesale pricing for studios, toy and educational stores are available - Contact us.

Other children's yoga CDs we love:
Dance for the Sun, by Kira Willey
Musical Yoga Adventures, by Suzy Frank and Linda Lara
Come Play Yoga!, by Karma Kids Yoga

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Yoga makes its way into school programming

More and more schools are recognizing the benefits of yoga for children. Many are finding funding to bring programs (such as Yoga 4 Classrooms) into their schools.

See what this Brooklyn school is doing and what their Principal has to say about the benefits of the program: View article & Video News Clip from CBS Interactive Healthwatch Here.

A shout out to for bringing this piece to our attention!

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Yoga in the Classroom

by Lisa Flynn

A 2003 California State University study, and a growing number of subsequent studies, show a link between yoga and better learning, improved behaviors, and higher self-esteem. Students quickly learn to use yoga as a tool, not just to increase physical fitness, but also to manage their feelings and behaviors, and to create a mental state ready for learning and taking tests.

The following are some of the benefits of yoga and movement to maximize the learning process:

• Partner and group poses require students to work together as a team, creating positive social interaction.
• Balancing poses build focus and concentration.
• Some yoga exercises can help students relax, calming pre-test jitters.
• Other, more invigorating yoga techniques are useful for waking up sluggish minds before class or after lunch.
• Yoga offers children healthy ways to express their emotions, rather than bottling them up or striking out.
• Slow, even, “belly breaths” short-circuit the fight-or-flight response to stress, and promote a more relaxed, comfortable state – a perfect state for learning.
• A non-competitive yoga atmosphere where everyone can succeed fosters a can-do attitude, confidence, and enthusiasm.

More and more teachers and schools are recognizing the effectiveness of taking a few minutes here and there throughout the day to practice physical asanas, conscious breathing and relaxation/visual imagery exercises – right in the classroom. However, most teachers are not trained to do so and therefore may initially feel uncomfortable leading these exercises. That is where a trained instructor (you!) can become quite valuable.

Nearly any lesson plan you develop can be adapted for the classroom environment, though there are some challenges to consider.

There is limited space in a classroom. Most classrooms do not have a large open area in which to practice yoga. When developing a lesson plan, do keep this in mind.

• Most yoga poses and games will need to be practiced at or near one’s desk. Lying down on the floor may or may not be possible. Be creative in coming up with ways to utilize the desk or table and chair for modifications of poses typically done sitting or lying on the floor.

• Conscious breath exercises can be done sitting at a desk or table. Encourage students to sit upright with a long backs and necks, shoulders down away from the ears.

• Relaxation can practiced sitting in silence at a desk or with heads down on the desk. If space and cleanliness allow, students can lie on the floor with or without their legs up on their chairs. You might suggest that students bring in a towel on yoga days so that they can lie on the floor without concern.

Limited time. Before they realize how much it will actually help them in the long run, many teachers feel taking time out for yoga will be too time-consuming. After all, there is so much to be accomplished at school each day! Keeping this in mind, I often limit classroom yoga sessions to 20-30 minutes. Remind the classroom teacher that using the yoga-based activities need not take more than 5 minutes, if that is all the time he/she has available. In the end, any time spent on yoga is worthwhile – helping with transitions, test-taking, stress and overall learning-readiness.

Encourage the classroom teacher to participate in the yoga activities. Experiencing the beneficial effects of yoga first hand will help teachers to accept and even embrace it as a worthwhile part of the school day. As well, the more the teacher learns about and feels comfortable with the lessons, the more likely he will be to utilize them with his students when you are not there. You might even make it easy for teachers by typing up your lesson plans (with step-by-step instructions) to leave behind for their future use. They will love you for it!

Incorporate subjects of study. Find out the current areas of study and try and incorporate them into your lesson. For example, if you learn that the class is studying the American Revolution, you might devise a story about a soldier’s journey and incorporate it into your lesson plan. This might include marching in place (or around the room), Warrior Series, Triangle (Tent), Shavasana using a visualization about sleeping under the stars, and so forth. Ask the teacher if she has any other ideas for bringing the subject matter into the yoga lesson. She will appreciate that you asked and will enjoy helping you with this!

ChildLight Yoga’s own Yoga 4 Classrooms® Program offers a 5 hr. seminar for schools/teachers and yoga instructors seeking to bring yoga into the classroom setting. We are also working to publish the associated Yoga 4 Classrooms card deck. FMI, please visit

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Boat Pose

Sit down with knees together in front of you. Extend arms straight out in front of you, near your knees. Lift your toes slightly off the ground and find your balance on your bottom bones. Once balanced, try and straighten your legs out fully. Strengthens core muscles, tones kidneys.

