Tapestry of Faith: Windows and Mirrors: A Program about Diversity for Grades 4-5

Alternate Activity 3: Sun Salutations

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Yoga mats for all participants
  • Chairs for participants who may do modified versions of poses
  • Leader Resource 3, Sun Salutation

Preparation for Activity

  • Identify a co-leader or adult volunteer with experience doing-preferably leading-yoga movement. Also make sure to include an additional adult for every three or four children. Lacking adequate adult supervision, skip this activity.
  • Arrange to use a large, open space with room for all participants to stretch on a yoga mat without bumping into others.
  • Make sure the room has chairs which individuals can use to try the poses in a modified way. Each chair will need to be placed against a wall for stability. Children using chairs will also need yoga mats.
  • Review Leader Resource 3, which gives verbal guidance and illustrations for all 12 poses of a sun salutation. Optional: Watch an animation of a sun salutation on the ABC-of-Yoga website.

Description of Activity

Invite children to set out and sit on the yoga mats. Say:

In many faiths and cultures, people use movement prayers, and many of these can be done anywhere, in a small space no larger than the yoga mat you are sitting on now.

Give examples:

Catholics who kneel and make the sign of the cross

Muslims who spread a prayer rug to face Mecca and pray five times a day

Buddhist and others who take a special posture for meditation

Jews who "daven," rocking their bodies while reciting Hebrew prayers

Tell the group they will try a sun salutation, a yoga practice that comes from Hindu tradition. Say, in your own words:

Sun salutation involves a series of simple yoga poses. It is used by many people across a variety of faiths for prayer, meditation, and physical and spiritual exercise. Its purpose is to greet and recognize the new day brought by sunrise. Some people do it every day.

Following Leader Resource 3, demonstrate each individual pose on the yoga mat, using a chair, or both. Encourage any child who prefers to use a chair to perform modified poses. The chair back should be placed against a wall, with the yoga mat on the floor extending out from the chair into the room. Stand in front of the chair seat to use the chair as a brace for the forward bend, the lunge (place a foot on the chair seat, hands on chair back), the "dog" pose (hands bracing the chair seat with torso bent and forehead touching the chair seat), plank (hands bracing the chair seat with arms extended, feet several feet away from the chair and body flat as a plank), and "reverse push up" (plank pose with elbows bent and flat torso closer to the chair seat). Move slowly through each of the poses, holding each pose for three breaths. Repeat on each side.

If not using the chair, use the yoga mat or floor to move gently through each pose, holding each pose for three breaths. Repeat on each side.

Invite children to sit on their yoga mats. Discuss:

What felt comfortable?

What felt challenging?

What is attractive about using the sun salutation as a prayer practice? Might you find this a meaningful way to greet the new day?

What kinds of thoughts went through your head?

Is it more or less likely you can focus on gratitude, regret or hope when your body is engaged in the yoga movements? Might that be different if you did these poses every day and your body knew them well?

Including All Participants

Children who are non-sighted, and others who need help, may be guided into poses by an adult. Before offering to help, ask the child if they would like you to guide their body into the right position. Tell them to let you know if your touch or their body position feels uncomfortable.