We’re continuing our New Years and the Niyamas theme this month with tapas (working hard/ discipline) and svadhyaya (self-study.) As I stated last week, I could spend the rest of my life studying the sutras and just barely scratch the surface. There are so many wonderful ways to reinterpret them in your life… and; therefore, so many creative ways I can interpret them for a children’s yoga class. This Sunday I stretched the theme a bit in order to make these somewhat elusive sutras understandable for the kids.
We started out class as we always do with a little circle time discussion before our welcome song. I asked if anyone had a sport or activity outside of school they were passionate about or committed to practicing. As we went around the circle welcoming everyone, they had the opportunity to share that activity if they wanted. We had everything from ballet and cheerleading to jump roping and martial arts. I then explained all of these activities require passion, that little fire in us that encourages us to work hard in order to get better. That is exactly what tapas means, the fire and discipline that is necessary to stick with our practice of yoga, as well. Then, we took the opportunity to breathe a little fire in to our practice with dragon’s breath!
After our breath-work, we briefly chatted about the second sutra we were weaving in to our class for the day- svadhyaya, or self-study. I knew if I tried explaining the intricacies of svadhyaya according to Patanjali (observing our habits and discerning when they come from an ego-based place as well as deepening our study of yoga by reading spiritual texts) I would hold their attention for about 10 seconds, so instead I explained the best way to learn more about ourselves is by making an effort to learn more about others… And just like we have activities and sports we’re passionate about in this yoga room, people all over the world do, too.
We breezed through a few rounds of sun salutations to warm up our bodies and then I placed a world map labeled with the continents and oceans at the top of each student’s mat to begin our journey around the world. We stopped on each continent to explore what sports are popular in that region with some creative yoga poses. Once we had made our way back to North America, we took a minute to rest in child’s pose. Then, we wrapped up class by coloring in the continents and oceans on our maps and talking about places each of us have traveled. I told them travel is the best way to educate yourself about other cultures and can teach us that regardless of our outward differences, we’re all more alike than we think. We also all share the same need for a little rest and relaxation and ended class by settling in to savasana.
Here is my cheat sheet for the class… once again, I hope you all find some fun in yoga philosophy.