Jumping All Day Long

It’s been a loooooooong, snowy winter here in New England. Early April, and yards and playgrounds are still covered in mud and snow, so kids are coming to class with plenty of energy.

I have Jumping All Day Long by Jennifer Gasoi on my playlist for those moments in class when it’s clearly time to amp up the activity level for a minute or two. gasoi2

The lyrics suggest body movements, and the actions change frequently enough that kids stay interested. During the instrumental sections, we either do “free dancing” (kids choose their own movements) or we try holding a pose (warrior I provides a powerful-feeling “resting place,” and two instrumental sections means you can do both sides).

With some groups, we do the whole song “feet on mats,” but in the right space, with kids who can handle it, kids are free to move wild and free! Woo hoo!

Preschoolers love this song, but school-age kids also happily boing around the room, and some of my goofier (totally a compliment!) middle schoolers even have fun with it.

You might get a request to “Do it again!!!” especially from younger kids, but eventually kids will happily collapse onto their mats. This is a great time to notice breathing, heart rate, sensations in big muscle groups, and to transition kids into a calmer, more focused activity.

 

Who sings that song? Fall preschool edition!

Wondering about some of the music played in Friendly Yoga classes this fall?

I’ve listed a few favorites from the preschool classes below so that you can listen to them with your children at home. Play the yoga games we learn in class, lay down and relax for a song or too, or just sing your hearts out!

I’m full of gratitude for these wonderful artists whose music adds so much to Friendly Yoga classes.

Please support them by downloading favorite songs, and remember that most of them have CDs that make fantastic, meaningful, and beloved birthday and holiday gifts. And check out their websites to find out about touring dates so you can dance to their music live and in person!

You are my little birdMost of the music playing as you’ve arrived for class this fall is by Elizabeth Mitchell. Little Wing and If You Listen are from her album You Are My Little Bird, and Arm in Arm, I Wish You Well, and Circle of the Sun are on Blue Clouds (which was nominated for a Grammy).  You can find her duet with Alastair Moock (also a Grammy nominee), Take a Little Walk with Me, on Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids.

We’ve warmed up with Sometimes by Frances England (see this blog post from earlier this year) and played with Popcorn by  Barenaked Ladies (another post from this blog).

Dancing Bear by Bari Koral is from her album The Apple Tree and the Honey Bee. (Keep an eye out for Bari’s new kids’ show, Yogapalooza on Z Living this fall.)

I don’t think Laurie Berkner knew, when she wrote The Goldfish, that she had just penned the perfect beginning-yoga song. Kids of all ages love it (again! again! again!), and it’s a heart-pumping workout, with plenty of child’s pose resting in between bursts of activity. Laurie Berkner

And finally, the sweet song where your kids do yoga poses and then run over to give you a big hug at the end? That’s If I Were by Sammie Haynes and Lisa Flynn (of Childlight Yoga), and it’s from the album I Grow With Yoga.

We gear up for another session of Friendly Yoga in a few weeks, and I’m already gathering more good music to share during class, so stay tuned!

 

 

Sometimes I feel like jumping for joy!

A gentle roller coaster of rising and falling energy. That’s the image I keep in mind when planning a yoga class for young children.

ImageThe peak of each upswing gives kids a chance to expend energy, to find themselves in their bodies, to express themselves and laugh and play and move.

And then we coast into a quieter activity that challenges the kids to slow down, relax, notice, and focus, externally and internally.

Friendly Yoga classes usually begin with a greeting song, and then a chance for each child to ring our chime or answer a question. For the youngest kids, that’s quite enough sitting still, thank you very much!

Time for an exuberant warm-up to get our muscles pumping, our faces smiling.

One song I love to begin with is Sometimes by Frances England. Sometimes is the first song on her first CD, Fascinating Creatures.

Intermission!! Three fun things to know about Frances England.

ONE: Her children’s music  – – melodies, lyrics, her voice  – –  is sweet, folky, intelligent, playful, and original. I play a lot of Frances England songs in my classes.

TWO: (I especially love this one) She recorded her first CD as a fundraiser for her son’s school, not expecting that a wider audience would ever hear it.

THREE: She also has a beautiful album of music especially for grown-ups.

Intermission over!! Back to fun yoga class planning!

Here you can find the lyrics to Sometimes, along with some drawings suggesting “moves” you might do with the kids during each part of the song.

Before we begin, I tell the kids that it’s a listening and doing song and that we’re going to listen to what the singer says about her feelings, and act it out with our bodies. The first time or two that we listen to it, I repeat or paraphrase each lyric to the group, as if I’m hearing it for the first time.

The major warm-up action comes during the chorus:

high, high diddy high hee hee

low, low diddy low hoo hoo

When she sings “high,high…” we reach up as high as we can, up on tiptoe, fingers wiggling to the ceiling.

When she sings “low, low…” we quickly flatten ourselves as low as we can onto the ground, like the beginning of a cobra pose. The kids love the challenge of moving quickly from up to down and back up again.

During the verse that begins, “The highs, they soar…” we’re already on the ground, so we stay on our bellies, and when she sings about the highs, we raise our arms and legs, in a flying “superman” pose.  When she sings about the lows, we rest our limbs back down onto the ground.

