the number one question in kids’ yoga

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savasana has to be the most overlooked and under-appreciated pose in all of yoga.

poor savasana.

afterall, you’re just lying there, doing nothing. how important can it really be?

certainly, you can find better things to do with your kids’ time. handstands, for example! or stretching! or tree!

not.

fact is, savasana is the single most important pose in the whole asana practice. in fact, the entire practice is devised to prepare us for savasana. for, nestled in savasana, is the key to all asana…complete and unaffected stillness and quietness.

oh…and even if yoga didn’t think savasana so very important, think about it: kids, stillness, quietness. seem like good skills to me.

i would go far as to say that the primary benefit of yoga for kids is teaching them how to quiet down, get still, and foster self-control.

overall, i am quite lenient with alignments in a children’s yoga practice, working in broad strokes and general directions. but when it comes to savasana, things get very specific.

this is a pose done lying flat on the back with feet relaxed and about a foot apart, palms open and about a foot from the body, nose faces the sky, eyes are closed.

and as i reiterate repeatedly to the kids, nothing moves. not a finger or a toe. we don’t scratch itches, play with our hair, or pick our noses. we’re working on becoming frozen still.

and herein comes the number one question in all of kids’ yoga. i get asked this just about every class…and in complete sincerity…

“are we allowed to breathe?”

“yes,” i answer, “the parts that breathe are allowed to move. i highly encourage breathing…”

and so, all my kids do eventually emerge from corpse pose alive and intact. thank god they asked me before they just went ahead stopped breathing…

a burn across my whole chest!!!

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so, i’m teaching a class of ten-year-old girls and do these girls love to talk. and talk. and talk.

and one girl is getting sort of lost in the gabble and she announces excitedly that she got a huge burn across her entire chest the day before and then gestures with an outstretched palm across the entire width of her chest. she had everyone’s attention now.

first i’m thinking, “how did that happen? a huge burn across her entire chest? was it a sunburn? cooking burn? god forbid, abuse?”.

then i’m thinking, “why are you at yoga??? why aren’t you at home…or in the hospital????”.

then i’m thinking, “why are you so happy?”.

she goes on to explain that she was cooking and she accidentally hit herself somehow with the pan and it was full of hot oil….and did we want to see?

okay…ten-year-old girls…a little too old to be pulling up their shirts to show everyone their chests. i quickly suggested it wouldn’t be the best idea. but the other girls were adamant and our tragic little burn victim assured me it was okay.

before i knew what was happening, she starts lifting up her shirt for the big reveal…but she stops short of her rib cage (thank goodness)…so it’s not exactly her chest. okay…we’re all girls here.

“do you see it?” she asks.

everyone is confused and searching.

i’m looking hard for this huge disfiguring traumatic swath of a burn. but all i see is a teeny tiny pink mark around the area of her bottom rib. and i mean teeny, tiny, like a baby’s pinkie.

she looks down at her “chest” and points to the little pink line. “there! there it is!”

lots of oohs and aahs all around. her war wound was enough to impress all the other girls…and i guess i don’t have to call child protective services afterall…

 

 

AWKWARD!

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in 11 1/2 years of teaching children yoga, i had a moment this week that has to have been my funniest ever.

i was working in a private home with a boy who had just recently turned five. we were in the middle of the practice when he suddenly announced he needed a potty break. fair enough.

his nanny was nearby and asked him if he would like her to come with him.

now, this boy was a bit late in his potty training, so it was a pretty normal request. his nanny or mom accompanies him fairly frequently on his potty breaks.

anyway, she asks him and he looks at her indignantly and says “um, i’m going to the bathroom. you can’t come!”

then he turns to me, and in the inflection of a seasoned sitcom star sings out “AWKWARD!” and proceeded on his merry way.

i almost died. it was as if i was his hot date and he wanted to inform his nanny “can’t you see i’m with a woman here???”

:D

http://www.miniyogis.com

a hole in my mouth!

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i had a fairly busy day after lunch yesterday.

first i had to meet with a new yoga space…or at least with the person in charge of said space. you know, meet, greet, smile. :)

then i went to teach a class of 14 kids and their parents…all of whom were new to me. you know the importance of first impressions, et al. big smiles all around!!!  :D :D :D

on to my next client, starting with a meeting with the mom, followed by class with her almost-five-year-old son. a boy i’ve been working with for years and who has no inhibitions with me at all.

so, we’re just finishing meditation and he announces to me “shana, you have a hole in your mouth!!!”

i wasn’t sure what that meant. of course, my mouth is a hole, but beyond that, what kind of hole could i have? i asked him where it was…was it my chapped lip, which was a little cracked?

