Music can be incredibly powerful in its ability to help calm, soothe and relax the nervous system. Studies have also shown that certain kinds of music, such as classical or calming instrumentals, can help integrate and regulate the way the brain works, helping with learning and mood management. Music can also enhance intelligence, coordination, emotional expression, creativity and socialization skills. And, if you've ever danced your heart out or used an iPod with your favorite tunes while exercising, you also know the power of music to inspire and energize. It's not surprising then, that children's yoga classes typically involve the creative use of music.
Kids in yoga class respond to music almost immediately. A bored or nervous six-year-old may not initially want to participate in the warm-up session of class. Add a fun song like Yoga Kids' "Reach for the Sun" and suddenly eyes are wide and a smile appears, as he stretches his arms high into the air.
If you're a classroom or yoga teacher, consider investing in an MP3 player or an iPod. You can easily search online for the perfect songs to fit themes or class activities, create playlists and switch music without the fiddling with CDs. Our friend, Aruna Kathy Humphries of YoungYogaMasters.com adds, "It lets you have all your music with you because you never know when you might need to change up the lesson plan."
Yoga games requiring kids to move quickly are best accompanied by upbeat music. Much like the effect of a high-energy workout or dance song, a fun and upbeat tune will help to get a lethargic class moving. One of ChildLight Yoga's staples is Puntamayo's African Playground album, as it incorporates a lot of drumming, and no lyrics (all the Puntamayo CDs are great, by the way). Yoga-specific or thematic children's music is always a hit with the younger classes, but sometimes tweens and teens respond better to pop music with which they are familiar —better do some research if you're out of touch with current artists! And make certain you listen to the lyrics first. Not all pop music lyrics are appropriate (i.e., Kesha, Nelly, etc.). If you're going to use pop music, you might choose songs with positive message like The Climb, by Miley Cyrus.
Lisa Flynn of ChildLight Yoga often uses popular songs with inspiring lyrics during relaxation with teens and then invites her students to discuss of the meaning of the lyrics at end the class. Inevitably, these are powerful conversations that really stay with the adolescents. "Often the right song will even open the door to tears, a release," Flynn says. "And, I've had many kids say they had never really listened to the actual lyrics before and are blown away by the message being provided. It's powerful. They won't hear the same song again without remembering the conversation and connection it provided for them."
For classtime music and relaxation, mellow background music with no lyrics or nature sounds can really help quiet the mind, and is also recommended as part of a visualization with kids. Stephen Halpern's In the OM Zone is ChildLight Yoga instructor Heather Warr's favorite. "It is quiet and balances both sides of the brain," says Warr. In fact, any of Stephen Halpern's CDs are wonderful for setting a soothing tone for kids or adult yoga classes. And, classical music is always a safe bet as well. Nature sounds can often be found on recorded CDs or online as MP3 files, and can be a great tool when leading a visualization to a specific location, like the beach or a rainforest. You can even download applications like Silent Island for your iPhone or iPod Touch.
ChildLight Yoga's teacher trainings focus on the creative use of music in children's yoga classes which was the reason founder, Lisa Flynn teamed up with children's signer/songwriter Sammie Haynes to create the CD titled, I Grow With Yoga, It includes 20 songs with movement cues (just email a request when purchasing), making yoga class fun and easy to teach and follow.
Flynn also loves Kira Willey's Dance for the Sun CD, which recently gained national attention when the single "Colors" appeared on a television commercial for Dell Computers. The title song offers the perfect accompaniment to sun salutation. Musical Yoga Adventures, by Suzy Frank, is another adorable choice for young children's classes. The movement cues are available on the website as well.
Donna Freeman of Yoga In My School includes music suggestions throughout her book, Once Upon a Pose: A Guide to Yoga Adventure Stories for Children, and especially enjoys using thematic songs, such as "Wipeout" for a seashore or beach-themed yoga lesson.
Do you have more great music suggestions for your child's yoga practice or yoga class? Share your suggestions, please! — Amy Bevan