Go Yogi! / Animal Asanas

Go Yogi!
Emma Hughes and John Smisson
Singing Dragon
Namaste: Meet Monkey, Mac and cat, Flo: they are enthusiastic about yoga and its benefits and want young children to join them and learn a special yogic way of breathing and some of their favourite yoga poses. First though, a space away from distractions is needed and then, mat down it’s time to start. The first focus is on the breath, and this is followed by a round of sun salutation. Here are the opening moves:

The two animals then move on to some standing poses, the first being the triangle – here called ‘Tea Pot’.

Clearly this book is for very young children who will most likely be familiar with the favourite nursery action song.
After this come four further standing poses; ‘balancing barn door introduces the slightly tricky (for 3 and 4 year  olds) standing on one leg. They’ll love to try though and increase the time before wobbles set in. Equally great fun, is the ‘warrior’.
All good yoga sessions need a variety of standing and sitting poses, so Flo demonstrates the ‘balancing boat’ next.

Following it with what they call here ‘pebble on the shore’ and many yogis will know as the pose of the child or balasana. Three additional poses are shown by Flo and then it’s time to relax. Mack gives her instructions and Flo begins to let go completely, making a ‘Ha’ sound to help her.
The entire yoga lesson is nicely illustrated by John Smisson who also teamed up with the author in Striker, Slow Down!
The final spread is aimed at adults and offers words of wisdom from a very experienced teacher of yoga, the author, Emma.
For me, as an early years teacher and yoga teacher, this is perfectly pitched for the very youngest beginning yogis. I’d strongly recommend it for all early years settings and families with young children. It could, one hopes, be the start of a life-long practice that offers many benefits, physical and emotional.

Animal Asanas: Yoga for Children
Leila Kadri Oostendorp and Elsa Mroziewicz Bahia
Prestel
A gloriously ornate menagerie of creatures great and small demonstrate over a dozen yoga asanas, and relaxation exercises.
‘Namaste, Children’ the author says on the introductory page and then goes on to give some wise words about yoga and taking it up. Anyone coming to yoga for the first time should read and inwardly digest what’s said before going near a yoga mat
The first asana shown is Vrikshasana – the tree pose and before embarking on the pose itself, there’s a ‘tree meditation’ that begins ‘Imagine you are a tree … You stand firmly on the ground and nobody can move you.’ A great introduction and believe me, as a yoga teacher and one who specialises in teaching children, this really works. Benefits of the pose (and indeed, all the others), is given as is a helpful tip. Here it’s the crucial anti-wobble: ‘Focus your eye on to a single point straight ahead of you. This will help keep your balance.
After this, all the asanas are animal-based: there’s the Frog, Cat and Cow, The Dog ,

the Cobra, the Dove (I know it as the Pigeon), the Butterfly, the Camel, the Tortoise, the Roaring Lion – a great one for letting off steam and relieving tension/stress – children love this …

the Rabbit, the Locust the Fish and finally, the Crocodile.
Relaxation is extremely important after a yoga session and there is a lovely Rainbow journey to undertake while lying in sarvasana.

The final spread gives some words of yoga wisdom – and wise they are ‘time spent … is for children’s enjoyment and exploration; it is not a time to be achievement-oriented or critical.’ and some practical tips for parents on a child’s yoga practice.
The whole book is beautifully presented both verbally and visually. Ornate Indian style borders enhance each spread and really help to underline the notion that the yoga mat or demarcated space is ‘a place from which to become aware’ and that time spent on yoga is a very special time when nothing else matters; and nothing should be impinging on that time.

Striker, Slow Down!

How often do we ask children to ‘calm down’ or ‘slow down’? Fairly frequently I suggest. Now here’s a little book to help subtitled “A calming book for children who are always on the go‘:

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Striker, Slow Down!
Emma Hughes and John Smisson
Singing Dragon
Striker the kitten, like many young children, leads a frenetic life, dashing from one activity to the next, never stopping or slowing down, despite frequent pleas from his mum and dad.

