Asana like an Olympian: A Winter Olympics yoga lesson from Challenge To Change

Image courtesy of Challenge to Change.

The 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul begin on Friday, Feb. 9, letting young and old once again marvel at the grace of figure skaters, the swiftness of skiiers and the unique athleticism of luge, bobsleigh and curling competitors.

Instead of merely watching these high-energy events from the couch, why not encourage your inner Olympian with some winter sports-inspired yoga? Molly Schreiber of Challenge To Change, a Dubuque-based children’s yoga program featured in our yoga in schools piece, has designed a guided yoga and meditation exercise to practice with your family, classroom, daycare or on your own, channeling the Olympic spirit.

Here is an outline of the featured postures, and their corresponding sports:

  • Mountain Pose to Chair Pose (Ski jumping)
  • Warrior I to Walking Warrior I (Ice hockey)
  • Walking Warrior II (Snowboarding)
  • Warrior III, holding a partner for balance (Pairs figure skating)
  • Dancer Pose (Solo figure skating)
  • Boat Pose (Bobsleigh)
  • Bow Pose (Skeleton)
  • Corpse Pose (Luge)

Warm Up

Begin your yoga practice by sitting with your child and breathing. At Challenge To Change, we use mudras, or symbolic hand gestures. Each mudra is practiced with three deep breaths, giving the child time to self-regulate and identify how they are feeling and what they need from the practice. After the three mudras are practiced, give your child time to pick the one they liked the best. The mudra they choose usually identifies how they are feeling and what they need from the practice.

After sitting and settling into the practice, have your child stand up to stretch their body. I find there is no better way to teach the kids to move their body then using the Sun Salutation. Sun Salutation A allows the children’s bodies to move six out of the seven ways they need the body to move every day. The song I love to use is called, “Dance for The Sun,” by Kira Wiley.

After the song is complete, it is time to begin the focus of the lesson. Words you may speak are “Today we are going to go on an Olympic adventure. The Winter Olympics are beginning soon in our world. Do you know where they are taking place? Do you know what sports they compete in at the Winter Olympics? Well, today during our yoga time, we are going to explore these sports and practice our yoga. Are you ready? The first thing we need to do is get ready for the weather. Be sure to dress warm. What kind of clothes should we put on?”

Mountain Pose — Photo courtesy of Challenge to Change

Yoga Lesson

“Let’s stand in Mountain Pose at the front of our mat. One of my favorite events to watch is ski jumping. When the skiers do this sport, they have to have strong legs. Let’s honor our legs with two deep breaths in Mountain Pose. Now, bend your knees and come into Chair Pose. Get out your ski poles and pretend you are coming down the steep slopes of the mountains. Now we are heading uphill and we need to make our first jump. Are you ready? One, two three … JUMP!”

Practice ski jumping three to five times with your child.

“Now in order to be an athlete, you have to be strong and fierce. When I think of strong and fierce, I think of warriors. Let’s come into our Warrior I pose. There are several warriors on a team of this sport. They all use sticks and skate on ice. Can you guess what sport I am talking about? I’ll give you another hint: they use a puck.”

Have your child do a walking Warrior I as if they were skating on the hockey rink.

“Snowboarding is my favorite sport in the Olympics. Show me on your mat how you would stand on your snowboard. Snowboarders have to be strong warriors as well. Can you guess what pose we might do to represent snowboarding?”

Warrior II — Photo courtesy of Challenge to Change

Have your child do a walking Warrior II as if they were snowboarding safely down a hill.

“Figure skating is huge in the Olympics. There are two different types of skating that happen. They have partner skating and solo skating. Let’s do the partner skiing too. We are going to do Warrior III for our partner skating, but we are going to do it together. Are you ready? Let’s put our arms on each other’s backs, use our third eye and come into Warrior III. We are really going to have to work hard to make sure we are balanced. Partners really have to work hard so they don’t let their buddy down.”

Do partner Warrior III one side and then switch sides. Do this as many times as you would like.

“Now let’s solo skate. Solo skating is such a beautiful art. What are some moves our skaters do? Well, in order to be a great ice skater, you have to also be a good dancer. Can you guess what pose we are going to do to represent solo skating?”

Have your child practice Dancer Pose. Perhaps use the wall as a guide for balance and safety.

“The Olympics have several sports that require sitting or lying down. Can you think of any of them? Let’s move into our Easy Pose why we talk about them.”

Boat Pose — Photo courtesy of Challenge to Change

Come into seated pose.

“The first pose we are going to do seated is Boat Pose. The Boat Pose is how the bobsledders sit in their seats. They need really strong cores to be in the bobsled. How long do you think you can sit this way? Let’s try it.”

Time your kiddo as they stay in Boat Pose. Be sure to counter pose them after they come out of a long Boat Pose.

“Another event that is on the bobsled track is skeleton. This sport is very dangerous because they compete on their bellies, head first. Can you show me on your mat what that would look like?”

Have them come to their bellies.

“The skeleton race has been around since 1928. How many years ago is that? Let’s grab both our legs and try to figure it out. Now lift your head and legs as we figure out the final number. Now what pose are we in? You’re right, Bow Pose. And how many years has it been around? You’re right, 90 years.”

Hold Bow Pose and rock back and forth if you would like to. Counter pose carefully on the belly for a few belly breaths before coming to a Child’s Pose.

Corpse Pose — Photo courtesy of Challenge to Change

“Whew, I am getting tired. Let’s go down the track one more time and then we can relax. Let’s go onto our backs in Corpse Pose and pretend we are going down the luge. The luge is done on a sled, on our backs with our feet going down the track first. The luge sled goes really, really fast so we need to make sure we take some deep breaths and make sure our smart mind talks to our kind heart and keeps our body calm.”

Take three deep breaths and lay on your back in relaxation with your child.

Guided Meditation

Invite the child to close their eyes and put an eye pillow, blanket or weighted blanket over themselves. Read the following meditation:

Begin taking deep inhales and exhales. Cuddle into your warm cocoon. Make your body comfortable and relaxed.

Breathe in and out.

In and out.

Imagine that you are a Winter Olympic athlete. What sport do you compete in?

What does your uniform look like?

Imagine that you are getting ready to compete in your sport. How might you feel?

How can you use your breathing to help your smart mind, your kind heart and your calm body?

Are there words you say to yourself to make you feel confident, strong and ready to compete?

What are those words? Are they, “I am strong?” or “I am capable?” or “I am calm?”

Pick something to say to yourself and say it five times.

Now how do you feel?

Are you ready to compete?

Telling yourself nice things to make yourself feel better is okay to do.

Let’s say it one more time before we compete.

Are you ready to go? Go out and compete your sport.

Imagine you are competing your sport.

How do you feel?

Now you are finished with your competition and you have won the gold medal!

How do you feel?

Keep that feeling with you as you finish your yoga practice today.

We are all so proud of you. Well done!

Begin to wiggle your fingers and toes and awaken yourself to your surroundings.

Slowly draw your knees into your chest and rock side to side.

Come to rest on the right side of your body tucked in a little cocoon.

When you are ready, slowly come up to your Easy Pose to close out our practice with SA, TA, NA, MA.



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