Sun Salutation – Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit – is the traditional yogic way to warm up. Almost every joint and major muscle group participates in these movements. They are called Sun Salutations because they used to be a form of prayer to the sun; the sun believed to be the source of health and vigor, gave its blessing back to his devotees through the many benefits of this practice.
In kids' yoga classes, we try to take the religious element out of yoga and therefore we call it The Sun Dance instead of Sun Salutation… besides, dance is way more fun than a salutation!
The Sun Dances are a fun way to move and flow from one pose to the other, and it is even more fun if we combine it with some awesome music. It is always great to decorate the Sun Dance with lots of variations and to flow from one pose to another in a beautiful dance-like way!
Since there are many yoga traditions, there are many different sun salutations… and always feel free to invent your own – yoga is still evolving and I hope it always will!
Grownups Sun Salutations are usually not interesting enough for children; hands up, hands down… you will lose their attention quickly. Below are a few ways to spice it up!
- Follow My Body. In a circle, with cool music, everyone follows the movements of the teacher to the best of their ability. No verbal instructions are needed. It is much more fun than listening to the teacher’s instructions and any variations and additions to the poses are great!
- The Wave. Have you ever seen how people in a soccer game do the Mexican Wave? We do the same in yoga. In the circle, the teacher does a pose, the person on her right does it and then the next person in the circle and the next, and the pose flows around the circle, each person doing the pose one after the other. Change the pose only after it completes a whole circle. This exercise makes everyone really focused and you can easily play with it even for an hour because it’s super fun!
- Sun Dance Story. I often alter the Sun Dance to fit the theme of the class. For example, if we are on a journey to Africa, it will become an African Sun Dance, if we are with the Native Americans, it’s an ancient tribal Chief’s dance, or if we are in the desert for example:
We bend back to greet the hot desert sun
We bend down to clean the sand from our toes
We take one leg back to become a coyote and we howl at the moon
We take the other leg back and become a lizard smelling the air with our tongs
We bring our chest down between our hands and let our behinds become the hump of a camel
We lift our chests up to become a snake that wiggles a bit
Then we come into Dog Pose to become a Tent
We have two scorpions in our tent, so we lift one leg up to sting and then the other
We run away from the scorpions and out of the tent, bringing our feet again between our hands… and clean the sand from our toes
We stretch up to the sun
And bring our hands back down for Mountain Pose
Decorate those new Sun Dances with lots of variations and animal sounds that fit the theme of your class!
- Human Mandala. In this exercise we stay connected as a group through all the poses we flow through. We progress from pose to pose coordinating our movements with the whole group while we link ourselves with the people on both our sides with our hands or feet or any other part of the body. Experiment! The options are endless! Here is one of our homemade samples for you to be inspired.
- Saluting Each Other. Facing each other, each partner takes turns creating a yoga flow of 5-10 poses while the other mirrors their exact movements. Each partner keeps repeating the same cycle of poses they just invented on the spot for a whole song before the pair changes roles of who is in the lead; guide your students to be inspired by the music!
- Salutation To _____. In groups of two, instead of saluting the sun, we make up our own salutation to something we love… like your friends, family, dog, chocolate, pizza, the beach, etc. Give all the pairs about 5 minutes to create a new sequence of poses that will show your love and adoration for the object of their choice. Next, each pair performs their creation. The pairs keep their choice a secret and ask the audience to guess what they are saluting.
- Sun Dance Songs. Songs are always a great way to keep children focused and to keep them engaged. I have invented many Sun Dance songs… but none of mine is as good as the "Dance for the Sun" by Kira Willey. Memorize it and sing it with the kids, it is a sure way to make them LOVE the Sun Salutation!
Have a go at these and let us know how it went! Make a reel, post, or tag in your stories on Instagram @rainbowkidsyoga