You’ll be surprised how out of breath you are by the end of this one! It ends with everyone deliciously tuckered out and on their bellies, and I usually say something like “Now rest on your bellies and turn your head to one side, with your ear on the ground. Can you feel your heart beating or your belly pushing into the ground when you breathe? Turn your head to look the other way, and take two more deep breaths, in and out.  In and out.” I then use a very quiet voice to transition them into a story, meditation, or quiet noticing activity.

Planning tip: It’s especially helpful if warm-up activities like this end with the kids in a physical/attentional position in which they are “with you” and ready to follow you down into a more relaxed, focused state.  This song/activity sets you up perfectly for that transition.

As always, enjoy, and feel free to share!

Savasana songs to know and love

Kids love ice cream!

Kids love silliness!

Kids love savasana!

Yes, you read that right.

breath-budsI used to be surprised when kids begged for a longer savasana at the end of class (or begged to begin with one!) especially when the begging was coming from the most movement-seeking, attentionally-challenged kids in the class. But now I’ve come to expect their enthusiasm. After a moment or two of settling in, it feels fantastic to lay still but not be going to bed. It’s not often that any of us make space to truly quiet down and have no demands or distractions to respond to.  With the the lights dimmed, and action quieted, the sensory load on growing brains is diminished, and kids seem hungry for that pause.

Some adult savasanas are done in silence, and I appreciate the good of that, the “truly nothing” happening in the room.

However, music, as they say, hath charms…and the right music can set a soothing tone, influence deeper, slower breathing, encourage kids to focus their thoughts, or make it clear that big feelings are okay.

The music I choose for savasana depends on the age of the kids, the themes we’ve explored that day, and the specific group I’m working with. Since we often begin with focused breathing or a guided visualization, that’s a good place for wordless music. Once we’re simply resting, I like to add a song or two with a peaceful, encouraging, open-hearted message, or one that suggests some easy mental imagery for kids to follow. Some of my current faves are listed below. Share yours in the comments section!

Savasana music – instrumental

Tortoise from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens

Lullaby (Sandman) by George Winston

Accordion Bells by Leo Kottke

Farewell (From the Million Dollar Arm Soundtrack) by A.R. Rahman

Love Me by Yiruma

Wishful Thinking by The Album Leaf

Brooks Cabin (from the Fronteir House Soundtrack) by Edward Bilous

Prelude and Yodel by Penguin Cafe Orchestra

 

Savasana music – with lyrics

Colors by Kira Wiley

Blackbird by The Beatles

Take a Little Walk with Me by Alastair Moock (with Elizabeth Mitchell)

Little Boat by Jennifer Gasoi

Rainbow by Charlie Hope

Queen of the Earth, Child of the Stars by Leela and Ellie Grace

Oh, Watch the Stars by Elizabeth Mitchell (with Aoife O’Donovan)

Breathe by The Rockdoves

Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

In The Clouds by Laurie Berkner

Quiet One by Big Little Lions

Pink Moon by Nick Drake

The Best Day  by Taylor Swift

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

(kids 10 and up seem to especially love these last two)

 

Just sit in the middle…

imagesWhen children’s music is good, it is very, very good.

The music of Jennifer Gasoi definitely falls into the very, very good category. Jennifer is a Canadian musician, and her album, Throw a Penny in the Wishing Wellis the very deserving winner of the 2014 Grammy Award for best Children’s Album.

I’ve recently added Jennifer Gasoi’s Little Boat to my collection of great songs for savasana/final resting. Her voice is gorgeous, the tempo is soothing, and the lyrics remind the children (and grown-ups!) to breathe and watch their thoughts. Quite lovely.

Listen to it here.

 

Water balloon warm-up

This time of year, kids come into yoga classes with energy to spare.

A warm-up game played to the song Water Balloon by the Okee Dokee Brothers is a great way to burn off extra wiggles while encouraging kids to notice how their bodies are moving, turn on their self-control, and explore the concepts tense and relaxed.

Here’s how we play:

•  First, we pretend to hold water balloons in our hands and talk about how they move and jiggle in a loose, floppy way. We stand up and practice moving our bodies that way, letting arms hang loose and allowing the torso and head plenty of give and sway.

•   I tell the kids that as long as they hear the Water Balloon song playing they can run around the room (of course, be sure the running they do is safe and appropriate for the space you’re in), letting the top part of their body move like a water balloon, muscles as relaxed as possible.

•   When the music stops kids run back to their mats and stand sideways, in Star Pose.Yoga Bunny star pose (tense) imageThey make every part of their body as tense as possible. I say something like: “Tense your feet and grab your mat with your toes! Tighten your leg muscles! Suck in your belly muscles!  Arm muscles tight, tight, tight! Tight fists! And squinch up your face like you just ate 300 lemons!  Hold tight for 3…2…1…”

•  When the music comes back on, kids continue running around with super relaxed “water balloon bodies.”

•  At the end of the song, we all return to our mats and “splat” belly down like a burst water balloon.

•  Because this is a very short song, I make the running-around bursts fairly short, and we usually do the song twice in a row.

•  The water balloon warm-up will leave you with happy kids laying on their bellies, breathing deeply, and usually more focused and relaxed than when you began.  You’re ready to transition into a quieter, more focused game or activity.

Have fun, and prepare for many requests for this song!