Thursday, September 6, 2012

Yoga Birthday Party - How To!

Last weekend I was the keynote entertainment at the birthday party of a young lady who was turning six. She and six of her friends were treated, on a VERY warm Sunday afternoon to two hours of yoga and yoga -oriented crafts that I'll detail here.

NOTE: Feel free to use my ideas...or of course, bring B'yomYoga to YOUR next kids event (or adults for that matter). Crafts can be creating custom-scented lotions like below, felt lotuses (one i can't wait to try), pipe-cleaner creations, yog-art (foam door hangers, picture frames, visors etc.), or we can even come up with something even more unique. Pricing varies according to the craft but in general a party of 10 kids for 2 hours would run about $200 (I bring the mats and all yoga tools including craft items).

Advanced prep for lotion craft

Purchased the lotion tubes with caps and apothecary bottles with dropper lids from a company in LA for a decent price well in advance).

Bought large bottles of unscented, non-animal tested lotion (this time it was St. Ives brand) and filled each of the lotion bottles about 2/3 full (while using the spillage to REALLY moisturize my arms and legs LOL).

Selected 15 different essential oils, perfumes, oil blends, etc. from my personal stock. Using perfume base  I bought from Body Time in Berkeley (though I think witch hazel might suffice) I filled the apothecary bottles most of the way full, then added two to three droppers full of any one of the oils/perfumes to provide a good dilute product. It was infinitely easier to add this to the oils rather than allow young ones to try to shake out droplets or accidently overpour a strong essential oil.

Day of event

With mats, stuffed animal eye pillows, Hoberman Sphere, kids playlist on my ipod and craft gear in tow, I headed off to the party site.

The hostess mom cleared a living room space for us and had a table set up and ready to go when I arrived.

I started by handing out the lotion bottles and a bag of foam letter stickers and asking each girl to find her initial then place them somewhere on the bottle (but not on the cap) so we could easily identify them later on.

I then passed around a handful of the dropper bottles and we talked about what each smelled like, what colors did they make us think of, what did they remind us of, etc.  To keep things simple I chose just a few I thought would be appealing to six-year olds, and also  passed around a small cup of coffee beans to cleanse their nasal palates in between scents. Some of their cute comments:
  • Sweet Orange: "fruity" "sweet"
  • Eucalyptus: "minty" "strong" "trees"
  • Holiday (a blend from ?): "cookies" "spicy" "perfume"
  • Dewberry (a scent from The Body Shop): "fruity", "a really really nice perfume on someone"
  • Amber: (an oil blend I've had for years that I picked up at Whole Foods): everyone agreed this was "green and soapy clean" smelling
With a former party of 10 year olds I allowed them to carefully drop in their own scents, cautioning that more than 2 droppers were made the scent TOO strong. With 4-6 year olds, this task was best left to defter hands so I asked them one by one to hand me their bottles and let me know what scent or scents they liked. Most chose the Sweet Orange, some mixed that with the Amber, and on really wanted the Holiday. They were all so excited I couldn't help but smile as they kept opening and closing their bottle caps sniffing eagerly.

Then we gathered into a circle in the living room, held our bottles tight, and SHOOK THEM UP ALL OVER THE PLACE - over our heads, between our knees, to the left, to the right, in circles... ...this was our yoga warm up to get the wiggles out after they sat for 20 minutes discussing perfumes!

After this we put the lotions aside, and brought out the mats. I arranged the multiple colors of mats in a star patter, the inner edges of the mat overlapping due to space constraints and told the girls to choose a spot but not to worry about where they were because we were going to move around. A few protests about colors and neighbors but eventually we settled in, and took seat.

Hoberman Sphere Breathing Exercises
I started with the pranayama exercises, showing them how to do the in-thru-your-nose-out-thru-your-nose yogic breath, and then used the "breathing ball" aka Hoberman Sphere to demonstrate how the lungs inflate then deflate. They were completely absorbed in the lesson, and with quiet attentiveness they even took my suggestions to try to move the body very little, just the lungs, cultivating awareness of our breath while limited physical movement. Each girl then had a chance to lead the class in a few rounds of breathing, opening and closing the ball all on her own, while singing (if she so chose) the breathing chant. Most took me up on the offer, some just wanted to use the ball, and other politely passed altogether.

