Spotlight on Kids Yoga Stories - Part 2

As a follow up post from the recent: Spotlight on Kids Yoga Stories: Part One, I am so excited to bring you this interview with Giselle Shardlow, talented author of Kids Yoga Stories! Ever wondered what Kids Yoga Stories are all about, or perhaps why and how you can incorporate yoga into the daily routines of the little ones in your lives? I'm absolutely no expert, but am really enjoying yoga with our little (almost 3 year old) B, and have found Giselle's Kids Yoga Stories such a fun and easy introduction. So, I hope you can take a few minutes to sit back with a (preferably, hot!) cuppa, and enjoy reading along! 
Anna:  How and when did you first discover yoga?
Giselle: When I was a young girl, my mom used to watch yoga videos.  We lived on a farm in Canada, so yoga was a great way for my brother and I to get exercise indoors during the winter months.  My mom says that she has fond memories of practicing yoga together, just like I’m experiencing now with my little one.

Anna: Has yoga always been a part of your daily life since then, and how do you like to include it in your lifestyle?
Giselle:  Since taking the Yoga Teacher Training at Samadhi Yoga in 2005, yoga has become a way of life for me and my husband.  The physical practice of yoga comes and goes, depending on life’s circumstances, whether it’s moving house, traveling, or time commitments.  My husband and I travel a lot, and sometimes, attending a class at a studio isn’t feasible.  However, I do try to keep up with my home practice.  Since giving birth, I’ve adapted my home practice to include my daughter.
Sometimes, I’m disciplined and practice daily.  Other times, I focus more heavily on meditation and character education.

I’m really passionate about integrating yoga into my life by incorporating the different facets of this ancient wisdom, including positive affirmations, character education, meditation, physical practice, and breathing techniques.  I often look through the Yoga Sutras of Patanajali translated by Alistair Shearer for inspiration.

Anna:  How old is your daughter?
Giselle:  My daughter is 2 ½ years old.  We have been “practicing” yoga together since her birth.

Anna:  How do you incorporate her into your yoga practice?
Giselle:  I practiced basic yoga poses in the living room, and she would lie there, watching me.  I also held her in my lap as I did breathing exercises.  I still hold those precious memories in my heart.  Nowadays, we engage in yoga play by acting out what we see in nature or yoga stories.  We make it up as we go along.  At nighttime, I often sing this Sanskrit chant to my toddler: “Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu.” This translates to: “May the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and that freedom for all.”
Giselle from Kids Yoga Stories and her beautiful daughter

Anna:  Do you need to be very experienced in order to have fun with yoga at home with kids?
Giselle:  Absolutely not!  That’s my inspiration for the yoga stories.  I hope to provide parents and teachers with fun, educational, and interactive stories that take them on journeys around the world.  Kids yoga focuses on having fun with movement, not on the perfectly aligned poses that are more common in adult yoga classes.  The first yogis invented the physical postures thousands of years ago by mimicking their natural mountain surroundings.  Similarly, children use their imaginations to naturally invent their own yoga poses.  You don’t need prior experience, just creativity and a willingness to bend and move in ways that may seem a little silly.

Anna: Would you recommend any special materials or equipment to get started?
Giselle:  We use a combination of yoga materials for inspiration, including yoga stories, animal figurines, stuffed animals, animal puzzles, yoga videos, yoga cards, a little yoga mat, and yoga music.  Find a list of yoga gifts for toddlers here.

Anna:  What are the ideal conditions to practise kids yoga?
Giselle:  I recommend wearing comfortable clothing and practicing barefoot.  Yoga mats are optional, but they do help your footing on a slippery surface.  Waiting at least two hours after eating is a good idea.  However, I find that yoga play can come at spontaneous times, and I just monitor my daughter’s energy levels.  She might bounce around different yoga poses for only a few minutes with her short attention span, and that’s perfectly fine.

Anna:  Are there any special risks or safety precautions we should be aware of when trying out yoga with children?
Giselle:  Ideally, yoga should be practiced in a clear space cleared of potential hazards.  Kids yoga is active and fun, and children should have the space to move about freely.  Set expectations for your yoga experience, so that the children are working within a structured environment that also supports creativity.  Be conscious of taking the children through a yoga flow sequence to avoid potential injuries.

