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    Congo Adventure Poses

    Looking for a way to help kids get focused, get some giggles out, learn a bit, and have fun?  Here are seven fun poses to do either with a few or a bunch of silly kids. These seven animals live in the Republic of Congo and come with some interesting facts. Have your child or children do the yoga animal poses while telling them the fun facts.  Before you tell them about the animals, get into your boat (boat pose) and take a ride down the Congo River, the DEEPEST river in the world!

    Boat Pose: While traveling down the River Congo, you are sure to meet a bunch of cool animals.  Row your boat forwards or backwards, fast or slow. 




    Dwarf Crocodile Pose: The Dwarf Crocodile is the smallest crocodile in the world. The females lay about 10 eggs at a time and when the babies hatch, she takes care of the babies until they are ready to go off on their own.  Dwarf crocodiles are mainly nocturnal and bury themselves in a burrow during the day.  Sometimes these burrows have entrances under the water.




    Goliath Tiger Fish or Elephant Fish (Fish Pose): The Goliath Tiger Fish has huge teeth that look like tiger's teeth.  It can weigh up to 150 pounds.  The Elephant fish has a long snout like an elephant and uses it's snout to sift and find food under the murky water. 




    Snake Pose: There are over 180 different species of snakes in the Congo. 

    Both small snakes and large snakes are found.  Try both poses, lifting the chest a bit higher in the air for a larger snake.



    Checkered Elephant Shrew Pose (mouse pose):  The checkered elephant shrew looks like a little mouse with a long snout, just like an elephant.  The checkered elephant shrew mates for life and is considered an insectivore.  It eats mainly beetles, centipedes, termites and ants.  Occasionally it will eat eggs, small amphibians, and birds.




    Wild Dog:  Unfortunately, Wild Dogs are extinct in the Republic of Congo.  Since they attack sheep and other livestock, they are often killed by people.  Though they are extinct, they are protected.  This means that if one is found, it must not be killed.  We are also working on protecting the habitats of other endangered species. 

    From Dog pose, walk feet towards hands and hang there for awhile, stretching the back and legs.  Let arms and head dangle, or even shake them out a bit.

    Reiterate to children that they should not rush through this pose. Remind them that they use their legs daily and need a good leg stretch.  Then, slowly roll up, stacking one vertebrae at a time until they reach gorilla pose. 


    Mountain Gorilla: Found in the Virunga range of extinct volcanoes, these gorillas live in groups consisting of one adult male, 3 adult females, and 4-5 offspring.  There is an overlap in troop territories, and so the adult males must defend themselves.  They defend their families more than they do their territories.  The gorilla mountain males usually have a patch of silver on their backs and have earned the name "Silverback."  They live in the montane forests and also bamboo forests. They are mainly vegetarian, eating bamboo, other leaves and fruits. 

    Pound your chest like a gorilla does to communicate with your friends.  Gorillas show emotions just like we do, including being angry or sad.

     There are a wide variety of species that live in the Congo, including the Okapi, elephant, and hippo.  These are just a few to get the sillies out.  The children could end the series with mountain pose if they wished to do so.





    Yoga and Balance Boards

    I've been thinking a lot about how balance boards are important and incorporated into yoga.  I teach a few yoga classes a week, and in all of my classes, I include balance boards.  I don't have enough for all of the children, but I always bring a few to share.  The kids love them and always race to the boards when they see them.  Sometimes they jump on and pretend to be surfing on the boards. Their imaginations go wild.  Other times, they take off their shoes, lie down on the board, and get comfy.  Overall, they love to move and rock from side to side on the board, like people do on a rocking chair.  It's soothing. It's therapeutic.  "It's fun!" they say.

    I've noticed that all the yoga poses that we do can be done on the board. I thought at first that the kids wouldn't want to "jump like a frog" or wouldn't like sitting down on the board, as it's hard...but they do.  They love it.  And when I ask them if they prefer a yoga mat or balance board, they inevitably excitedly say: "balance board!"  At first I thought it was just because it was a novelty item and that the novelty would wear away.  But it hasn't, and if anything, the children are thrilled to show me a new pose that they can do on the board, or a pose that they couldn't do before and now they can.  They have the biggest grins on their faces and feel so proud of their accomplishments.  "Look at me and what I can do now!"

    Balance boards help in a number of ways. For one, it's a great workout for the body.  Even when the children are rocking side to side, they are working out their core muscles. Secondly, it helps increase their balance and focus.  It's more challenging to do the yoga poses on the balance boards, because of the instability of the board.  Without realizing it, the children have to concentrate more on balancing.  It's a mind and body workout.  Lastly, and most importantly...the boards are entertaining and have a "cool" factor.  Isn't that what all kids want?

    Sun Salutation

    Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar is a series of 8 poses which are usually performed in the morning or evening to greet or say thank you to the sun.  Without the sun, there would be no life.  It's something that we can count on every day.  Even if you don't have time to do a whole yoga class every day, Sun Salutations are a great way to start the day....or end the day.  I like to do them at the beach while I watch the sunset.  Or, sometimes it's nice to wake up when it's still dark outside and greet the sun.  Kids love the flow, especially when there's a chant or song to go along with it.  My daughter likes to listen to her favorite music while she does Sun Salutation, and teens especially love this series of poses to do along with many popular songs that are being played right now.

