Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, is a traditional yogic warm up that used to be a form of prayer to the sun. The sun was believed to be the source of health and vigor, and this warm up moved every joint and major muscle groups in the body.
In kids yoga, we love to perform Sun Dances instead of Sun Salutations. This fun approach to moving your body and flowing from one pose to another looks and feels like a dance – especially when you add some groovy music! Feel free to invent your own Sun Dance and allow your students to add on, form new ones or even go free style.
Adult Sun Salutations can take the fun out of a kid’s yoga class pretty quickly, so let’s spice it up to keep your students engaged, focused and having fun while moving their bodies! Here are my suggestions on 7 ways to keep a Sun Dance enticing:
1. Follow My Body
Create a circle, put on some cool music and encourage everyone to follow your movements to the best of their abilities. There are no verbal instructions needed for this activity. Add any variations to poses, use your body to explain the pose and allow your students to let loose.
2. The Wave
Don’t you love being at a sports game and participate in a wave? It’s beautiful to watch the stand moving together so seamlessly. We can do the same in a yoga class. You and your students sit or stand in a circle. You begin by doing a pose and the person on your right follows the same movement. The next person continues, and the next, until the pose goes around the whole circle. This exercise makes everyone really focused and you can easily play with it even for an hour because it’s super fun!
3. Sun Dance Story
Create a thematic story that relates to the poses you are doing. Allow the poses to flow from one to another while engaging your students in a creative story. You and your students can journey to a far away land and never want to return. You get points with your kids when you color your amazing story with cool yoga pose variations, add costumes and encourage theatrical sounds.
Here is a short sample journeying to the desert:
Bend back to greet the hot desert sun
Fold down to clean the sand from your toes
Take one leg back to become a coyote howling at the moon
Move the other leg back and become a lizard smelling the air with your tongue
Bring your chest down between your hands and let your behinds become the hump of a camel
Lift your chests up to become a snake that wiggles a bit
Then come into Dog Pose to become a Tent
Oh no! There are two scorpions in the tent, so lift one leg up to sting
Switch legs to do the second scorpion
Run away from the scorpions and out of the tent, bringing your feet back between your hands
Clean the sand from under your toes
Stretch up to the sun
And bring your hands back down for Mountain Pose
4. Human Mandala
In a circle, the intention is to stay connected as a group and to move in unison; flowing from one pose to another. You and your students shift from one pose to another coordinating your movements collectively, linking with the person to your left and right with your hands, feet or other parts of your body. The options are endless so go and experiment! Here is a homemade sample for you to be inspired.
5. Saluting Each Other
Students partner up and face each other. Each partner takes a turn and creates on the spot a yoga flow using 5 – 10 poses. The other student mirrors the exact movement. The partner keeps repeating the same newly invented cycle of poses for an entire song before changing roles of who is in the lead.
6. Salutation To ______
In pairs, encourage your students to make up their own salutation in honor of something they love, such as their friends, family, dog, chocolate, pizza, the beach, etc. Each pair gets 5 minutes to create a new sequence of poses that will show their love for their chosen person, object or concept. Each pair performs their creation in front of the entire class and the class must guess what the partners are saluting.
7. Sun Dance Song
Songs are always a great way to keep children focused and engaged. Not only can you invent a dance based on a song that has been created, but you can decide to write your own tunes as well! I’ve invented a lot of Sun Dance songs but none compare to "Dance for the Sun" by Kira Willey. Your kids will not only love the song but they will LOVE dancing the Sun Salutation to it!
Have a go at these and let us know how it went!