Summer! Is there anything better than the long lazy days, late evening patio parties, and the more relaxed pace? However, once the Fourth of July has come and gone many of us turn our minds towards heading back to school. All of the sudden your relaxed summer state turns into feeling overwhelmed as the to-do list to get everyone ready for back to school grows and grows.
It is so easy to lose yourself in the craziness of school supply shopping or balancing sports schedules with school Open Houses. Back to school season is really a time where everyone in your family needs to find stillness, so the school year can start off calmly and mindfully.
Where can you and/or your family find the time to be still? Good question! As a classroom teacher who usually goes into beast mode this time year, I’ve got a few suggestions that work for me:
Have a fantastic start to the school year everyone and remember to take some time to find some quiet and stillness.
One of my favorite things about teaching kids yoga is being able to bring my love of children’s literature into each and every class. As an elementary teacher it seems a natural fit to use yoga poses to retell stories, reaching a whole other level of learning. I’ve done lessons in my classroom that go along with Goodnight Gorilla and The Snowy Day. In the yoga studio I’ve paired yoga with Today I Feel Silly and This is My Hair. It’s basically my favorite thing.
I am starting the steps towards, perhaps, realizing a dream to help other classroom teachers bring yoga into a literacy block or to see some poses during library story time. I’ve had a few lesson plans available on Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) for about a year now. The next step is to see if any book publisher would be interested in putting together a book of yoga lessons based on children’s literature. Exciting!! Scary!! Confusing!! (Any help appreciated.)
When you have a passion for something, it never feels like work! You may, like me, have no idea how to put all the wheels in motion but that is part of the fun. I hope you pursue whatever passions you have. I hope the little and young yogis in your life also get to do the same. There are innumerable possibilities out there for you!
I read, and post, a lot of articles on the importance of practicing mindfulness everyday. The trouble many of us run into is how to find the time to be mindful? And perhaps an even bigger problem is the one teachers run into, trying to fit mindfulness into an already rigorous school day. Through years as a classroom teacher and school counselor I’ve found some ways to make mindfulness easy.
It is a challenge to find time to be mindful each day. However, it can be done and the benefits for you and your kids or students are worth it.
Have fun and be mindful!!
Picture this: You put in a full day at work, dealing with office politics and trying to do your best. When the workday is over, you rush to a group fitness practice. When you finally get home and eat a late dinner, it's time to break out some of the work you brought with you.
Then, it's off to bed only to do it all over again. Does this sound familiar? While it's likely the normal weekday routine of any adult, it's also similar to the schedule followed by busy kids all over the country.
I've been an elementary classroom teacher for over 20 years. In that time I've seen an evolution as to just how busy kids' lives have become. I've seen how stressed kids can be as they deal with peer pressure, family changes and traumas, academic demands, and just trying to handle personal issues of growing up.
But I've also been a children's yoga teacher for three years. And in that time I've witnessed how simple little breaks for yoga can help kids refocus and find a sense of control and calm.
Here are eight reasons why I think you should get your kids (or a kid you know!) to a yoga class:
1. Yoga gets kids moving.
So many kids spend hours in front of a screen; watching shows, playing games and "communicating" with friends. Yoga gives kids a way to stretch, move, and get active!
2. Yoga is for every BODY!
There are countless children and young adults that don't think of themselves as athletic, or feel that they aren't good enough for a sports team. But everyone is "good enough" for yoga because yoga states that you are ENOUGH and perfect "as is". Modifications and variations can help any child achieve a yoga pose with their body; no matter how unique.
3. Yoga is for those athletic kids too.
Yoga can help young athletes cross-train for a variety of sports including basketball, soccer, baseball, football, volleyball -- the list goes on. Many of your kids' favorite professional and college athletes are probably already practicing some yoga.
4. Yoga can help kids feel more grounded.
Children are often being pulled in as many directions (or more!) as adults. When you are busy and over-scheduled, it can feel like you're a leaf blowing aimlessly in the wind. Yoga offers a chance to root down, feel safe and at home.
5. Yoga can help us reconnect with the world.
Yoga is more than the asana, or poses. The practice of yoga calls on us to be present off the mat and engage in life more fully. Engaging in our lives means connecting with people and socializing. Interacting, helping, talking, sharing, and living life "offline" is a skill many kids (and adults) can learn and benefit from.
6. Yoga helps us gain self-acceptance and an improved sense of body image.
Tweens and teens are constantly bombarded with unrealistic images of beauty. The practice of yoga can help kids see the beauty in themselves; their strength and uniqueness.
7. Yoga can reduce stress.
Kids today seem to be under more stress than ever. Sports, standardized testing, academic performance, and friendships can all add pressures to a young yogi's day. Yoga is a direct path to releasing all that stress. Oftentimes the tweens in my weekly classes request some type of restorative pose, and squeal with delight when we get to do Legs Up the Wall (viparita karani).
8. Yoga is FUN!
Who doesn't want to moo like a cow, walk on the walls, create a partner pose, or play in a down dog tunnel? Sometimes kids need some time to just be kids and be encouraged to PLAY.
Yoga is an ancient practice that can help improve the lives of the youngest among us. Chances are there is a children's yoga class in your area, so grab your kids and get them to class! And while you're at it, maybe you can stay for a class too.
Yoga is a wonderful practice for so many reasons. One of my favorites, perhaps rooted in my education background, is that you can learn something each time you come to the mat.
You can never tell the form your best teachers will take. In my role as a kids’ yoga teacher I get to learn from the best. Here are three of my favorite lessons I learn from kids everyday.
