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.
The 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!