Saturday , November 28 2020

Yoga for the Whole Family

By Shelley Russell –

“Take one yoga class, by the body, three times per week.”

There is a growing number of parents, a quiet army who are saying no. No to children being overdiagnosed, overtreated and medicated. Families who are rejecting processed foods offered to the masses and deciding to grow and prepare their own organic food. Facebook pages created by Moms seeking holistic natural remedies and a more minimalist, less consumerism focused existence.  These families are embracing natural methods to treat and heal their families’ ailments in ways that step outside conventional medicine cabinet. If I had a dollar for every elderberry syrup sold in my area this winter, to beat the flu, instead of getting a flu shot.  I would be a very wealthy woman.

There is a shift, a sense, that it’s now up to us to make the right choices for our family and perhaps not follow the status quo, because it turns out, it might not be the way to go. A growing number of parents are consciously aware, that the mainstream options for health care, mental health treatment or the medications prescribed to treat them, are potentially adding to the problem they are trying to solve or overcome, or they fall short. This sense of dissatisfaction or disconnection between their expectations and what is being offered has birthed a new movement of educated, committed parents who are turning to things like yoga to handle things that previously only had one treatment option, a pill.  When you add yoga, breath work, guided meditation or yoga nidra to your treatment options, you now have a whole toolbox of resources to treat or improve wellness.

The ancient practice of yoga is growing organically, like a little vine that at the beginning grew almost invisibly up the outside of a building, but then all of a sudden it has covered it.  You didn’t notice it growing, it happened slowly, quietly and without fanfare, but now it’s everywhere.  Yoga offers tangible, scientifically proven health benefits for those seeking them. It offers a unique path to seek the elusive inner peace while building a flexible, strong, balanced body and mind.  Perhaps, one day we will see yoga on a doctor’s referral?

You can introduce a yoga practice to your family at any age.  You do not have to be young, athletic or even flexible to benefit from yoga; you just need to show up. Your relationship with yoga can begin at birth and continue throughout life.  Yoga can be done at home, in the yard, on vacation, at the park or in a yoga studio. It is a lifelong activity available to all.

Prenatal Yoga
Starting at the beginning of life, the prenatal mom can take yoga to help prepare her body and mind for labor and childbirth. She can practice squatting, opening the hips, lengthening and strengthening the pelvic floor in preparation. These exercises help the head to be in the correct position and may contribute to avoiding a C-section. This is a gift for you and your unborn child.

Yoga For Babies
Even babies can do yoga. Babies are helped into poses by their caregiver. These simple movements activate the brain’s development and nervous system.  They are gently bounced and swung, which they love, whilst they develop their vestibular system, build body awareness, balance and their ability to process sensory information.  These classes provide a unique opportunity for the mother and baby to bond and build social connections which help both to thrive. Yoga grows with the family, as the child grows, the yoga changes, but it can always be present.

Kids and Yoga
Once children reach four or five, they are ready to take yoga independently.  If you create a playful children’s yoga class, the children will drink it up. They will show a commitment and focus to complete the journey or adventure. They love to imagine while doing poses. As a teacher, it’s an honor to watch them become enthusiastic surfers in warrior II, pretend to make delicious lemonade as they twist their bodies in a supine twist and float gently home on their cloud in savasana.

Teens and Emotional Wellness
Many concerned parents of teens wonder how they can help regulate and manage their child’s emotions and combat anxiety or depression?  While there are antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications available, those aren’t always successful or best for your child.  Teens love yoga. They may begrudgingly come to the first class, but once they have experienced the bliss of a guided meditation or the flooding of calm after alternate nostril breathing, they are hooked.  Balance poses develop the cerebellum part of the brain that controls the body in motion and helps improve memory and concentration.  Inversions, breathing techniques and guided meditations in savasana are the “Platform Nine and Three-Quarters” to peace and serenity for a teen. They are then empowered, they feel they can regulate and manage their emotions with autonomy, which offers room for healing, hope and relief.

Truly For the Whole Family
Yoga is a wonderful activity for the whole family to take together. Sharing a yoga class with your children is a healthy way to bond and deepen the connection, in a new meaningful and playful way. You can take a class together or do it in little bites throughout the day. Kids love to imitate you. If you set up your mat, they will try to copy you and become little yogis without any prompting.  In family yoga, sitting back to back with a teen who you feel disconnected from, closing your eyes and focusing on the subtle changes and movement of the air going in and out of their body, does something. You try to match their breath, letting your bodies move and work in unison, as you experience a collaborative breath, it is magical and brings back that connection.

Parents can benefit immensely from having their own yoga practice too. Parenting from a refreshed, calm and grounded place is a game changer.  Once the stress and anxiety of life are dealt with, it can be replaced by peace, patience and love. It is always present within, but your best you can get lost, blocked and forgotten.  On a yoga mat, you can find, rediscover or meet a totally new you, one you’ll probably really like.

Shelley Russell, owner and founder of Little Meadow Family Yoga, received her 200-hour yoga certification through Global Family Yoga and began teaching children’s yoga in 2010. Shelley is passionate about sharing the therapeutic benefits of yoga and loves giving children skills that they can use throughout childhood and into adulthood. Shelley recently opened her new family yoga studio in La Fox, IL. Visit





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