Here’s an idea!
• Sing ChildLight Yoga’s ‘Row Your Boat Song’ while moving your arms in a rowing motion.
• Inflate your float boat. Start off as a deflated float (Ball Pose) with your arms wrapped tightly around your legs, head down on knees. Very slowly, inflate your raft boat with each deep breath – all the way into boat pose. (Note: Young children often want to rush to inflate and may take in too much oxygen. Skip the deep breaths with little ones and again, encourage a very slow transition with all ages.)
• Rock the Boat – Roll into Ball Pose and try to come up and balance back in Boat Pose. For even more of a challenge, hold the toes or feet in Boat Pose, roll back and come to sitting Boat balance. Very challenging – great for older children.
• Half Boat – From boat pose, lower yourself half way down using your stomach muscles. Hover, hover, hover...then, SAVE YOURSELF from sinking by pulling back up into full Boat Pose. Can you do it again?


Excerpted from the ChildLight Yoga Teacher Training Manual, copyright 2007, 2008, 2009 Join us for our next training - CLICK HERE.

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Benefits of Yoga for Children

by Lisa Flynn

Yoga programs for kids encourage children to be children. Imitation of animals, nature and everyday objects, the basis of the physical aspect of a yoga practice, comes naturally to them. Children love opportunities to use their imaginations, create and explore. They get excited, calm down, play and dance. Yoga for kids encourages their natural abilities and interests, while helping them to develop strength, flexibility and an overall sense of well-being. Yoga for children also provides kids with tools they can use to get hold of their active lives and sometimes overactive minds.

Take a look at a sampling of what child development experts, parents and teachers (and finally, actual scientific research) are reporting as the benefits of yoga for children:
• develops/improves strength & flexibility
• improves concentration, focus & attention
• develops/improves balance & coordination
• improves general body awareness
• boosts self-confidence and self-esteem
• improves sleeping patterns
• encourages mind/body connection
• promotes calm and ability to be less reactive
• expands creative expression & imagination
• aids digestion, circulation & elimination
• promotes respect for self & others
• improves immune system function
• teaches environmental awareness, earth care, and an overall sense of connectedness
• promotes self-discipline and self-control
• clears the mind, promotes learning-readiness
• promotes an overall sense of well-being

In an era when children are acquiring conditions and diseases previously unknown in childhood, proper breathing, exercise and deep relaxation are a much needed healing force. Yoga helps children cope with the conflicts and stress of a very hectic world. It helps them to see the beauty and light within themselves, boosting their self-confidence, allowing them to feel more comfortable with their bodies, and helping them get in touch with who they are inside. Yoga resonates with children. They love the practice and they love how they feel afterwards. And the bonus is that a child who learns yoga and relaxation will be developing beneficial skills they can use throughout their life. Practicing yoga can help a child develop concentration, patience, gentleness, strength, creativity and stability – habits we’d all love to cultivate. These are the building blocks that create the foundation for a happy, healthy life.

Excerpted from the ChildLight Yoga Teacher Training Manual. Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009. Join us for the next training - CLICK HERE.

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Why Yoga for Children?

by Lisa Flynn

Most children are too young to understand what stress is but, according to many experts, children today suffer from stress now more than ever. Over the last few decades, we have created a culture which demands an extremely busy lifestyle. Our hurry up world of homework, over-scheduled activities, competitive sports, electronics/technology, and ultra busy parents creates an environment ripe for producing stress in children.

Children living in the information age of today are bombarded with news of terrorism, war and violence, as well as by endless advertising and marketing pitches. Time spent watching television and playing computer and video games has replaced the time children used to spend outdoors in the natural world, using their imaginations, connecting with nature and getting exercise. Add to that the peer and media pressure aimed at children to wear, have and even ‘be’ the right things. For many children, it has become too much for their young, developing minds and bodies to absorb.

With little to no coping mechanisms, these children often end up suffering chronic stress, which can lead to all kinds of health issues. Stress can manifest itself in many ways in children: night terrors, acting out, hyperactivity, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, lethargy, fearfulness, eating issues, and bed-wetting, to name a few.

Obesity in children is also on the rise, to the point of being deemed an epidemic in the United States. With so much time being spent in front of TV and computers, children are not getting the exercise their bodies crave and need. Then again, fear of our children being harmed or even abducted has created a society where, as parents, we are afraid to even let our kids outside to play. Our increasing dependence on fast and over-processed foods only adds to the growing obesity problem.

ADD / ADHD and diagnosis of Autism are increasing prevalent among our youth. Much of the above is to blame, but many feel the lifeless foods and toxins in our diets and environment are also responsible. Schools are reporting decreasing attention spans, concentration and social skills at a time when the ‘no child left behind’ mentality values results over process. This is a very challenging time for teachers, parents and children alike.

Overall, children are suffering a lack of connection to their own bodies, their environment and the food they eat. This crosses socio-economic barriers – rich or poor, more and more kids today are overweight, have stress and anger issues, and attention and learning problems. There is a real separation of mind and body, with attention being focused outward to the ever-increasing distractions of the external world. Isolation from families and community is common. Children in poor and middle class families may see little of parents who work. In affluent families, the disconnect can be even greater. Rather than sitting down to dinner together, it is now quite common for children and parents to communicate mainly via text messaging.

