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The winter solstice is a fascinating astronomical event that marks the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. In this Winter Solstice Children’s Yoga Class Plan, we incorporate elements that celebrate the changing of the seasons, mindfulness, and the joy of winter. But first, here are a few historical facts you can share with your students about this special time of year.

Definition: The winter solstice occurs when the axial tilt of the Earth is farthest from the sun, resulting in the shortest day and longest night of the year. It usually takes place around December 21st.

Ancient Celebrations: Many ancient cultures celebrated the winter solstice as a time of the rebirth of the sun. Festivals and rituals were held to welcome the returning light and mark the gradual lengthening of days.

Stonehenge Connection: Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in England, aligns with the winter solstice sunrise. The construction is believed to have had a connection to solstice observations and rituals.

Global Variations: While the Northern Hemisphere experiences the winter solstice in December, the Southern Hemisphere experiences it around June 21st. The length of the day and night are reversed between the two hemispheres.

Tropic of Capricorn: The winter solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. This is the southernmost point where the sun appears directly overhead during the year.

Pagan Yule Celebration: The winter solstice is closely tied to the Pagan festival of Yule, a celebration of the sun’s rebirth. Yule traditions, such as decorating evergreen trees and burning a Yule log, have been incorporated into modern Christmas festivities.

Scientific Explanation: The winter solstice is a result of the Earth’s axial tilt of approximately 23.5 degrees. This tilt, combined with its orbit around the sun, leads to variations in the length of days and nights throughout the year.

Traditional Chinese Festival: Dongzhi, the Winter Solstice Festival, is a significant celebration in Chinese culture. Families gather to enjoy special foods, and it symbolizes the return of longer daylight hours.

Hibernation in Nature: Many animals enter a period of hibernation during the winter months, conserving energy when food is scarce and temperatures are low. The winter solstice marks a turning point as daylight gradually increases.

Cultural Celebrations Today: Today, various cultures around the world continue to celebrate the winter solstice with festivals, feasts, and gatherings. It is often a time for reflection, renewal, and the anticipation of longer days ahead.

The winter solstice is a celestial event that has captivated the human imagination for centuries, influencing cultural traditions and rituals across different civilizations. It serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of Earth’s orbit and the changing seasons. Happy Winter Solstice! We hope you enjoy sharing this Winter Solstice Children’s Yoga Class Plan.

Class Theme: Winter Wonderland Yoga Adventure

1. Welcome and Centering (5 minutes):

  • Gather the children in a circle on their yoga mats.
  • Begin with a brief discussion about the winter solstice (info above!) and the magic of winter.
  • Encourage deep breaths and a moment of stillness to center themselves.

2. Warm-Up (7 minutes):

  • Start with “Snowflake Breaths”:
    • Inhale deeply, raising arms to the white sky (“It looks like it might snow!“).
    • Exhale, bringing hands down and wiggling fingers, like snowflakes falling from the sky.
  • Move into gentle neck and shoulder stretches, preparing the body for fun in the snow.

3. Sun Salutations (8 minutes):

  • Connect the winter solstice theme by incorporating “Sunrise and Sunset Salutations”:
    • Sunrise Salutation: Reach up to the sky, stretching like the sun rising.
    • Sunset Salutation: Fold forward, swaying like trees in the winter breeze.
  • Repeat the sequence, linking breath with movement.

4. Winter Animal Postures (10 minutes):

  • Introduce winter animal yoga postures:
    • Polar Bear Posture (standing on hands and feet with hips in the air)
    • Penguin Posture (waddling side to side)
    • Snow Owl Posture (sitting with arms outstretched like wings)

5. Storytime (10 minutes):

  • Share a winter-themed story, like Jenny’s Winter Walk, or create a simple narrative about animals preparing for winter hibernation or celebrating the winter solstice.
  • Encourage kids to act out parts of the story through yoga postures.

6. Mindful Snow Globe Meditation (5 minutes):

  • Have children lie down in a comfortable Savasana.
  • Imagine being inside a snow globe, with gentle snowfall creating a peaceful scene.
  • Guide them to focus on their breath, allowing any busy thoughts to settle like snowflakes.

7. Craft and Creativity (10 minutes):

  • Engage in a winter-themed craft activity, such as making snowflakes or decorating winter crowns.
  • Encourage creativity and self-expression related to the winter solstice theme.

8. Partner Postures (5 minutes):

  • Pair up children for fun partner postures, emphasizing cooperation and teamwork.
  • Examples: Winter Tree Posture (holding hands and balancing together) or Snowflake Posture (forming shapes with arms together).

9. Closing Circle (5 minutes):

  • Gather in a circle for a sacred closing.
  • Reflect on the winter solstice, expressing gratitude for the beauty of winter and the changing seasons.
  • If appropriate, end with a collective “Om” or a winter-themed song.

10. Snack and Social Time (10 minutes):

  • Provide healthy winter snacks like hot cocoa, fruit, or snowman-shaped cookies (make sure there are no allergies first!).
  • Allow time for socializing and sharing their favorite parts of the class.

Remember to adapt the class to the age group and individual needs of the children. Infuse a sense of wonder and playfulness, and most importantly, make it a joyful celebration of the winter solstice through yoga.

Learn more about how to teach yoga to children in ChildLight’s Yoga & Mindfulness for Children Teacher Training!