It is well understood that that yoga has a tremendous effect on our well being. Understanding this notion invites us to look at how the yoga practice can be extended to the entire family and become a bonding step towards increasing the family’s physical and mental health.
In our digital world, where families spend less time together and where connections and communications are increasingly happening through screens and devices, family yoga is a brilliant way to create an opportunity for families to spend quality time together in a healthy, happy and uncompetitive environment. The beauty of it is that unlike many other activities, family yoga can be practised anytime and anywhere. Parents, children, family members or friends can get together and nurture their family connections and relationships, support each other and benefit from the allure that yoga holds in it.
Prof Martin Seligman, an avid promoter within the scientific community for the field of positive psychology, talks about the PERMA model as a way of measuring well being. PERMA stands for the different elements we need in our lives for well-being. These elements are positive emotions, engagement, relationship, meaning and accomplishment. I especially like the way Prof Seligman defines relationships and social connections. According to him, relationships and social connections are some of the most important aspects of our lives. Humans are social animals that thrive on connection, love, intimacy, and a strong emotional and physical interaction with other humans. As such, building positive relationships with our parents, siblings, peers, and friends are important to spread love and joy. I couldn’t agree more. I truly believe that having strong, stable and honest relationships with the people closest to us, provides us with the foundation and support we all need to successfully manage the challenges life brings.
Building relationships, connections and trust take time and effort. This is where family yoga can easily act as a secret agent in creating and developing such connections within the family.
Here are some ways in which the family yoga practice can help you do so:
Connected by creativity and playfulness-
Creativity is a trait that is in high demand in almost every institution these days. The definition of creativity is not straightforward. Creativity is closely bound up with an individual’s personality and emotional life. It is not only ‘thinking skills’ which make a child creative. Other personality components which contribute to creativity are self-confidence, curiosity, motivation, fantasy in play and divergent thinking also play a role.
Children have the fascinating ability to explore and see the wonders of life from a completely different perspective to that of ours – adults. It seems to me that children are wearing a special pair of glasses which allows them to know and see that there is more than one way to taste life. Family yoga offers plenty of opportunities to let our children elevate their creativity and support their curiosity, self-confidence and fantasy in play.
As we invite them to be the teachers and lead the activity, we are exchanging roles and we empower them. It is an important experience for all to notice that one can learn from everybody regardless of age.
Exploring together language skills by making up new poses with new names, coming up with new yoga games, creating breathe awareness activities, making up stories, in fact, everything goes.
Connected by touch-
Touch is one of the primal sensations that every baby needs in order to survive. Touch make us feel safe and comfortable in our environment. In every stage of our lives, we need the human touch for healthy emotional and neurobiological development.
The magic of family yoga is that it offers ways to connect through touch regardless of the pose you choose. It allows us to use our body language as a tool to say to our child, I hear you, I see you, I feel you.
Different balancing poses, whether standing poses or sitting poses, open up opportunities to explore how by holding each other and connecting through touch with different parts of our bodies we are able to support each other.
Exploring the different balancing poses will soon show us that balancing together with our child is a great way to develop trust and connect on many levels.
Invite your child to explore with you the many ways you can support each other in Tree Pose. Start by finding what does Tree Pose mean for them. How their Tree Pose will look like? Will it have branches? If so, how will the branches look like? Maybe the child can choose their own type of tree. After you establish an idea of how your Tree Pose will look like, experiment how it will feel connecting your trees in different ways.
This can be done facing each other and holding hands, standing one behind the other, back to back, or side by side.
Connected by breath-
Just as the yoga practice emphasises breath awareness, family yoga encourages us not only to be aware of our own breath but also to recognise your child’s breath. An interesting way to start this practice is to invite your child to sit down on the floor with each of you facing opposite ways with your backs touching. Feel free to cross your legs, as long as it feels comfortable
Talk to your child about how your backs support each other while noticing which other areas of your bodies are touching such as your head or neck, your shoulders and your bottom. Try to notice which parts of your body are moving when you breathe and how our breath travels through the spine as you inhale and exhale
Another fantastic way to connect by breath is to invite your child to sit cross-legged on the floor facing you and have the palms of your hands touching in front of you. As you breathe in, bring your hands to open sideways, still touching. As you breathe out, bring your hand back to the centre.
It is most important to remember that Family yoga is all about having fun and enjoying ourselves and it can be easily done because children are fun. It is about giving us, the parents, permission to tap back into our inner child and let our children see that we can to be creative and playful.
Ayala Homossany is the author of the award-winning Enchanted Wonders A-Z cards - Inspiring yoga activities to elevate your child’s self-expression. She runs teacher training and family yoga workshops under the Enchanted Wonders brand at The Life Centre and across London as well as sharing yoga with children in schools and at The Life Centre. Ayala is part of the leading team of the 'Teaching Yoga and Mindfulness to Children' teacher training at the Special Yoga in London and she is a registered senior teacher on the board of Yoga Alliance Professionals and a qualified British Wheel of Yoga. Ayala resides in London with her husband and their three boys.