Every morning, shortly after waking up, I strike my singing bowl with its wooden stick. Three distinct sounds and my children are by my side, ready to do our morning routine of Surya Namaskar. If they were fidgety or sleepy before, or nervous for the day of school ahead, or even if they didn’t wake up in the best of moods – usually by the time we finish our short five-minute practice, everything looks brighter.
How do we do it? And why?
The classic Surya Namaskar (literally, ‘sun salutation’) is a comprehensive, fun and quick morning workout. It has been around for centuries. Asanas (yoga poses) are gracefully linked to wake up our bodies. You can do it as slow and soothing or as quick and energetic as you feel.
But how do we adapt this ancient practice to children?
After completing our first cycle of 90 days in a row (and counting) at home, I have few tested tactics to share with you:
- Put some nice music – For young children (two to seven year old) I often use Tatty Bumpkin (you can buy it here from Amazon UK), or the classic “Dance for the Sun” by Kira Willey, but why not go for something like the Beatles’ evergreen “Here comes the sun”, or “On top of the world” by Imagine Dragons? Actually any music that is energetic and positive would do, just unleash your imagination.
- Tell them a story – Adding a theme to Surya Namaskar’s routine will take the children to a fun yoga journey, and even if the poses are the same, the story will be new and exciting. You could travel on a steam train towards the mountains and meet various animals for instance (and every animal will be linked to a particular yoga pose: dog, snake, swan…) or do the same with a beach trip and adapt the poses to the age and attention span of your children.
- How often? Short answer: daily, in my opinion. It works best for us because my children thrive in routines. If I started making exceptions (“today is late/we’re tired/it rains…), we would end up dropping it for good. Maybe your children are older and more flexible, so it might work as a weekly workout, on a fixed day – Monday morning’s practice, or Sunday’s practice for instance. Because I keep it short and fun, with music and few poses, it makes sense for us to use it as a wake-me-up practice. Before breakfast. In pyjamas. Smiling.
- With whom? – You! Never forget to demonstrate. Even if your children are already familiar with the asanas, participate in the class, do the poses, show them how committed you are and the benefits you take from the practice.
Why Surya Namaskar is good for children
Our children are today more likely to spend their time watching TV and playing video games rather than climbing trees.
Asanas, pranayama (breathing techniques), final meditation or relaxation are interlaced in a Surya Namaskar sequence. I see it as a tool to start your child’s day with the right attitude – happy, healthy, focused, fully awake.
- Tone muscle – Each asana targets a different muscle group, gently and steadily working them in turn in a well designed sequence.
- Nervous system – The navel (solar plexus) is stimulated, thus benefiting the whole nervous system.
Some researchers even go as far as to say that a regular sun salutation practice would promote clarity of mind, so increasing the children’s learning capacity. What could be more appropriate every morning, before the start of a long school day?
Finally, here is a kid friendly sun salutation sequence:
Surya Namaskar is not fixed – there is no wrong or right way of doing it.
There are many styles and I personally use a children friendly kundalini inspired sequence.
I adapt it to the special requirements of the day – rigidity is not yoga! Here it goes:
It is important to spice things up sometimes in order to keep the kids engaged, so fell free to add or change anything from this sequence. When I teach yoga to a group of children for an extended period of time, I always include a Sun Salutation as I believe this to be one of the most fundamental and beneficial tools yoga can offer, even better if learnt at an early age.
Feel free to print out the sequence if you want to give it a go at home – just add some nice music and enjoy! If you would like to publish it in your website or blog, you are welcome to do it too – just please cite spiritmommy.com!
I hope this serves you and your child.
P.S. Thank you to my children Leo and Isabella, my amazing teen-ager nephew Merlin and Camilla the cat for a nice pic of our pyjama themed Surya namaskar morning practice.