Try It-Yoga for Tinies
Intro: Special thank you to my dear friends Ashley and Caroline for making the following an amazing experience!
Content: Sunday night my dear friend, and everyone’s favorite derby star, Craisy Dukes, asked if I would teach a yoga class to her “Try It” class. This is a one hour class that kids go to to try out new sports. So, yesterday I had my first experience teaching a “real” yoga class! There were seven children, six boys and one girl. They were between the ages that kids are when they are in kindergarten through maybe third grade.
Before teaching the class I consulted my friend, Caroline from teacher training, who I know has recently started teaching yoga to kids at one of the public schools in Providence. She was very helpful, she provided me with an idea of how to set up a class; beginning with a breathing warm up, moving into standing poses and then building up heat by doing “yoga jax,” and the lion, winding down with some poses on the floor and finally corpse pose. Caroline gave me some really good pointers for teaching children which include, smiling a lot, shusing instead of say “be quiet” and most importantly not trying to hold the poses for too long because the kids will get bored. She was right about everything.
This is hands down one of the most endearing experiences I have had in a really long time. It was lovely to introduce ideas and postures to this age of human. Highlights of our 45 minutes together included, an introduction, the lion posture and sharing the story of Uncle Ry from the book, Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth.
Our introduction consisted of joining hands to make a circle. Then I explained to them the word Namaste. My definition for the sake of this age group was, “Namaste means, the beauty in me sees the beauty in you.” With that in mind I asked the children to introduce themselves by saying their name and then looking to the person on their right and letting them know what they think is beautiful about them. Then the person who received the comment was meant to say, “Namaste.” Surprisingly, these kids did a lot better with this than I suspected.
Of all the postures the lion was hands down their favorite. We all sat on our heels and I asked the kids to imagine that they were lions in a very small cage. I told them the idea was that after taking a big inhale you have to exhale a roar, a roar so loud you could break the bars of your cage. Again, Caroline was right, these kids loved making a really loud noise, probably because at school and at home being loud is not always appreciated. That was super fun, but we could only do it twice before they began to get a bit crazy about the idea that they were lions. However I was surprised by how ready they were to collect themselves when I told them to take a deep breath in. “Take a deep breath in,” became a mantra and a gentle command to come back together for more postures.
Our final moment together was corpse pose. All the kids laid on their back with their heads in the middle and I asked them to close their eyes and think about breathing. We all put our heads together to make a MILLION PETALED LOTUS. While their eyes were closed I read a short story from Muth’s longer story book. By the way, this is a really beautiful book:
I read them the story of Uncle Ry and the robber. The story is about giving even if you have nothing to give. I asked the kids to use their imaginations while they were in corpse pose to think about what the story looked like. One of the many priceless moments was after the first line of the story which read something like, “Uncle Ry lived in a house in the hills.”
“Are you imagining the house in the hills?” I asked.
To my amazement the tiniest one yelled, “THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!”
This incited giggles from everyone, myself included, but we quickly recovered and continued on with the story.
When the story was over and everyone opened their eyes I asked them what they saw. Collectively they opted to have me read the story again so that they could compare the images in their heads to the pictures in the book. One kid said, “I wasn’t seeing anything!” and was really happy to read the story again.
Then we had a short discussion about what the story means and how it relates to the activity we did at the beginning of class. I asked the kids how they felt when someone pointed out a beautiful thing on them. I also asked them how it felt to tell someone that there was something beautiful about them.
It seemed to me to be a successful little class. We ended with high-fives and more Namastes. Everyone was engaged, but maybe not entirely focused.
Alas, finding focus is a lifelong goal, one that I struggle with everyday.