February 3, 2011

Chinese New Year Kids Yoga Class

I love creating holiday inspired children’s yoga classes. Chinese New Year is an ideal holiday to help young yogis explore the world, celebrate their individual strengths and increase inter-cultural awareness and understanding.

First tell the legend of how the Chinese Zodiac came to be. (Listen to Cora Wen explain this in greater detail in this interview.) Next use a visual for each animal, this could be a photograph, stuffed animal or other object that is child friendly and fun. I created laminated cards with a graphic of each animal, its name in Chinese characters as well as English, a list of the characteristics of the animal and the years for the animal. I place these cards into a traditional red Chinese gift envelop which I picked up at the local Chinese market.

In turn, children come and choose a card. We then find out who in the class is a tiger, rooster, horse, etc. and discuss the characteristics of that animal and how we can emulate these positive attributes in our own lives. This is especially fun with classes of various ages including Family Yoga classes. Of course we get to practice yoga by becoming each animal through yoga inspired poses with lots of sounds and animal antics.

Rat – child’s pose (balasana) – charming, intelligent, inquisitive, generous, social

Ox – cow face pose (gomukhasana) – dependable,calm, patient, good listener, hardworking

Tiger – lion pose (simhasana)- powerful, passionate, colourful, vivacious, adventurous

Rabbit – rabbit pose (sasangasana) – graceful, lucky, strong willed, good friend, kind

Dragon – yin variation of runner’s lunge– whimsical, energetic, powerful, loyal, positive

Snake – cobra (bhujangasana) – wise, beautiful, skeptical, deep thinker, graceful

Horse – shiva & shakti kicks – cheerful, popular, loves outdoors, quick-witted

Goat/Sheep – table pose with bleating – trusting, artistic, gentle, generous, lucky

Monkey – wide squat with monkey antics – flexible, clever, sociable, confident, inventive

Rooster – low squat basic chicken strut (available to all) or for the energetic rooster pose(kukkutasana) – self-assured, organized, dedicated, meticulous, leader

Dog – downward facing dog pose (adho mukha savanasana) – honest, intelligent, loyal, friendly, fearless

Boar – table pose with a twist (looking for your curly tail) – honest, popular, seeks harmony, thoughtful, integrity

If you have time a simple craft project is paper Chinese lanterns.

Teach the children how to wish one another Happy New Year in Chinese – Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) or Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese) with the appropriate hand gesture.

To finish off relax in corpse pose with a lovely guided visualization based on lanterns which guide our way and light our path since Chinese New Year is in fact is the Chinese Spring Festival which culminates with the Lantern Festival.  

For more ideas on celebrating holidays with yoga check out these ideas at Yogainmyschool.com: Valentine’s, Cinco de Mayo,  Halloween.

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Jeannie Hyson Dec 26, 2012 7:04am

I’m just glad that my 3.5-year-old is finally interested in singing on-key! (I attribute that to the fact that we haven’t been able to visit with totally-off-key grandma for a month or so… yes, I *am* a snob, but Jane already knew that. )

Cheryl Feb 5, 2011 9:30am

Fantastic, Donna!

Trish Adkins Feb 3, 2011 12:52pm

I love this too! I am doing it tonight with my 10 year old students. So excited. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Donna Freeman

Teacher, author and expert on yoga for kids and teens, Donna Freeman firmly believes that yoga can be done anywhere, by anyone, at anytime. She grew up in British Columbia, Canada but was introduced to yoga while living in Cape Town, South Africa during her nomad years. She is currently learning acroyoga with her kids and enjoys practicing tadasana while pumping gas or washing dishes. Bob Weisenberg describes her book Once Upon a Pose: A Guide to Yoga Adventure Stories for Children as indispensible. For more about yoga for kids and teens visit her website yogainmyschool.com or the Yogainmyschool.com facebook page