Friday, January 25, 2008

Yoga with kids today

Last Friday of every month I teach yoga to kids in my 7 year old's class. These are lower elementary kids (1st-3rd graders), ages between 6-9. There are about 30 kids in the class. I break them into groups of 10 and then we do 30 minutes of yoga per group. I started teaching last year in Feb to 4-6 year olds. I found the kids picked up yoga very quickly. So I continued it into elementary class. But of-course the support of the teachers and the school was important in introducing this into kids of this young age. My older daughters' class has a yoga card collection and her teacher herself is a yoga practitioner.

Several of the kids I teach were familiar with the poses as their parents practiced yoga. I have been teaching this group since September and most of these kids really enjoy it. I have taught them the basic poses, but I found adding jumping jacks and animal poses makes it more appealing and interesting for them. We would do the typical standing and sitting poses with 5 minutes of savasana, which they so lovingly call "the dead pose". They love the dead pose.

The challenge in teaching kids of this age is that they will certainly not do the pose correctly, some of them have a difficult time staying still. Its is the concept and awareness that makes it fun! And the ultimate reward is that you have planted the seed for the future.The kids are very open to new ideas and relish on it. I started from the very basic jumping, geometric and animal poses and slowly added more interesting ones. After 4 classes I was able to add the hand-stand pose (adho mukha vriksana) and suprisingly the kids responded to this pose extremely well. My 7 year old can perform this pose and the salamba sirsana quite well and she became my demonstration assistant. The kids thoroughly enjoyed it and we ended up spending a majority of the 30 minute class with wall supported downward dogs and hand-stands. I was simply amazed at how much the kids enjoyed it and they wanted to just perform handstands. That was the cue to me -- they wanted more, so here was my chance to add some more.

Therefore in today class I announced to the first group that we were NOT doing hand-stands, but instead I was going to introduce some new ideas such as sequencing and a new concept. The concept was "breath meditation". So at the start of the class when we sit in sukhasana and chant 3 OMs, I instructed them to focus on their breath, the inhalation and exhalation. I was pleasantly suprised by how well they responded. They are proficient at lifting up their sternum, sitting up straight, lengthening their spine and rolling their shoulders back, so adding the breath focus was easy. Then we performed the following sequences :

1. Tadasana to Warrior Pose II to Triangle Pose (Both sides)
2. Tadasana to Urdhva Hastasana to Uttanasana to Downward Dog, to Child Pose, Downward Dog, Uttanasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Tadasana
3. Sitting poses starting with Virasana, Janursirsasana, Paschim-uttanasana, Badakonasana

We ended with a 10 minute Shavasana with instructions from me to re-observe their breath. It was really incredible to see these kids respond so well to this new idea. Usually there are laughs and giggles when they are in "dead pose". Almost every kid went into a proper shavasana. Eyes were mostly shut. Some took their time to come out of Shavasana. These are 7 year olds!!!! I couldn't believe it. One kid commented that meditation helps you concentrate better. Yes it does! I told them if they could learn to focus on their breath, and keep their attention on it, imagine how well they could do their lessons and projects in class and when they needed quiet time and concentration. I encouraged them to practice it with their parents that evening. It really made my day today. I felt incredible joy that I had made an impact. All the rowdy and impatient ones were calm and composed. I couldn't ask for more! Thanks kids and thanks Amy -- you made my day!

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