Practical advice about raising children
Photo by Susan Verde
Summertime is almost here, and with the beautiful weather comes beach time! Between the sunscreen, gathering the snacks and towels, other “equipment,” and loading everyone into the car for your drive, beach trips can feel a bit overwhelming. But once you’ve “landed” it is actually a wonderful opportunity to fit in some yoga and mindfulness. From the sand to the water, the beach is an opportunity to connect, relax and play. Try these active and calming exercises to infuse your child’s beach day with a bit of yoga fun.
The beach is the perfect place to get your kids practicing mindfulness, and that particular attention paid to what is happening in the moment. Take some time to really observe the water, what is its color? Are there waves? Are they big or small? How do they form and move? Can you sync your breath to their ebb and flow? Once in the water what does it feel like against your skin? While immersed, ask, “How do you feel inside your body as each wave approaches? Nervous? Excited?” Engaging all of the senses can turn a dip into a mindful experience and a practice of awareness and appreciation for the beauty and wonder of nature. Taking a beach walk and collecting shells is also a great option. Feel the sand between the toes. Listen to the crunch with each footstep. Look closely at the details of each shell. Who lived in there? Can you hear the ocean?
Photo by Susan Verde
Salute the sun
Taking your child through a series of sun salutations can not only support everyone’s appreciation for the gift of the sun, but it’s a wonderful way to warm up the body after getting chilled in the water, and great exercise to boot! Start standing with feet hip distance apart. Inhale and reach up to the sky as if taking the sun in your hands. Exhale and fold over the feet, inhale with hands on shins and look up. Exhale and fold. Step each foot back into a plank and drop to the belly. With bent elbows and hands on either side of the body aligned with the chest, palms pressing into the ground, push the sand away as you arch the back and look up at the sky in cobra pose. Coming back to all fours lift your hips in the air, keeping hands on the ground and arms straight. Gaze at your belly and wag your tail in downward dog pose. Jump your feet to your hands and squat in frog, then straighten the legs and fold over them as you did from the start. Raise your arms towards the sky as you slowly roll up and then bring palms pressed together to your heart. Repeat this sequence as many times as feels good. Build up a sweat and say “Thank you Sun!” Kids will be ready for round two of wave diving in no time!
Get upside down
The softness of the sand is perfect for trying more difficult poses and removing the fear of falling which can often hold kids (and grown-ups) back from inverting. Kids can kick up their heels and practice handstands or crow pose. Give kids the challenge and they will rise to the occasion. Children naturally love to turn upside down and look at the world from a different perspective and the beach is a naturally supportive setting for this exploration.
Photo by Susan Verde
Lying on a towel, soaking up the rays (with lots of sunscreen on of course) is one of the best parts of a beach day. Encourage your kids to take some down time, stretching out on their backs, closing their eyes, and letting their whole body and the thoughts of a busy day just go. Some deep breathing in and out through the nose will allow their muscles to loosen and their minds to clear. Having the sand beneath them is great for a tense and relax exercise or a body scan. While in this restful position have your child tighten different parts of the body and then on an exhale, relax them or bring their attention to each body part imagining they are sinking into the soft sand.
Beach yoga and mindfulness can give kids a chance to reset their bodies and minds, and can help to manage the transitions and busy schedules that the season can bring, which makes for a happier summertime experience for the whole family!
Susan Verde is a yoga and mindfulness teacher, and author of the picture books The Museum, I Am Yoga, You and Me and the forthcoming The Water Princess. She lives in East Hampton, New York with her three children.