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Why we should all be doing yoga with our kids (and some moves to get you started!)

Jensen Wheeler Wolfe

Here’s my yoga history: Years ago I borrowed a coworker’s Rodney Yee tapes to try at home, which I did a few times. I also had a private class on the beach during my bachelorette party in South Beach and I did it again about a year ago at another friend’s bachelorette. Each time I loved it, I didn’t completely suck and I felt very relaxed and bendy afterward (though that could have been the champagne talking). In other words, I am hardly a yogi, but I totally get why people love yoga. And I have several friends who teach, including an old work colleague, Jensen Wheeler Wolfe (the one who lent me the tapes!), who just started a fantastic new venture called The Little Yoga Mat. The company does exactly what you’d think—they make yoga mats for little kids (adorable, eco-friendly designer mats, to be exact). Jensen came up with the idea after teaching yoga at her daughter’s preschool (that's her daughter, Arden, in the photo--how cute is she?!). Jensen couldn’t find child-size mats so she cut adult mats to fit. Everyone kept asking her where they could buy the mats, and—boom!—an idea was born. Don’t you just love stories like that?

 

Jensen is now selling the mats in select stores and studios in NYC (and on her website) and working on a book that will help parents teach their young kids yoga. Something we should all be doing! From Jensen: “When a young child learns yoga they are creating a foundation of healthy lifestyle habits that they can carry into adulthood. Research is proving that children who practice yoga are better able to focus at school, cope with stress and when stressed out have tools to self soothe. These are tools they can access for a lifetime.” Who wouldn’t want their kid to have all that? Alex got a mini trampoline from Nick’s parents for Christmas (this one—he loves it) and some mornings he and I will head down to my office/the gym and I’ll get on the treadmill and he’ll get on his trampoline and we’ll workout for a good 45 minutes. Then we always stretch. I am a huge stretcher—this is probably why I dig yoga, even though I’ve only done it a handful of times—and I’ve taught Alex some great stretches and a few of the yoga poses I’ve picked up over the years. He loves it and I really want him to learn more. So, I asked Jensen to give us a couple of moves to try for a 3-5 year old child. Here goes:

 

Have your child stand tall in the center of the mat with their feet parallel (directly below their shoulders, hips and knees) arms by their sides. Tell them to be completely still. Then say:

“As the very pointy top of a mountain way up high in the sky you stand tall. It’s snowy and cold but you are strong.  BRRRRRR. Press your feet into the earth and let your head soar into the sky. The top of your head touches a cloud as you take three deep icy breaths. Now you are the mountain and the tallest person in the world! Press your palms together in prayer pose take a deep breath in and we’ll say OOOOOMMMMM together. (Pronounced A-U-M.)  Reach up, touch the sky with your fingertips then swoop down to the ground.”

While bending at the waist, have your child loosely dangle their head and arms and slightly bend their knees. Then say:
“We’ve entered the jungle. It’s getting warmer and the animals have come out to play! Shake and lightly bounce and let me see and hear your best monkey.  Ooh Ohh Ahh Ahh.”

Tell your child to lower their body into a squat. Then say:

“Monkey is hungry and needs a banana.  Find your balance and carefully peel a banana.  Take big bites and chew slowly.” (When eating do large exaggerated chewing movements to stretch the face.)

 

Cool, right? Alex and I will definitely be adding these to our routine. And The Little Yoga Mat—we have one—is so great because it really makes Alex feel like he has something of his own (unlike the weights I never let him play with or the treadmill he’s not supposed to touch). It fits his body size perfectly and he loves to roll it up when we’re finished. Now if only I could get him (and me, for that matter!) to exude that blissed-out, calm, zen thing all yogis seem to have. Here’s to trying!

 

So, do you exercise with your kids? Ever try yoga with them? Let me know, I'm curious!

 

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