Kids aren’t hampered by ego.
It is so easy to look at the yogi on the mat next to you and compare yourself to them. Even if your shoulder is hurting and you know today is the day to practice Chaturanga on your knees the temptation arises to perform the pose full on when your notice your neighbor jumping back in Surya Namaskar. We get so caught up in what others are doing and in listening to our ego. It’s amazing to watch kids in yoga class. Instead of letting their egos rule their practice I hear things like “Wow! Good job!” or “Nice! I’ll do it that way next time.” or “Show me how you did that.” A true appreciation of where they are that day and not putting pressure on themselves to be something they’re not is so lovely to observe. The purity of a practice, detached from the practice of others but appreciating them, is an awesome thing to watch as I teach my kids’ classes.
Kids are fearless!
Confession time. I have to admit the reason I haven’t achieved handstand yet is most likely fear. I’m scared I’ll fall on my back. I’m scared I’ll look ridiculous. I’m scared to stack my shoulders over my wrists and how that feels. Perhaps it would be safe to say I’m not alone in at least a few of these fears. One of the amazing things about teaching kids’ yoga is observing most children being open to try anything! They don’t have the experiences we’ve had that may create our fears in trying a pose. It is beautiful to see how quickly the kids in my class move from putting their feet against the wall to lifting one leg to going to a full on handstand attempt. A fall results in laughter and then their up and at it again. Openness to experiences with a true sense of “I can do that!” instead of “I’ll fall on my face if I do that.” is a magic that I greatly value in teaching kids yoga.
Kids live in the moment.
It is not uncommon to be thinking about your grocery list during savasana. It’s not strange that you may be hung up on that last pose you did while moving into the next. Adults have a lot of things on their “monkey” minds and it can be really hard to turn all that off and be in the present moment, in that breath. Kids have an uncanny ability to be able to just live in the here-and-now and leave a minute ago truly in the past. I love teaching kids yoga because they remind me every class about staying the moment. As I watch the kids move through class it is a rare event to observe a child getting hung up on the last pose. “Been there and done that” seems to be their mantra when it comes to past asana. When around that type of energy you begin to adopt their attitude. Another magnificent gift of teaching kids’ yoga.
Each time I walk into a studio or classroom to teach kids’ yoga I feel blessed. It is a time where you can always learn how to better your own practice. Please take the time to practice some yoga with your little and young yogis and see what they have to teach you. Enjoy your lessons. J
Is your New Year’s resolution to adopt a mindfulness practice? Would you like to have your kids begin practicing mindfulness regularly? That’s an AMAZING idea! There is so much research that supports the many benefits of mindfulness, including helping us deal with stress.
There are some really wonderful children’s books out there to help with introducing and practicing mindfulness with your kids that may help you stick with your mindful resolution. I’ve used all these books in my classrooms and in yoga workshops and I hope you’ll find them as helpful.
Meditation is an Open Sky by Whitney Stewart and illustrated
by Sally Rippin
This book has kid-sized guided meditations covering
concepts that range from feeling scared, showing kindness,
and calming anger.It is FANTASTIC!
Published by Albert Whitman & Company
Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean
Sometimes even piggies can get frustrated and angry. This adorable book shows kids how to find their own peaceful spot when their world gets a little crazy. There is a second piggy book called Peaceful Piggy Yoga.
Published by Albert Whitman & Company
Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean
Peter is having a bad day. The kids at school are calling
him “moody cow”. His grandpa helps him find some
peace through mindfulness.
Published by Wisdom Publications
Enjoy practicing mindfulness with your little and young yogis. :-)
Through yoga we learn about the 8 limbs, a type of framework to grow and enrich our practice. The 8 limbs not only help adults gain an understanding of themselves and the world, but can also help kids learn some valuable personal and social lessons.
The yamas makeup the first limb of yoga and encompass ideas that can apply universally, regardless of age. Ahimsa is the first concept under the yamas, compassion for all living things. Teaching our children to respect life, to be thoughtful, and to take on an attitude of nonviolence is invaluable. Our children are faced with all sorts of situations, i.e. bulling, that may require them to cultivate ahimsa and they need OUR help to do just that.
Utilizing literature is a wonderful way to impart lessons to our children, providing a safe way to introduce topics and to initiate conversation. One wonderful children’s book that you could use to teach the idea of ahimsa is The Recess Queen. This story speaks to treating others how you’d like to be treated. It’s a great story to use with little yogis just starting school or those who are learning friendship skills. An activity that goes along with this book, and takes yoga off the mat, is to invite your child to make a picture or a card for a classmate who may need a friend. On the mat you could teach your child a pose, like partner boat, that they could do with a friend.
Sister Anne’s Hands is a picture book but not for the littlest yogis. This story would be a wonderful way to introduce the idea of compassion to 10 to 12 year olds. This story focuses on the idea of compassion towards those who look different than us by using the 1960’s and the civil rights movement as a backdrop. Certainly this is a heavy topic but can lend itself to some thought provoking conversations between you and your child. A pose like partner tree echoes the book’s theme by showing kids that to succeed we need to lean on each other for support.
The story The Great Kapok Tree focuses on compassion for animals and the environment. The main character is convinced by a variety of rain forest animals to protect them and the forest. This classic by Lynne Cherry is perfect for any kid yogi. There are so many off the mat activities that can be done with this story, including taking time to pick up trash in the yard and help with the recycling.
Enjoy sharing the idea of Ahimsa, some great books, and a yoga practice with your children!