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Seemingly the only times he stays put are mealtimes and when he’s fast asleep. Now if you’re the parent of a whirlwind-type youngster, this will surely resonate.
One day though, the inevitable happens: Striker’s rushing results in a bumped head. Only then is he ready to sit down quietly with his mum, and start to relax.

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Those of us who work with young children know it’s not as simple as that. I do know however, that regular short sessions, be they of yoga, breathing, listening to a meditative story or whatever, do lead to calmer youngsters who can spend short spells being relaxed and peaceful in mind and body.
This little book is written in rhyme (creaking slightly once or twice) and Emma Hughes, the author, is herself a yoga teacher so obviously knows things don’t happen overnight as the book might suggest. However, if it does nothing more than set adults and young children off on the calming path, then it will have served its purpose.
For a start, take time to sit quietly together, share the book and enjoy the bright, bold, appropriately uncluttered illustrations.

Yoga for You

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Yoga for You
Rebecca Rissman
QED Publishing
Over the last decade children have become more and more pressurised with constant testing and increased curriculum demands in school, shorter breaks, hours of homework and more. It’s no surprise that many of them feel stressed, exhausted and completely unable to relax.
In my experience one of the very best ways to alleviate anxiety and stress is through yoga and happily, some schools are beginning to take this on board and offer yoga and, or, meditation as part of the curriculum. Not enough though; but here is a handy little book for children from around nine or ten, which can serve as an introduction to the practice.
In a straightforward manner, its author, herself a yoga teacher, explains all the basics that a beginner needs to know. There are sections outlining what yoga is and how it can benefit those who practise it as well as how to choose a class – this summarises some of the many different types of yoga.
There are two sequences: the first is a more active, energising one comprising 17 asanas; here are two of them …

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the second is a calming sequence of 18 asanas or poses – two are shown below …

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although as the author points out, the final savasana (or corpse pose) is used to end any yoga session and I would certainly endorse this.

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Savasana

Every pose is illustrated, but it’s important to remember what the author says indeed what any yoga teacher should tell you, ‘Never do a pose that causes you pain.’ It’s also wise to remember that a beginner trying a pose will not necessarily look just like that in the illustration right away: flexibility takes time to develop. The Sanskrit names are given for each one of the poses and there are also brief sections on breath control or pranayama as well as mindfulness and meditation. The final pages comprise a list of useful links and a glossary.
Written in an extremely user-friendly manner, this is an excellent starting point for youngsters contemplating taking up yoga.

Relax with Ladybird

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Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation
Michael Chissick and Sarah Peacock
Singing Dragon
In similar vein to Frog’s Breathtaking Speech is yoga teacher, Michael Chissick’s second picture book with artist Sarah Peacock. Here we have a story featuring a helpful character Ladybird, who comes to the aid of Dog, Frog, Flamingo and Dragon all of whom have their own particular anxieties. Dog has trouble writing stories, Frog has too much to do at home and cannot see where to start, Flamingo is being bullied at school and Dragon is feeling very sad because his Granddad has recently died. Rather than taking on their problems for them, Ladybird provides them with a special technique that enables them to relax. In a relaxed state, each animal is able to step back from his or her problem, see the bigger picture and find a plan to deal with it.
In short this is a problem solving story which incorporates a child friendly form of yoga nidra that can be used with primary school children. Even those as young as four or five can work with this version so long as they have already had some previous experience of yoga and relaxation techniques
As both a long standing primary school teacher and an experienced teacher of yoga to young children I can wholeheartedly recommend this book. The author has extensive experience of teaching yoga to children, in particular those with autism spectrum disorders and so he provides concise, easy to follow guidance for teachers and other adults wanting to use his techniques; he explains the basics of yoga nidra, (a very important skill for both children and adults) talks about how to use the book in schools as part of PSHE, in children’s yoga classes or at home and most important, there is a three-phase outline of how to teach Ladybird Relaxation including a script.
Sarah Peacock’s paintings of the characters are great fun and beautifully portray the emotions of the four

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as they change from woeful at the outset to relaxed and smiling at the end of the story.
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If this interests you, then go to the section Pages for Parents and Carers. for a review of Frog’s Breathtaking Speech.
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