Monday, May 30, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Tai Chi and Yoga in the Morning by Erin Uda

There is a tradition in Eastern cultures that all things are created in equal and opposite portions, the Yin and Yang. Their relationship is shown through a drawing that separates a circle into two continually revolving sections, each containing a bit of the other. Tai Chi is said to be our life force, understood through the relationship of Yin and Yang.

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Many people living in these Eastern cultures rise with the dawn and meet in local parks or outdoor spaces to practice the art of Tai Chi. These exercises are said to increase balance, breathing, and relaxation. They can also have a spiritual aspect to them.

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I think it’s a wonderful idea to begin the day not only with exercise, but with a healthy dose of fresh air and bright sunshine. We all try to fit in some exercise during the day, why not do it first? So grab a yoga mat or a beach towel and set your alarm for some early morning outdoor exercises.

I don’t know much Tai Chi myself, so I chose to begin my day with some simple yoga. My younger son and I found a book at the library (I Love Yoga) that was written specifically for children, and he couldn't get enough of all the fun animal poses.

You can also purchase the book The ABC's of Yoga online, which is what Brooklyn and I used when we did this activity - Naomi]

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For those of you who are yoga beginners, try the poses on THESE printable sheets. They’re good starter poses and are used to build into the more difficult positions later. I’ve also included some of my son’s favorites HERE. [Such as Downward dog, Lion Pose, Cat Pose (combined with Cow Pose), Cobra Pose, and Tree Pose.]

If you’re looking for a fun way to learn the names of the poses, try printing two copies of the sheet and cutting them into individual cards for a quick game of Memory.

Older children can do more difficult poses, or use THIS Tai Chi video (or any other one you can get your hands on) to learn a few of the forms (sequences).

While you’re stretching and moving, your young one is going to have loads of questions. Do your best to focus on the time you’re spending together and try to answer them. Talk about muscles and how they work, about how it feels when you stretch, and make lots of animal noises if you’re doing the animal yoga poses. Show your child that exercise is fun!

And while you’re outside, try to focus on the way the world looks and sounds in the morning. Talk about the colors in the sky, the way the sun looks when it rises, the sound of the birds, the dew on the grass, and anything else you notice. Teach your child how to appreciate the morning.

Even if you do nothing more than go outside and stretch, the nature therapy you receive from being outside at the beginning of the day is reward enough.

Suggested Reading:

  • I Love Yoga, Mary Kaye Chryssicas (Call # J 613.7046 C469; ISBN 9780756614003)
  • The Kids’ Yoga Book of Feelings, Mary Humphrey (Call # J 613.7046 H886; ISBN 9780761454243)
  • The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story, Uma Krishnaswami (Call # P Krishnaswami; ISBN 1584302372)
  • Tai Chi: Tranquility in Motion, Christian F. Hanche (Call # 613.7148 H1911; ISBN 1585747408)
  • Step-By-Step Tai Chi, Master Lam Kam-Chuen (Call # 613.7148 C4713; ISBN 9780671892470)
  • Tai Chi: Yang Style 24-move Short Form, James Drewe (Call # J 613.7148 D8207; ISBN 0806988711)

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