Updated Apr 13, 2023
Goal: To introduce and practice the basic concepts of yoga
Note: Make sure your group knows ahead of time to wear comfortable, stretchy athletic clothing for the meeting.
Enjoy your unit’s usual opening and explain to the group that they are going to become yogis/ yoginis tonight! Ask your group what they know about yoga. Is it a new invention? Can it be for everyone, or do you have to be flexible enough to twist yourself into a pretzel? Do you have to close your eyes and pinch your thumb and index fingers together as you chant “ohm?”
Answers: There is more to yoga than its stereotype.Yoga is exercise, breathing and relaxation all in one. It is not a religion, a diet or a competitive sport. A boy who does yoga is called a yogi, while a girl who practices yoga is called a yogini. Yoga began over 5,000 years ago in India and has been passed down through generations and across continents to us today. Everyone can do yoga! All you need is some empty space to put a mat and your own body (non-restrictive clothes and bare feet are suggested). No special equipment or skills are required. Doing yoga poses improves your awareness of your body, and practising relaxation and breathing improves your awareness of you mind and spirit.
The aroma of lavender is known for both its relaxing and its invigorating properties, making it useful for calming nerves, as well as encouraging feelings of increased energy and mental clarity. If you have different colours and fabrics of socks available allow each youth to choose a sock for his or her project to make it more personalised. Have each Guide scrunch the tube of the sock down. Now, pour the rice or flax seeds into the sock. Hold the top of the sock open as they pour 2 or 3 drops of lavender essential oil into the sock. Next, unroll the tube, pinch the sock closed and shake it to mix the scent around. Tie a tight knot in the top of the sock to keep it sealed. The sock should feel full, but not tightly stuffed. Encourage your group to sniff their sock pillows and feel the calming heaviness of it against their foreheads, cheeks, eyes or hearts. Optional: To finish the project off, add a piece of ribbon or other nice material around the knot for decoration.
Note: Do not heat in the microwave.
Explain to the group that to visualize something means to intentionally form a picture in your mind using your imagination. Visualising is an important part of yoga.
Instruct the children lie down on their backs and place their new sock pillows over their eyes, helping them to relax. Then, describe a scene for them to imagine in detail. For example, “Picture yourself lying on a sandy beach. It is peaceful and quiet; the only sound you can hear is the steady pattern of ocean waves rolling on to the shore. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, making you happy and peaceful.”
Many people who practice yoga find that it releases their tension and improves their mood. Growing towards being a teenager can be stressful sometimes; life is busy and parents and teachers expect more from youth as they get older and learn more responsibility. Ask your group to name some everyday pressures they experience and then share their favourite ways of dealing with them. In addition to yoga, what are some good ways of making stress melt away?
To avoid injury, it is important to have warm muscles before stretching. Lead the group in a few minutes of simple activities such as marching in place, dancing, arm circles, shoulder rotations, neck rolls, ankle rolls, lunges, jumping jacks, etc.
On average, humans breathe approximately 26,000 times a day! We don’t have to think to breathe; it is something that our bodies do for us automatically. Yoga encourages us to pay more attention to our breath, rather than taking it for granted. Breath gives us oxygen and life!
Direct your group to sit on their mats in crossed-legged positions with their head, neck and back in line, or in a chair if more comfortable. Ask everyone to just breathe through their noses with their mouths closed and to simply observe their breath for a few moments. Breathe through the nose with the mouth closed. Notice how the breath feels as it goes into the body. If there are any tight spots, imagine the breath going into those spots and loosening them. Now, start to lengthen your breath, if you can. See how long you can make each inhalation and exhalation last for. This is it slowing your breath down and enjoying it, not holding it!
Continue for another minute then transition to the next activity.
Now it’s time to try out some yoga postures. It is best to have bare feet to reduce the risk of slipping. Move slowly and carefully and never do anything that is painful. Suggest to your group that they visualize the animal or form each pose is named after, to make them easier. Narrate the following descriptions unhurriedly:
Begin by standing tall and straight at the top of your mat with your feet separated hip-width apart. Arms dangle comfortably by your sides. Keep your hands uncurled and relax as you roll your shoulders slightly back. Stand steady as a mountain as you slowly breathe in and out. Feel as if your feet are fixed to the ground, while your body towers upwards to the sky like a mountain.
From mountain pose, shift your weight on to your right leg. Place your left foot against your right ankle, with your big toe balancing on the ground. Optional: If you feel like even more of a challenge, lift your left foot off the floor completely, bend your left knee out to the side and place your foot above the knee on the inside of your right leg. To make balancing easier, find something ahead of you to fix your gaze on. Bring your hands together at the middle of your chest, palms together at the level of your heart. Your elbows point down. Now, straighten your arms above your head, palms still touching, like the top of a pointy pine tree. Breathe slowly in and out. Release back to mountain pose.
