It Looked Like Spilled Milk…but it was really yoga

I’d seen It Looked Like Spilled Milk  listed as good book to use for teaching kids yoga so I decided to give it a try.

The book went over well with the kids. I think one of the reasons it works well is that it leaves a lot up to interpretation by the kids. The class interjected periodically when they thought the picture looked like something else entirely. You can then riff off of what students find and have them get creative with taking the shapes that they see in the pictures.

Here are some ideas for incorporating yoga with the story:

Rabbit: Try bunny breath (big inhale, three bunny sniff exhales through the nose). Take hops in a squatting position with hands up as ears and a forward bend with floppy ears (shaking head and arms). Kids can also be rabbits in a hutch (kneeling with head rounding to knees, hands on heels).

Bird: All kinds of options here. Try making bird wings with the arms and balancing on one foot with the other knee bent and foot up towards standing leg. Or fly around the room and land in airplane (warrior three) pose back on your mat. Be a squatting bird or a bird flying south (half moon pose).

Tree: Go beyond the basic tree pose and ask kids what kind of tree they’d like to be (i.e. cactus, palm, swaying tree, etc.) or what they think the tree in the picture might look like.

Ice cream cone: Start off with your ice cream cone by standing with arms out in a “V” shape. Then bring hands together and slowly scoop your ice cream as you roll down into a ball and roll all the way down to the back and then back up to your standing “V”. Make it a double or triple scoop by taking another roll. One of my students decided that she’d slowly melt down from her “V” all the way down to a puddle on the mat.

Flower: Grow up from a seed (child pose) to a flower, spreading arms out. Or take flower pose by sitting down, lifting legs and threading the arms through bent knees. Make a group flower circle by joining each of your hands in flower pose with the other flowers next to you. Practice smelling your flower by making a flower shape with the hands and taking a big breath in to smell your flower and exhale out, “Ahhhh.”

Pig: Pigs often roll around in the dirt. Roll kids up in the mat like a pig rolling in its sty. Get a curly pig’s tail by crossing the legs and coming into a laying-down spinal twist.

Birthday Cake: Bake a cake with a partner by taking a wide-legged seated position with feet connecting to the feet of your partner. Add various ingredients, reaching forward and over to the sides in your forward bend. Mix the cake by taking your partners hands and circling around, using the pull from your partner to come forward and back. Put the cake on the oven rack (legs up to table top, modified boat pose). When oven dings, take the cake out and frost it (stretching out into forward bend). Then of course, eat it!

Sheep: Walk on all fours. Sheep often move in herds so you can make a herd of sheep with each student holding onto the ankles of the person in front of them to make a big line. One student can even be the sheep dog (downward dog) to guide the herd.

Owl: Take owl pose (squatting on toes with hands clasped behind the back, arms reaching back). Get still, turn your owl head from one side to the other. Let out a hoot or a little jump, landing back on the toes.

Mitten: Take wrist stretches by bringing fingers together, then turning the hand open and stretching one finger at a time. Bring the arms out to a “T” shape and then one finger at a time, make a fist with the hand to test out each finger of the mitten.

Squirrel:We tried bounding like a squirrel, hopping the feet to hands from downward dog and then taking hands forward.This one is very open for interpretation, however, and my students had some very different ideas of what a squirrel pose might consist of.

Angel: Make a halo with hands interlaced overhead, rise up onto toes and float on tiptoes, perhaps flying around the room.

If timing works out, the end of the book makes a great segway into final relaxation. The spilled milk is revealed to be a cloud. You can take kids through a floating like a cloud visualization as they come into savasana/ending quiet time.

Other ideas? I’d love to hear ’em!


Circus yoga class for kids


Image credit: Deviant Art

I recently did a yoga class with elementary school students where we went to the circus.
Throughout the class I tried to weave in the theme of focus and working together in a variety of different partner and individual activities. Here’s some of the circus ideas I had for the class:

Elephants: Warm up with elephant pose as you interlace hands together into a forward bend letting head and neck hang. You can lift their trunk up then down again to eat peanuts or take a shower and walk around with heavy feet.

Unicycle: Laying down on the mat, bicycle the feet. Or start bicycling from a seated position (trying with no hands) pedaling forwards and then backwards. For even more challenge, try pedaling all the way down, then back up to sitting. Did you have to focus especially when you changed what direction you were pedaling?

Lions jumping through a hoop: Take a few rounds of lions’ breath, then stretch up into downward dog. One at a time, everyone can jump through a hula hoop by placing hands on the other side of the hoop and jumping the feet forward from downward dog. How did different parts of your body have to work together to help you make it through the hoop?

Tightrope: Walk heel to heel along the edge of your mat or along a strap or string. At the end of the “rope”, take a balance pose. This could be dancer pose, airplane, or bringing a knee up and then extending the leg straight. Combine different balances together for a more difficult balancing routine. And of course there’s walking backwards to where you started. What did you have to do to help you keep your balance? What helped you keep your focus?

Juggling: Sit in a circle and quickly pass a small ball around the circle. Then start passing a second ball of a different size in the opposite direction and see how well the group can work together to “juggle” the balls going around. How can you still keep your focus when two different balls are going around?

Trapeze: With a partner, face one another and hold onto each other’s arms and take airplane pose. Come up and take a partner chair pose while facing your partner and holding arms. You can try this with other partner poses with one partner leaning forward and the other partner gently pulling their arms back to give a chest and shoulder opening or making partner table.  Notice how you had to work together to help your partner (and you) balance, stay safe, and enjoy the poses. Another way to be a trapeze artist is to use a wall and take upside-down “L” pose. Feel how being upside down challenges your balance and focus in a different way.

Magician’s hat: Wave a colored scarf over a top hat and turn it into a rabbit. Everyone can then take rabbit pose and/or practice bunny breath. You can also pull out multiple scarves from the hat for some creative movement using the scarves.

Circus music could go well with these activities. Be sure to ask your performers as they may have some great ideas for some acts to add to the circus.

I’d love to hear any further ideas you have for a circus-themed yoga class.