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Yoga for families

Updated: Sep 29, 2010 09:31 AM EDT
A family yoga practice is different from practicing on your own; so let go of any expectations. (©iStockphoto.com/Stephan Zabel) A family yoga practice is different from practicing on your own; so let go of any expectations. (©iStockphoto.com/Stephan Zabel)


By Dana Goeglein for Green Goes Simple

For busy families, finding time to spend together can be as hard as finding time to exercise. But what if you could do both at once?

Practicing yoga is a fun, simple way to connect with every member of the family. (Kids and dads can do it too!) Yoga increases strength, flexibility, and according to experts, an energy force called "prana" -- so you're not only saving energy by turning off the television, you're creating some as well!

Jodi Komitor, the founder of Next Generation Yoga, based in New York and California, began practicing with her family as a teenager. Her interest began while watching her parents move through yoga poses together on a dock overlooking a bay. The setting was stunning, but Komitor also noticed how relaxed they were after practicing. Soon, she was inspired to learn the poses herself, and their family practice was born. 

While she started out working with a private instructor twice a week, Komitor later began seeking out group classes to take with her mom. Aside from the physical benefits and time together, Komitor says that practicing yoga made her feel "more open and expressive, and more able to communicate with my friends and family." She also found that consistent yoga practice increased her patience and tolerance and helped her be more accepting of herself.

For Komitor, this experience sparked a lifelong passion of sharing yoga with children and families. Next Generation Yoga has numerous public and private yoga programs for kids and families throughout New York and California. It's just one of many local yoga studios throughout the U.S. that's started offering family yoga classes, giving parents and children a space to explore yoga together with other families.

Whether you're new to the practice or a seasoned yogi wanting to share your love of yoga with your family, Komitor offers five tips to help you get your brood started:

1) Do your homework

If you can't find a family yoga class in your area, pick up a DVD or an instruction book. You don't have to be an expert. Simply familiarize yourself with a few basic postures and then share them with your family. Involve your kids in your research and let them guide you to their favorite poses. 

2) Get creative

Kids are often attracted to yoga because it draws from nature, with poses like Cat, Cow, Tree and Camel, just to name a few. Explore the traditional versions of the poses or allow kids to create their own. Feel free to make animal noises and turn on some music!

3) Create the space

Find a quiet room -- or better yet, go outdoors. Parks, patios and backyards are fun options, as they let you connect to the nature scenes and animal images many poses invoke. Arrange your mats in a circle so you can face each other and share the experience.

4) Relax and let go

A family yoga practice is different from practicing on your own; so let go of any expectations. There are many forms of yoga and many ways to practice, so be open to the unique aspects of practicing with your family. If your kids are young, this probably won't be a time for quiet and stillness -- but a moment of dedicated exploration, playfulness and movement might be even more fun!

5) Resist the urge to "correct" the postures

Kids' bodies are adaptable, and injuries are rare. Unless they're doing something really risky, let your kids explore the poses without worrying about right and wrong alignment.

If you've never experienced the benefits of yoga for yourself, the effects of a regular practice can be far-reaching. Increased calm, mental awareness and patience are just a few of the positive results -- as well as stronger abs and more open hamstrings. Making time to support each other's physical and emotional well-being can help bring even the busiest of families into balance. 

Dana Goeglein received a bachelor's in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a master's in food studies from New York University. She is a writer, yoga instructor and whole foods educator in New York City, where she strives to help others create harmonious, connected lives.

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