Year of the Ox: Yoga Exercise for Kids
Happy Lunar New Year! Finally, the Year of the Ox is Here!
The Lunar New Year theme is one of my favourite kids’ yoga classes to teach. The holiday has all the elements of a great yoga session for kids like rich mythology, colourful stories with loads of animals and thought-provoking lessons to pass on to children.
The Lower Mainland British Columbia where we primarily teach yoga is made up of well over 30% of people who celebrate Lunar New Year, but it is still not an official civic holiday. Bringing some more of the holiday into our classes is one small way we choose to honour its rich history and the multitudes of people in our community for whom it is important.
Year of the Ox Qualities
This pandemic year will make for a unique new year to be sure, but one that is no less rich in story and symbolism. In order to celebrate well, our creativity muscles will be well-flexed; fortunately our creativity muscles are already pretty strong from 2020, aren’t they?
It’s a lucky year to bring in more Ox qualities. In Chinese astrology, the ox is an animal who is grounded, loyal, gentle and trustworthy--a helper in the harvest. According to the tradition, the year of the ox will bring these qualities with it. There are qualities that we can really get on board with after the 2020 we had!
At the Lunar New Year we tell the wonderful Chinese folktale The Great Race. Long ago there was no way of measuring years, months or days. The Jade Emperor, the ruler of China at the time, realizes that he has no way of knowing how old he is! The Emperor masterminds a plan to correct this. He gathers all the animals in the kingdom and says, “Tomorrow we will hold a great race! The first twelve animals to complete the race will have one year named after them!”
However, the race turns out to be less of a classic trail race and more of an adventure course like Tough Mudder. The animals have to cross a river in order to complete it. The race brings out the virtues and vices of the various animals. The Ox comes out looking particularly loving and generous. (The dragon too--but that’s another tale for another year!) Our Ox guilelessly sacrifices a higher spot in the calendar in order to support his new friend, the Rat.
Year of the Ox in Yoga Practice
So, what can we do in 2021 to bring more Ox qualities into our lives? The Yoga Buggy, a non-profit bringing yoga to kids in Vancouver, BC, is excited to share some tips from the yoga tradition with you and your kiddos in your lives to bring more goodness into your lunar new year.
The Yoga tradition doesn’t talk that much about oxen, but it does talk a lot about cows. Here’s how you can get into one popular yoga pose is named after the Cow (Bitilasana in Sanskrit):
- Place something soft on the ground to support your knees and wrists.
- Align your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Come to all fours.
- Raise your hips, your chest, your neck (please be gentle with your neck!) and even your eyeballs to the sky! Let out a lovely, low Mooooooo sound.
- Next, do the opposite counter-stretch: arch your back into a fraidy cat. Meow!
- Go through this dynamic flow, matching your breath to your movements. This is a great pose for your posture, balance and spinal health. It is also calming and grounding…like an Ox.
Then, there’s Cow-faced Pose! (Can you tell the yoga tradition is fond of cows?) This one is neat to do with kids because it can be used as an active meditation pose. It’s a little trickier so here’s an article about how to do this pose safely and well. Once you and/or the kiddos are in this pose you can do a little meditating.
Sit on your bottom. Bend one knee under you and bend the other knee on top of the first. Sit up nice and tall and take a deep breath. Next, bend your elbow and bring it above your head. Bend the other elbow and bring it behind your back. Reach your fingers toward each other. Don't worry if you can’t reach, you can always grab on to your shirt or a belt. Take several nice long deep breaths here. When you are ready, switch your legs and your arms.
Since kids usually have the most creative tips, I asked my kiddo if he had meditation suggestions on how to bring those Ox qualities into our lives. He said, “If you are feeling angry, sit in a meditation posture and visualize yourself as being wide and gentle as an ox. So the angry feelings do not take control of your mouth and make you do something that could hurt someone.”
While those are wise words for an 8-year-old, I would add: When your mind wanders, don’t worry. Gently bring it back to the solidity of the ox.
This lunar year that we are beginning will need special strength to overcome the unrelenting challenges that the previous year brought. Let’s work together to bring some soothing, grounding, supportive energy into our lives in order to build the strength to bring a bright future!