“You got them to relax. You’re a hero!” These were the exact words Andy told me as soon as we finished the yoga class with a namaste.
A few weeks ago, he and his wife, Danielle, told me they were having a hard time dealing with their two daughters, ages 8 and 10. When the girls are not in school or when they’re not in front of their tablets for distance learning, they chased each other around the house—fighting, scratching each other’s faces, and pulling each other’s hair.
As parents, they tried to intervene.
“Nothing worked,” Danielle said.
When other parent friends told them about making time to do something together as a family, they were hesitant. Like many parents, they work full time, take turns looking after the kids, do their laundry, cook their meals, and much more.
They admit they were a little disconnected as a family. But with much convincing from their friends, they signed up for a family yoga class.
The Importance of Family Time
Family time is essential to reconnect with each member of the family. While the family is forever and you cannot choose the family you end up with, it’s still essential to have a healthy relationship with each member. Family issues, such as siblings fighting frequently, can be solved when families make time for talking, listening, and understanding each member’s problems.
What to Focus on in a Family Yoga Class
Yoga is a great way to spend time with your family, to nurture your relationship with them, while also nurturing yourself. More and more families are now spending time practicing yoga together. If you want to learn how to teach family yoga, here are the concepts that need your focus.
With responsibilities as parents, employees, spouses, children, students, and friends, it’s easy for each family member to get disconnected from the other. Connecting to each other is necessary. It increases our confidence and self-worth, promotes happiness, and gives us the feeling of purpose and a sense of belonging.
In your family yoga class, let all members of the family focus on each other. Let them reclaim the closeness, or start working on it if they are not yet close.
Developing a Stronger Family
Problems can arise in the family. They are inevitable. In your family yoga class, focus on how strong their family can get once they build the habit of making time for Yoga. Allow them to do yoga poses and activities that will build their trust in each family member. Moreover, encourage them to support each other as they go through challenging activities and yoga poses.
If family members don’t spend time with each other, they are most likely focusing on the mundane and tedious tasks in their everyday lives. Focus on having fun in the class. The family yoga class doesn’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to have the kids sitting still for a long time, as that is not their nature.
Allow the kids to be themselves while also allowing the parents to be parents. But encourage the parents to have fun and be silly. Laughter is great medicine.
Ideas on How to Teach Family Yoga
Teaching yoga to a family is very different from teaching it to a class of mixed adults. Ask the parents why they want to practice together as a family, so you can create your class according to what they want. If the parents want to get fit together as a family and you see that their children are ready for an asana-focused class, then plan your class accordingly.
Most likely, though, what they want is to have a shared experience so they can bond and reconnect with each other. To help you plan your classes, here are some ideas on how to teach family yoga.
Be the Leader
Encourage each member of the family to be the leader. If the family doesn’t have experience with yoga yet, show them some simple poses or basic flows like Sun Salutation or a breathing exercise. Then, once they are familiar with the flow, pose, or breathing exercises, they can lead the whole family. Allowing a family member to lead improves their confidence.
Children, in particular, will benefit more from being a leader from time to time. It increases their self-worth and confidence. It trains them to be responsible.
Read a Story as a Family
Storytelling has a lot of benefits. It increases language ability, lowers stress, sparks imagination, and creativity, and so much more. In a yoga class, you can encourage the kids to participate by storytelling. You can read the book as a yoga teacher and have the parents and kids act out some words.
Or you can divide the family into two groups, with one parent in each group. The parents will read the book, and the children will make poses based on the words from the book.
Do Partner Yoga Poses
Partner up the parents and the kids and guide them through partner yoga poses. The partner yoga poses don’t need to be complicated. Start with partner Chair Pose, partner Boat Pose, and so on.
For parents who would like to sweat more, they can do poses while carrying their children. For example, holding their child in between their hands while doing a chair pose or letting the children sit on their backs as they are in a plank.
Play builds connection, relieves or lowers stress, encourages cooperation with others, boosts creativity, and stimulates the brain. It’s not just for children but also for adults. Incorporate play in your family yoga class by doing games.
Here are some yoga games that parents and children can enjoy.
Yoga Freeze Dance
To do this game, play music and let the family dance. Pause the music and call out a name of a yoga pose. The family should do the yoga pose and freeze until the music plays again.
“Swami Says” is a yoga version of the game Simon Says. To do this game, pick a Swami and let other family members spread out. When Swami says a yoga pose, the other family members will do that yoga pose for a few cycles of breath.
Note: Let each member of the family become Swami.
Print a mandala coloring page and have the whole family color it. Coloring relieves stress and anxiety. It generates mindfulness and, when done together as a family, is a great bonding experience. It also allows you to explore and practice your creativity.
To do this game, the family needs to partner up. Give each pair a yoga mat and have them fold it in half. Then play some music and have them dance around the mat. After a while, pause the music and call out a pose that they should do on the yoga mat for a few cycles of breath.
They shouldn’t touch the ground or fall outside the mat. This is round one. In the following rounds, the pairs should continue folding the mat in half until it becomes small, making it challenging to balance on it.
To bond, we need to communicate. Encourage each family member to communicate openly with each other. Before starting the class, you can ask them to say one thing (or more) they like about each family member.
Let Them Relax
Allow each family member to relax. Many of us have a lot of responsibilities. Even children juggle school with other activities and responsibilities. Relaxing in Savasana can help them relax and restore energy.
An excellent way to make Savasana a family affair is to place the mats in a circle and have them hold each other’s hands as they rest.
Teaching family yoga is very different from leading an adults-only class or a kids-only class. It can be difficult at first. But once you see families having fun, reconnecting, and nourishing their relationship with each other, you will feel fulfilled and rewarded.