Yoga is gaining in popularity all over the United States in yoga studios, gyms, YMCAs, fitness centers, and in schools. Yes, schools. Teachers, administrators, and students are discovering the power of yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises) to calm, focus, and inspire students. Yoga Calm is a leading proponent of yoga in the schools and in teacher training, working primarily with special needs children. School age children are ready to learn new skills, new ideas, and new ways of doing things. They are also still in touch with their bodies in ways that many of us adults are not.
What about pre-school youngsters? Their view of the world is filled with wonder, excitement, and energy. Yoga is a way for them to learn to expand the wonder, add to the excitement, and focus the energy. Yoga practice at this age is a bit like planting an acorn. The seed (yoga poses and breathing) is rich, filled with nutrients for life; the ground is waiting and ready. The goal of the teaching is to keep the soil ready, water as necessary, and then trust the future. Yoga taught to youngsters is fun for all involved and creates a connection between body and mind that will serve the kids for a lifetime.
Not surprisingly, yoga classes for kids don’t look exactly like the yoga for adults. Yes, there are breathing exercises and yoga poses, but they are all taught in a spirit of play within the framework of a story.
We begin each class with exactly the same three poses: child’s pose, down dog, and big toe pose. The process reminds the little bodies that what is happening next is yoga and prepares the body and mind for the focus and fun of the class. Some breathing techniques will be practiced each class, including a full yoga breath, victory breath, breath of fire, and others. Then we begin a story that uses yoga poses. In this way, the students’ minds and bodies are involved as they listen to the story and actually “act” out parts of the story. The story is introduced the first week of the month, as are any new poses that are part of the story. Then we are off on a yoga adventure to the park, or a day at school, or preparing a plane for a trip, or learning and practicing gratitude.
Each adventure ends with quiet time as the kids rest on their mats in “gingerbread” pose waiting for the baker (teacher) to individually decorate them. They quietly “bake,” relaxing all those muscles and minds they have used busily for the past 25 or 40 minutes. (The classes for 3 to 5 year-olds are 30 minutes and those for 6 to 9 year-olds are 45 minutes.) At the end of their “baking,” we gently sit up, gather in the fun and energy we have created, remind each other to think kind thoughts, say kind words, and act with kindness. We end class with the greeting “Namaste.” The children learn that this wonderful word means, “The very best in me says hello to the very best in you.” Or, as one of my three-year-old students once said, “No mistake.”
Bring your kids to yoga and share the experience. You will find wonderful uses for these skills at home, on long trips and with family. One of the comments we often hear parents say is that they have never seen their child so calm and at peace as when they are resting in the final pose after their yoga class. Namaste.
Guest Author: Carol Rinehard, Carol is a kids yoga instructor at The Family Tree Yoga and Massage. The Family Tree offers classes for babies and children. Private one-on-one yoga sessions for families and individuals are also availible. Visit www.familytreedm.com for class descriptions, pricing and to reserve your space for class.