Shift your weight on to your left leg. Place your right foot against your left ankle, with your big toe balancing on the ground. Optional: If you feel like even more of a challenge, lift your right foot off the floor completely, bend your right knee out to the side and place your foot above the knee on the inside of your left leg. Bring your hands together at the middle of your chest, palms together at the level of your heart. Your elbows point down. Now, straighten your arms above your head, palms still touching, like the top of a pointy pine tree. Breathe slowly in and out. When you’re ready, release back to mountain pose.
Come onto your hands and knees with your hands just forward of your shoulders and knees under your hips. Breathe in and arch your back upward, with your chest forward and tailbone reaching up to the ceiling so that your back is dropped in a curve. Look up. As you breathe out, curve your back in the opposite direction. Drop your head and look down as your back rounds and tuck your tailbone under. Repeat once or twice more.
Since this pose is a forward bending pose, be careful to move slowly so that your head doesn’t feel dizzy. Begin on your hands and knees. Have your knees and feet body width apart and spread your fingers wide. Tuck your toes under and lift up, straightening your legs as much as possible, so that you are in an upside down “V” position. Push your tailbone up toward the ceiling as you try to gently stretch your heels towards the ground. Don’t worry if they don’t quite touch; being on tip toes is OK too. Press into the ground with your hands, and let your head and neck relax and hang down between your shoulders. Hold for a few breaths and then lower yourself back to the starting position.
Lie down on your stomach with your forehead touching the floor and your legs together and straight out behind you. Place your elbows, forearms and palms on the floor, just under your shoulders. Push into the ground with your elbows, arms and hands as you slowly raise your head and shoulders off the ground. Breathe in and out. Now, continue pushing up until your chest is completely off the floor and your arms are as straight as possible. Keep your elbows close to your ribs. Slide your shoulder blades down away from your ears towards your hips. Look up at the ceiling. Hold for a few more breaths and then slowly lower back down to the starting posture.
With your legs out in front of you, sit as tall and as straight as you can. Move your right foot over your left leg, placing it flat on the floor beside your left thigh or knee. Bring your right arm back, and place your right hand on the floor behind you for support. Hug your right knee with your left arm. Breathe in. As you breathe out, rotate your upper body to the right, but keep your hips facing the front. Turn your head and neck gently to look over your right shoulder. Stay here for a few moments. Try to sit up taller and twist around farther with each breath. Slowly turn back to centre and un-cross your right leg. Switch sides and repeat the twist in the opposite direction to balance out your spine.
With your legs out in front of you, sit as tall and as straight as you can. Move your left foot over your right leg, placing it flat on the floor beside your right thigh or knee. Bring your left arm back, and place your left hand on the floor behind you for support. Hug your left knee with your right arm. Breathe in. As you breathe out, rotate your upper body to the left, but keep your hips facing the front. Turn your head and neck gently to look over your left shoulder. Stay here for a few moments. Try to sit up taller and twist around farther with each breath. Slowly turn back to centre and un-cross your left leg.
Imagine that the curve of your back is the domed shell of a tortoise. Begin in a kneeling position and then drop your hips so that you are sitting back on the heels of your feet. Lower your forehead to rest on the mat. Stretch your arms out in front of you, palms facing flat down. Feel the weight of your body resting on your legs. Breathe and relax for as long as is comfortable.
Unlike the traditional version of musical chairs, Musical Mats is non-competitive, in keeping with the spirit of yoga. There are enough mats for everyone for the entire duration of the game. Instead of being a race, the focus of this game is on memory.
There are enough mats for everyone for the entire duration of the game. To begin, place a card with the name of a yoga pose on the top of each mat. Have the youth stand in a circle on the outside of the mats. The leader starts the music and as it plays the youth can walk around the mats. As soon as the leader stops the music each person claims a yoga mat (no running required) and performs the corresponding pose on the mat’s card. The leader watches and helps everyone perform their poses, giving reminders and encouragement.
Option One: Yogurt, fruit and granola.
Option Two: If there is a kitchen available, make healthy berry smoothies.
2 cups (500 ml) frozen berries
1 cup (250 ml) plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) liquid honey
½ cup (125 ml) milk or orange juice
1. Place the frozen berries, yogurt and honey in a blender.
2. Pour the milk or orange juice in the blender and blend until the mix reaches a smooth consistency.
Makes 4 cups (1 L)
Congratulate the group on being open minded and trying new and healthy things!
Enjoy your regular Closing.