Some of the detrimental effects of these disconnections are above. Others include an inability to regulate one’s emotions, overeating or mindless eating, substance abuse, decreased ability to use one’s imagination, negative body image, low self-esteem, and a general lack of compassion, empathy and respect for oneself and others. Some believe this has translated into an increase in violence among children.

Phew! Is that all reason enough??

While we live in a world full of war, drugs, crime, depression and toxic food, we must give our children every tool possible to assist them in counteracting a culture and environment that is potentially hazardous to their health and well-being. Through the use of yoga tools, stories and play, we can provide children with opportunities to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, helping them to connect with themselves and others with compassion, understanding and clarity.

Excerpted from the ChildLight Yoga Teacher Training Manual, Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009.

To learn about ChildLight Yoga's programs for children, please visit our website.
To learn how you can bring the gifts of yoga to the children in your community, attend a ChildLight Yoga weekend training near you. For more information about the ChildLight Yoga Teacher Training, CLICK HERE.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Yoga and Parenting - Part I: My Son has ADD

by Lisa Flynn

My 6 yr. old son Jack was recently diagnosed with ADD...on top of an earlier diagnosis of Sensory Integration Dysfunction (also known as Sensory Processing Disorder). In a nutshell, his nervous system is in overdrive most of the time.

As I think back to his first year, it makes sense. We couldn't take him out anywhere as he was oversensitive to noise and chaotic environments - family gatherings, the grocery store, and pretty much everywhere. At 3 years old, we noticed that he couldn't follow simple two step instructions - he would head in the right direction and promptly 'forget' what he was doing. At 4, his preschool teacher casually mentioned that he didn't seem to hear her when she spoke (he passed a hearing test). And then, this last January, his Kindergarten teacher pulled us in for a meeting and told us she was concerned about Jack's inability to focus on her voice and the tasks at hand. She said that though he was not hyperactive and was generally well-behaved (and very bright), he could be quite loud, was easily aggitated, and did not seem to be able to pick out her voice and instructions in the midst of everything else going on around him. Onto evaluations...and voila! - a diagnosis of SID and ADD.

I have not missed the irony in the fact that his mother teaches yoga and relaxation to children. We yogis are apparently not exempt from having children with attention issues (an exaggerated inability to be present). But, I like to think Jack was born to me because I AM a children's yoga instructor. And, in so many ways, on so many levels, he is my teacher as well.

Admittedly, this is not exactly the motherhood I had envisioned (picture: me practicing downdog with my peaceful children on a beach...). These last several months have been consumed by OT and PT sessions (I forgot to mention he's also in physical therapy for tight heel cords/calves, flat feet and inpronation), one on one work with Jack at home, visits to the Naturopath, further expensive testing, time-consuming experimentation with natural remedies (ever tried to get a 6 yr. old to take a tinctures and capsules?), inventing new kid-friendly meals due to recently discovered food sensitivities to dairy/eggs, frustrations with insurance company/coverage...well, you get the picture.

Never before have I relied so much on my yoga practice. The yama of aparagraha, or non-possessiveness/non-attachment tells us that holding on to possessions or ideas causes suffering. Letting go of our attachments eases suffering. From a mother's perspective, this can feel like an oxymoron. Isn't it our job to protect and fix - to do anything and everything in our power to make sure our child is happy and well? Sort of.

The truth is, as much as I'm looking for it, I can not control whether or not all of these therapies and natural approaches will improve Jack's ability to focus or lessen his SID symptoms. It's possible that after everything - the time, energy, money, worry - he will still need medication during school hours (more on this in Part II). I remind myself that there is probably no miracle cure, and I'm trying hard to be okay with that. I need to accept the fact that Jack's happiness and well-being are not completely in my control. AND, my happiness and well-being is not dependent on it. As a parent, that's a tough pill to swallow (no pun intended). Remembering the following has been helpful:

Practicing non-attachment does not mean loving our kids any less...It means loving them for who they are.

Jack is Jack, whether or not he has special needs or culturally determined 'issues.' He's kind, funny, smart, and his snaggle-toothed smile melts my heart.

As I head in now to peek over the railing of Jack's top bunk, I relish the moment, this moment, watching the peaceful, beautiful boy who is my son. I suddenly feel no need to change, fix or control - just love. Fortunately, that's the easy part.

Here is an article I found in Yoga Journal which goes into more detail about the practice of non-attachment in parenting. It's aptly titled, The Yoga of Parenting. Take a read....

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Our Favorite New

Our friend, former ChildLight Yoga Instructor, fellow mom and all-around super woman, has started a new blog dedicated to moms with a focus on health, wellness and their children. It's fun, heart-warming, and oh-so-familiar with wonderful tips, reminders and suggestions for the busy mom.

We will be referencing if often...why not just subscribe?? (we LOVE the name!)

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