“no! it’s a hole! open your mouth!” i opened the mouth for my pint-sized dentist as he pointed and declared “you have a cavity!”

now, if his dental credentials were a tiny bit stronger (maybe a preschool diploma, at least), i might take this more seriously. but i assured him i did not have a cavity.

“it’s right there! on your tooth! a hole!”

“ohhhhhhh,” i said, “it’s probably just a piece of broccoli that got caught in my teeth.” i poked around a little.

“no! it’s black!”

okay, it was time to get back to yoga. i laughed, “then, it’s blackoli!” and we went on to do our yoga class.

the episode was all but forgotten until i found myself approaching the yoga studio for my next class and i decided to give a quick check in the mirror. in fact, i had what must have been the entire skin of a black bean stuck to one of my teeth and, well, it looked like a gaping hole in my mouth.

i hear first impressions are everything. how awesome that the first 30 people i had encountered since lunch will now have a mental imprint of me with a big gaping hole in the front of my mouth.

but you promised…

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i have one group of preschoolers whose favorite thing to do right after meditation is run over and plop down in my lap. by this, i mean PLOP, not sit. and if i don’t stem the process quickly enough, another child will plop on top of the first and so on, making a ploppy lotus tower of sorts.

anyway, as you might imagine, even with little little guys, if they plop down hard enough it can hurt…especially the kid who gets stuck in the middle.

so, i told the kids that if they plop on top of each other, they will flatten each other out like pancakes. and then after class i would have to carry them out and hand “jamie pancakes” and “kalea pancakes” and “name-your-kid pancakes” to their moms to take home for dinner.

it seems they got the picture, because they proceeded to unpile from my lap and return to their mats. fine. class goes on.

at the end of class, everyone left but for one precious and absolutely edible three-year-old who comes up to me with huge, expectant eyes. she has one of those three-year-old voices that you understand most of what she says, but maybe a few things slip through here and there.

huge smile, she asks me what i thought was “what about the pandas?” i had no idea what she was talking about, so i said “pandas? you mean the spotted doggie toys?”

“no. the pandas!” she implored…i think.

“panda stickers, you mean? i’m not sure if i have any today…”

“no!” she explained, completely deflated, “the pandas you said we could have after class.” i thought she might cry.

and then i realized, she didn’t want pandas. she wanted pancakes and she thought i had some hiding in my bag. man, did my heart break. note to self: sometimes kids take things a little too literally…don’t mention pancakes.

it’s the buddha smash!

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one of my very favorite students has been diligently planning his birthday, exploring his vast options. granted, planning his birthday parties is pretty much a year-round sport for him, but now, just two months away from the big FIVE, it’s time to get serious.

today he asked me–not unlike a formal interview–”shana, do you do yoga birthday parties?”

“of course, i do!” i told him.

“well, what do you do at a yoga birthday party?”

i explained that it’s sort of like his own yoga classes, but even more fun and more games and more crazy…and no one even has to meditate.

no meditation! now, that got his attention. i made it to the second round of questioning.

“oh, cool.” he says in his extraordinarily precocious off-handed manner. “and…have you ever seen a yoga pinata?”

a yoga pinata…now’s there’s something i never thought of! i tried to picture what a yoga pinata might look like…

maybe a guy in seated meditation, full lotus, and as you smash and smash at his, er, equanimity, his mula bandha falls out?

perhaps a girl in handstand, hanging by her feet and once you eviscerate her skull, maybe there are like gummy brains and guts that fall out onto the floor?

or….?

hmmm…that one did leave me at a bit of a loss, but whatever it looks like, i just hope it doesn’t have my face.

kumbaya!

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i was working with one of my all-time favorite students yesterday. this eight-year-old boy hangs on my every word, does everything i say…with a smile, no less, and if he falls, always asks “can i try it again?” if i could clone this kid and work with him all day, i would.

well, add this to his list of awesomeness:

we were in the middle of practice yesterday and he suddenly asks me, “can we sing ‘kumbaya’ in yoga some time?”

i’ll admit, at first the question just cracked me up. i thought the only kids who sang “kumbaya” anymore were the kids of “south park”…as a joke.

but he was dead serious. he wanted to sing “kumbaya” and who was i to stop him?

and, let me add, he didn’t just sing kumbaya. he belted it at the top of his lungs with his huge toothy smile as accompaniment. it was a lot like being back in summer camp in the 70′s (yes, i’m dating myself here), only without the pinky swears and panty raids.

after we were done, he explained to me, “‘kumbaya’ means peace. and the whole song is just like ‘peace. peace. peace. peace. peace.’ because you know…it’s about peace. so it’s enough.”

kumbaya to that, little dude, kumbaya!