    Sun Salutations can be done in the classroom to get the blood circulating, which delivers blood and nutrients to the brain.  It helps kids focus and is a great little "workout" to teach them, which they can share with their family or friends.

    Here's a quick rundown of how the flow goes. 


    1)    Start with Mountain Pose. Find your center and take a deep breath in and exhale slowly.

     2)    Second, inhale and bring your arms up over your head to the sky, reaching your heart and arms to greet the sun.

    3)    Then, exhale slowly and bend over into a forward bend, touching your hands to the ground.

    4)    Inhale and lengthen your spine forward….you should feel the stretch in your legs and arms.

    5)    Exhale and step your feet back behind you into Plank Pose (feet apart, wrists flat on the floor and shoulder width apart like a push up). Take a full breath, making sure that you are not dragging your hips.

    6)    Then exhale and lower down onto the ground, so that your belly and body are still.

    7)    Inhale and lift your chest like a snake. Pull your shoulders back and open up your heart.

    8)    Exhale and roll over your toes into Downward Dog. Remain here for a few breaths. Feel your spine lengthen and your legs stretch. This is a great inverted pose to get blood to your head and heart.

    9)    Bend your knees and look between your hands. Inhale and hop or step your feet between your hands.

    10)  Slowly come up into Mountain pose and then past Mountain pose-reaching up to the sky again to say thank you to the sun.


     Repeat Sun Salutation 5 times, remembering to breath and move slowly through each pose.

    There are some great websites and Youtube videos on how to do Sun Salutation.  I like to use the balance board for this sequence because it keeps my body in line and adds for an extra bit of challenge. 



    Create a zen space

     In our crazy, fast-paced world, it's important to find a space or spot to relax. Kids need a space to meditate and relax, too.  The outdoors is the best, but when that isn't possible all the time, then creating a space indoors can be just as nice with the right elements. Some people choose to create a "peace corner", while others will turn a whole house into a zen space. Having a peaceful space to retreat to helps children relax, focus, and regain positive energy. 

    First, if you can't be outdoors, bring the outdoors inside.  Add plants to the space.  Plants give us oxygen and we give them carbon dioxide. 

    Next, think about the senses and come up with something for each of the five senses. 

    Touch:  For example, children love cozy, soft pillows.  A heavy, soft blanket helps some children feel safe, secure, and relaxed. 

    Smell:  For sense of smell, you may want to have a collection of jars with various scents inside of them.  Rosemary, lavender, citrus, cloves, and cinnamon are all long-lasting natural smells. 

    Sight:  Colors can have a positive or negative effect on kids.  Light Green and light blue are the most popular calming colors.  Green is a cool color associated with nature and vegetation.  Green is a fresh color and gives a sense of tranquility.  Blue is associated with water and the sky.  It's another cool color which gives a feeling of serenity and purity. 

    Hearing: If you able to play soft music, children love music.  A water feature, such as a water fountain is another idea in case music isn't an option.  Of course, if there's a window...just listening to the sounds outside may be nice.  A basket with a few soft sounding bells or a rain stick is also a nice addition. 

    Taste:  A friend of mine introduced me to spa water.  Basically, you take water and add sliced lemon, sliced cucumber, and mint to it.  Kids love it, it's healthy, and refreshing.  Sipping slowly on herbal tea is a wonderful way to teach children to relax and enjoy the  moment.  Just make sure to assist them with the hot water.

    After you have created this magical space, use it often and share it. Talk about how it makes you and your child feel, and then add or subtract whatever you need.  Just make sure it's not too overwhelming to where the space becomes a play area versus a spot to just chill.  Peace!




    Obstacle courses are fun.

    Growing up, my brother, sister, and I would spend hours and hours outside creating obstacle courses.  We'd take some usual household materials, such as broomsticks, mops, chairs, stools, ladders, and ropes and put together our obstacles.  Brooms or mops across chairs made excellent high jumps (or we would also have to crawl under the jump as another obstacle).  Ladders were for climbing or jumping, and ropes were great for tug-o-war if there was a tie at the end. The obstacles that a child can create are endless. 

    Obstacle courses are a great way to get kids active with a fun purpose.  Even for adults, obstacle courses can be fun or a great way to get in a training, especially if you don't have the space or time to get in a long workout.  Obstacle courses can include push-ups, sit-ups, hopping on one foot, skipping, jumping, crawling, climbing, and just about anything.  They can also be done indoors or outdoors.


    Remember the days when we pretended to be spies looking for a secret passageway? Well, obstacle courses are a great way to relive those memories and maybe prepare yourself for a real boobie trap!  Talk about the coordination, balance, and focus that are required with an obstacle course. Oh, and that's not all.  The fact that you are refining your gross motor skills and fine motor skills is a bonus-all without realizing it.  Just talking about this makes me want to rearrange my furniture into an obstacle course right now!