After our nice warm up we moved on to making "yoga birthday cake," an activity with spine exercises that engages the kids creativity as they come up with ingredients to mix into the "bowl" (legs in wide baddhakonasana). The best part is asking them to balance on their seats while holding their feat and moving them in circles like they are blending with a mixer, and of course showing them how to "lick the spatula" by bringing their foot close to their heads!

After we put the cake in the "oven" (we get back to the metaphor later) I introduced them to the FIVE WARRIOR PRINCESSES. Working slowly and showing them the basic body positioning I walked them through:
  • Virabhadrasana 1: Princess #1 who faces forward ready to meet challenges strongly
  • Virabhadrasana 2: Princess #2 who faces sideways like a surfer, guiding the others and ready to share love
  • Virabhadrasana 3: Princess #3 who can fly above all looking for those that need peace
  • Reverse Warrior: Princess #4 who raises her front arm as if holding a glorious trophy, proud of her accomplishments:
  • Humble Warrior: Princess #5 who knows to acknowledge the gifts of others, is proud of her self but not boastful, and thanks others for their help.
We reviewed each on on the left and right sides of our bodies, and even tried some modifications like trying it on our knees or even on our bellies (for a fun version of V3). Then each girl got to pick her favorite and describe how it made her feel, then we'd all do that pose with her. The choices were varied, with two really liking the humble version because it gave them "a really good stretch" in the arms, and some liked V2 because we would do surfer arms and lean into the circle, then out of the circle like riding waves.

All throughout, whenever they complained of being too hot I would whip out my handy eucalyptus scented water in a spray bottle and mist it over the willing yoginis (taking special note to ask them to close their eyes so it wouldn't sting). This has been a FAVORITE part of all my kids yoga classes this summer. I just filled a 12 oz. bottle with filtered water, put in 10 drops of eucalyptus oil (and a few of orange too I think), shook and give them a gentle spritz! We also took plenty of water breaks.

One girl, younger than the rest, asked if it was okay if she sat out (I believe she was overwhelmed with the activity) and though she didn't physically participate, she sad quietly and watched the entire class (and even enjoyed the misting spray!).

Once the princesses (imaginary and literal) were exercised, we sat back down and "DING" the "cake" was done. A few quick abdominal exercises to pretend to pull the racks out of the oven with our feet, and then we shared the cake on our own belly picnic tables (Reverse table tap). I worked up a sweat crab-walking around the room sharing my cake with the group!


And finally, as one little girl kept asking (when is the rest time?), we worked our way towards savasana. I handed out my special rice/flax/lavender/chamomile stuffed animals and asked the girls to lay down as quietly as they could, resting their eyes and their legs and their hands. I read a a quick relaxation excerpt from a kids yoga book, and noticing they were fidgety, wrapped up quickly. Back to seated pose we went, then a sweet Namaste and it was back to our craft. The girls were sweet enough to help me roll up the mats (albeit less tidily than I needed to fit it all back into my suitcase but still, the effort was heartfelt and heartily acknowledged)

On the table I had placed two portioned plates of sea creature foam stickers, glitter square stickers, metallic butterfly and ice cream stickers, foam letters, paint pens, glitter glue pens, puffy paints and glitter paint. And some very special crystal stickers in the shape of (of course) princess crowns, hearts, and more.

My only request was that they didn't use more than 2 of the crystal stickers so that there were enough to go around. I also advised them on techniques for holding their bottles to ensure they didn't end up smearing the paint or simply covering their fingers in glitter! Other than that, their job was to just be creative and decorate their bottle in any way they wanted! They all did such a good job, deftly applying the stickers and paints and glues to create personal works of art. They were very excited to have their OWN lotion too!
The yoga entertainment portion of the party complete, the girls settled in to sing Happy Birthday, inhale some homemade chocolate cupcakes courtesy of the hosting mom, and on to the best part (for the guest of honor): OPENING PRESENTS. She did holler a quick "LOVE YOU" over the din of squeals and oohs and ahhs as I walked out the door, and I left with a smile on my face (and sweat on my brow), and love in my heart.

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