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Yoga… It’s A Family Affair

yoga_webGoing to the mat for a bit of tranquility

Step into a neighborhood yoga studio and you are likely to be surrounded by shiny bamboo floors, tranquil green walls, soothing sitar music, and the calming fragrance of lavender oil. A deep sense of serenity washes over you. For family yoga, parents and children roll out their mats and sit comfortably in Easy Pose, or engage in familiar yoga postures, such as Butterfly, Dolphin, Down Dog, or a parent-child version of Partner Frog. Students chat among themselves and plan to meet for tea or frozen yogurt after class.

Enter the instructor, welcoming the class with a radiant smile.  She asks that you stand at the top of your mats. You begin the practice with palms together at heart’s center, eyes soft and closed, as you drink in a few long, deep breaths before moving on to the asanas, or postures. Some participants are fully absorbed in the opening exercise. Others peek to see what’s going on around the room. There’s even a burst of giggles from one corner, but that’s okay since this is a family yoga class, a safe and nurturing environment where parents and children can take a break from the hustle and bustle of life—a world of busy work schedules, school and homework pressures, competitive sports, video games, and texting phones.

Creating Calm in a Hectic World

“Most families today are so involved in various activities that they don’t take the time to smell the roses,” says Anne Van Allen, founder of Tranquiliti Wellness Center in Windermere. “When parents and children come to yoga for an hour class, they allow themselves to completely transform, let go, and just stay in the moment.”

Specifically designed to be family-centered, family yoga weaves fitness, family time, and relaxation into one amazing experience. Yoga, a Sanskrit term, is derived from the root yuj which means to join, connect, or unite. Through its practice, we connect not only with ourselves, but also with one another and with the world around us. Subsequently, participating together in the discipline of yoga tends to build strong family bonds.

Yoga is ideal for bringing balance to body, mind, and spirit, each an aspect of overall good health and wellbeing. Benefits include increased flexibility, strength, coordination, and body and breath awareness. The practice increases emotional balance and inspires self-esteem, creativity, and clarity of thought. The yoga breathing techniques, Pranayama, are an excellent tool for stress relief. According to Anne Van Allen, many parents at Tranquiliti have reported that their children use their yoga breathing before school tests to reduce performance anxiety.

Lisa Moore, owner of Red Sun Yoga in Winter Springs, explains that practitioners “learn how to concentrate and focus in a busy world. They can learn how to calm themselves down without the use of anything outside themselves.” Yoga helps to navigate life’s challenges with ease. This carries over into family life, promoting a harmonious home.

Another perk, family yoga classes are a great way to meet like-minded families, functioning in certain cases like a playgroup. Friendships are born, and these relationships reflect the sense of community that the yoga tradition upholds, further enhancing the yoga practice.

Many parents already attend yoga at their local gym or studio. Others take time from their busy day to do a DVD at home. Mothers-to-be are joining prenatal classes, following with postnatal and momma & baby classes after the birth, and then enrolling their little ones in age-appropriate kids’ classes. There are even classes designed just for teens. Rising in popularity in the yoga community, family yoga brings the entire family together to share in the yoga experience.

Getting Young Yogis to the Mat
It shouldn’t be too difficult to spark your children’s, and maybe even your spouse’s, interest in yoga and often begins with simply demonstrating the poses at home. A DVD such as Rodney Yee: Yoga Journal’s Family Yoga (Gaiam) is another way of engaging everyone. If you do explore yoga at home, create a sacred space. Clear away any clutter, dim the lights, play music, and light some candles. If you have yoga experience, you might introduce a simple sequence. It’s a good idea to stick with thirty minutes or less to keep children’s attention. Incorporate a few poses they already know or can easily do to build their confidence and desire to return to the mat. Resist the urge to constantly correct your little yogis unless they are embarking on something risky. Instead, encourage playful exploration of poses.

Set a goal to take a family yoga class together. Be sure to check the studio for age requirements and what to bring, be it mats, water bottles, or towels. Most studios have mats on hand for you to use, and provide props such as straps, blocks, and eye pillows. In no time, your family will look forward to yoga, whether it’s a weekly class penciled in on the kitchen calendar, or a pose or two in the morning, after school, or before bedtime.

Imagine this peaceful scenario. Your family on the beach early in the morning; waves crashing against the shore, seagulls flying overhead, and the Florida sun warming you from head to toe. Now, each family member assumes their version of Tree Pose. As a family, you stand like a happy little forest on the shoreline—strong, but flexible in the winds of life.