As promised, I’m back with some tips from the yogi-nani trade. When I first began nannying, becoming a kid’s yoga instructor, let alone a yoga instructor at all, was not on my radar. My practice was intermittent, I had never picked up a yoga text, and the extent of my experimentation with meditation was from guided ones on YouTube. My teacher training opened me up to a whooollleee neewww woooorld (cue Aladdin music) of yoga and that world was philosophy, my friends. I could probably spend the rest of my life reading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali over and over again and still find new meaning in it with every read. I tell you all of this fascinating information because my New Year’s resolution is to do a better job of weaving yoga philosophy in to my classes, especially my kids classes. For January’s 3-week session, the theme is “New Years and the Niyamas.” Yesterday, we kicked it off with saucha and santosha.
After our ‘Welcome Song,’ I asked if anyone had made a New Year’s resolution and got a resounding, “what’s a resolution??” I explained that a resolution is a decision to make a change for the better, and similar to that, yoga gives us ‘things to do’ called the niyamas in order to lead a happier and healthier life. Saucha is one of the niyamas and means to ‘be clean.’ I read ‘Sara Cynthia’ by Shel Silverstein and then had everyone come to standing so we could clean out our lungs with deep cleansing breaths. From there, we warmed up the body moving through sun salutations and different poses with twist variations. I explained twists also help to cleanse the body by massaging our insides and helping with food digestion. In addition to keeping our bodies clean, it’s important to keep our homes, our towns, and our Earth clean. Cleaning gets a bad rap, but when made in to a game it can become a treat instead of a daunting task. I challenged them to clean up some items using only their toes and teamwork. The game was win-lose, which helped me to segue into santosha, or ‘contentment.’
Contentment is a difficult concept for most to grasp, but explaining satisfaction to children can be especially challenging. After all, most of these children were also just recently told to make a list to Santa- no holds barred. My own nephew’s list included gold and a trip to Sweden. When the children had made their way back to their mats after the game, I asked the losing team if they were feeling great. They responded glumly, “nooo.” I then asked if they were proud of their team for working so well together, which got a “well yeah.” Contentment means you don’t have to always be happy with your circumstances, but you can choose to accept them and make an effort to find the positive in every situation. As a way to assist this effort, we ended class by making ‘Mindful Moment Masons’… an idea I got here. I passed out jars, a plethora of stickers, and challenged the children to be mindful of the abundance in their lives in 2017. Whenever they have a moment that makes them feel positive or happy, write it on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. Whenever they’re struggling to be positive, reverse the challenge– taking a slip of paper from the jar and giving themselves a gift of the memory of that moment. See how many positive things you can put in without having to take any out.
Below is my cheat sheet for the class, including more detail for the yoga sequence and game. Next week, we’ll be discussing svadhyaya (study) and tapas (work hard). Whether you’re a children’s yoga instructor or not, I hope these will help you to teach some littles there is fun to be found in yoga philosophy.