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!