Kids Yoga – A Magical Language

Peace-Words-1928466For the past month and a half, I have been teaching kids yoga at this new studio where most of the kids speak this other language, from which I knew only the words “yes” and “no”. It is a very interesting dynamic! They do not know most of the songs I have gathered for classes, and neither do they understand the lyrics. When I bring books and read to them, they look at me puzzled at what I am saying, while making up their own stories in their heads from the pictures they identify. Nonetheless, the classes have been productive and very fun; after all, laughter is universal!
It’s been a big learning experience for all of us involved. I have not only learned a few words in this language (especially “Look at me!”), but also how to better get my message through without relying on words so much. Even though it is yoga and we use our bodies and breath, I like to include in my lesson plans a bigger message like a life lesson or moral and set it out for the kids without preaching – this latter skill was probably acquired by me from parenting. But with this language barrier, words won’t settle down like a blanket. So, I use props (books, songs, stuffed animals, etc.) to get their attention and visual understanding. They usually say the animals’ names in their language and I say it back in English. I admit that by now they have learned more words in English than I have in their language…
For the Parent & Child class I teach there, usually the parents help me by translating the core of what I am saying. Sometimes it is crucial that the message goes through since it is important to pay attention to physical alignment, like no extra weight put on the knees in Tree pose, for instance. For the kids-only classes, sometimes parents stay seated nearby and help me translate relevant directions needed for poses. But even when there are no parents class flows through energetic and calming moments, and especially playing a yoga game together will help them get off their minds from trying to understand what I say and just be in the moment playing a game with friends.
I like to observe magic happening all the time in kids yoga classes. Sometimes it is one of the kids smiling when accomplishing a pose they had been trying for a while; other times it is one kid understanding what direction or alignment cue I mean with my words and explaining (or translating) to the others in class; and it is always good to see how quickly they learn when they identify the name of a stuffed animal in English or simply go into a pose as I mention the name of it. Kids absorb information like sponges do with water. We, as adults, need to squeeze our sponges sometimes to get rid of the excessive water and make room for new drops.
One of my favorite magical moments in a kids yoga class is savasana time or the final relaxation. I have mentioned I liked to lead them in visualizations relating to my lesson plan, but this new group has brought me the challenge to help them relax and let go without words. I usually put calm music on, use lotion, a soft eye pillow, or something else and watch as the kids lie on their mats ready to finally reap the benefits of an interactive and energetic class, having found new muscles they are developing, gone through some challenging poses and so many other new things they opened up to. As a long time yogini, I have learned you get as many possibilities in a class according to how open for the new you are, that is, how much of a beginner’s mind you bring to class; and with kids, this is easy! They usually have no big ego to stop them from admitting they do not know everything and are eager to learn.
This past weekend, as the kids lied down for savasana being watched by some of their parents, one of the girls, her first time being there, was totally into it. I went around among the kids, testing their limbs for any resistance, teaching them to completely let go, and this girl’s limbs were fully relaxed. As I told them to come to a seated position so we could finish class, this particular girl did not sit; not because she didn’t understand the language since all the others got up; she was completely “in her zone” so she didn’t even move. I looked at the mom to see if she had noticed and she looked startled. I repeated my instructions, and the two parents present (including her mother) translated my words to their language still to no effect. Her friends could not wait for her to sit up like everyone else. And so, they finally called her name. She then started moving and sat up. We ended class and her mom came to talk to me. She told me she was amazed with what she had just seen. According to this woman, her daughter is a very energetic kid, rarely stopping for more than a few seconds during her day. Apparently she bounces nonstop, but today, to her mom’s astonishment, after going through a yoga journey of poses and games, she was ready to lie down and relax for a few minutes even.
In our today’s world with so many distractions to catch our attention it is hard to find the space in our minds and bodies for some quietude. As kids are enrolled in one activity after another, they go through their days without stopping. Actually, when they stop, for example to wait for the time between things, some kids are given electronics to distract them for that period. As the kids try to handle all that busyness, there is less and less time left to stop and do nothing or even listen to music, sit and enjoy a meal without rushing through it, roll on grass or simply be out in nature. This way, their minds get full and so does the “sponge”, yearning to be squeezed. “Since the modern world moves very, very fast for children, it’s not long before they feel all kinds of pressure (personal, parental, social) to keep up with everyone around them. Yoga functions as a release valve that alleviates pressure and as a foundation to nurture and develop a resilient and resourceful body, mind, and spirit,” says Alexandra De Collibus, founder of a kids yoga studio in Massachusetts. There is way much more going on in kids yoga classes, beyond basic stretching poses and improved body awareness!

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About thowling

Peace, love and light! Thereza Howling.
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