My yoga stories and yoga lesson plans on my website Kids Yoga Stories all follow specific yoga sequences that invite flow from one pose to the next.  For example, we practice standing postures first before doing floor poses.  For older children, you can encourage them to be aware of any pain or injuries that arise from the movement.  Yoga helps children to increase their body awareness.

Anna:  If you could pick only five, what would you consider to be the top benefits of children getting into yoga?
Giselle:  Yoga has tons of health benefits for children.  I’ve specifically noticed these five in my daughter over the past two years:
1.    Increases our bond through movement, creativity, and laughter.  We have become “yoga buddies,” and she climbs all over me when I’m practicing a Sun Salute.  Inevitably, we end up cuddling in giggles.
2.    Increases her strength, balance, and flexibility.  My daughter has been doing the Downward-Facing Dog Pose since she was a few months old.  Her arm strength is incredible!
3.    Promotes a healthy, active lifestyle.  Even if we can’t get outside to play as much during the winter months, we can still exercise indoors.
4.    Promotes sleep.  My daughter sleeps better.  We read and act out the Good Night, Animal World book at bedtime.  It helps to release her extra energy so she can unwind and relax.
5.    Increases her self-expression and confidence.  She was acting out animal poses before being able to speak the words.  I could see her joy at being able to communicate herself through movement before she had language to express herself.

Anna: What is the strangest or most interesting place you or your daughter have assumed a yoga pose?
Giselle:  Last year, we went on a mammoth six-week RV road trip around the SW part of the United States.  One day, we randomly drove down a long sandy track to Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.  The park is filled with sandstone goblins and interesting formations.  While my husband and father-in-law were running around, taking pictures of this incredible place, my daughter was busy practicing Downward Dogs in her elephant pajamas.  It was quite the sight!

Anna: If the world leaders of today were all instructed to take up a yoga pose or series of poses, what would you suggest and why?
Giselle:  What a great question!  For years, I traveled the world, wondering what it was going to take to help the world leaders communicate effectively with each other.  I believe that global education and meditation is our pathway to peace.  Learning about cultures around the world cultivates our empathy, acceptance, and ultimately our happiness.  My suggestion wouldn’t necessarily be a certain pose, but rather to sit in meditation every day.  I remember hearing that the Dalai Lama once said, “I have so much to do today. I better meditate twice as long.”  The Dalai Lama apparently meditates for a couple hours a day and is known to be one of the happiest people in the world focused on spreading compassion for others.  Imagine if world leaders practiced daily meditation like the Dalai Lama!

“I have so much to do today. I better meditate twice as long.” Dalai Lama
Anna: Apart from yoga, what three things could you simply not live without?
Giselle:  Besides yoga, I could not live without books, love, and travel.

Anna:  You have already published such an impressive collection of books. Are you set to cook up any more in the future?
Giselle:  Thank you!  Yes, it’s been an incredible journey.  We have just begun publishing our toddler-preschool series of yoga books, which cover the First Concepts.  I am aiming to publish them quickly so that I can use them with my daughter as she gets ready for preschool.  The next book is a counting book with African safari animals, called African Safari 123, and it should be available in March 2014.

Anna:  What is your favourite Kids Yoga Stories book?
Giselle:  Right now, my favorite Kids Yoga Stories book is Good Night, Animal World because my daughter and I read and act it out together before bedtime.  We join the six yoga kids in saying good night to animals around the world.  She literally runs down the hallway, flailing her arms and yelling, “Yoga!”  It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to share my passion for books, yoga, and travel with my daughter.  It makes me feel truly blessed.

Anna:  And finally...
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed Giselle! Apart from sharing such great information and directing us all to useful resources, your words are truly inspirational and encouraging to even the newest yoga fans!
Giselle:  Thank you so much for your thoughtful and interesting questions.  I feel honored to have been a part of this interview.  I hope that this inspires other families to integrate yoga into their daily life so they can enjoy the benefits of yoga, too.

Giselle Shardlow is the author of Kids Yoga Stories. Her yoga-inspired children’s books get children moving, learning, and having fun. Giselle draws from her experiences as a teacher, traveler, yogi, and mom to write the stories found at or on Amazon ( worldwide.

For more kids' yoga inspiration, be sure to follow my new but ever growing Pinterest board: Kids' Yoga Resources!
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