the littlest yoga teacher

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the other day, i was teaching a group of 15 kids. the youngest was three. the oldest ten. overall, the group skewed very heavily towards the ten. there was one three.

i was teaching them how to jump lightly from downward dog to the front of their mats. J960x640-123511

the kids were all very impressed. ;)

then, the little one piped up, “like this?”. and she jumped from down dog into a seated straddle. really quite impressive for such a little peanut.

i was definitely amazed and asked her if she learned that in gymnastics. no. tumbling? no. “i taught myself,” she exclaimed. and then went on to humbly offer “want me to teach you?”

how could i turn that down? of course, the answer was yes. at which point, this tiny little girl summoned not just me, but the entire group of “grown up” kids to follow her. “everyone stand up!” she squeaked very loudly. “put your hands here and your feet here and jump!”

okay, so maybe the instruction could use some polishing, but amazingly enough, the whole group did exactly what she said, everyone landing on their tushes in a straddle just like she did.

“now you!” she ordered to me, as i hadn’t jumped yet.

okay, i replied, but i need you to move back a little so i don’t kick you (she was sitting right next to me).

she scooted back and proceeded to jump from downward dog into titibasana (arm balance in a straddle split).

after i landed the jump, i turned to her and asked “like that?”

at first, she was dumbfounded and just looked at me with her mouth open. then, like any great teacher, she smiled, vigorously nodded her head and assured me, “yeah! yeah! just like that!”…as if she had just taught me how to do this remarkable feat.

her next enthusiastic and encouraging words…”want me to teach you another…?”

too. cute. for. words.

what my butt is telling me

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you never know what is going to pop out of a kids’ mouth.

best classes, have to be the ones with the three- and four-year-olds.

i happened to have one of those today and here are some highlights:

a little girl suddenly announcing: “my butt is telling me i have to go potty.”

as she ran to the bathroom, we had to temporarily shift gears until she came back. i thought handstands would be a great option, as these kids love going upside down (and sometimes the girls even remember not to wear dresses to class…).

handstands, it is…

to which one plaintive boy responded: “my stomach is telling me i don’t have the energy for this.” so he skipped his handstand.

lots of talking body parts today.

our junior member–just barely three–who sort of just says anything she’s thinking at any time, piped up in response. of course, i don’t understand a word that she says, but her older cousin is really good at translating for me.

her response: to take off her pants. there on the yoga mat. smiling like the happiest kid on earth.

“imanomodidinow.”

as i tried to get her to put her pants back on, her cousin explained “she’s not wearing diapers anymore.”

a very big deal…so i showered her with praise as i pulled up her pants. but she’d have nothing of it. she was really proud of her underwear and wanted everyone to see it and know about it. undershirt, too…off came the sweater.

by the time the butt-talking girl came back, i had gotten the little one redressed and the boy with the tummy started crying…”i didn’t get to do my handstaaaaaaaaand!”

http://www.miniyogis.com

hey hey hey! it’s justinef!

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i was teaching four little guys yesterday…three preschoolers and one elder statesman from the kindergarten.

one little guy is a family friend, and so though his real name is justin, i call him by his “insider” nickname of deshy.

well, the other kids would have none of that.

i first called justin “deshy” and the others adamantly objected “he’s not deshy! he’s justin f!” (the “f” referring to his last name).

all class, every time i called him desh or deshy, red flags started flying everywhere.

so i explained to the little boys that a nickname is like a name that’s not your real name…something that people who really like you call you. i asked them if maybe their parents called them by different names. of course they did and the boys all piped up what their nicknames are.

“and like when i call miro ‘the hero’, that’s just a nickname, too!” i went on to explain.

oh! lightbulbs all around. got it.

and then…i called justin “deshy” again and the jury went crazy!

“sorry! sorry!” i corrected myself. “justin. not deshy. justin.”

to which they responded in unison, “not justin! justin f!”

despite the fact that there was no other justin the room to distinguish this justin from justin p. or justin r. or even justin q., they were not going to back down. this guy is justin f.

years from now, i can imagine them all sitting around and saying “yeah. when i was in preschool, i totally thought your name was justinef.”

just another sweet little supposi-story

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so, i’m teaching a private to two awesome little four-year-olds…a boy and a girl.

i notice that the girl is scratching a lot…down there. so, i ask if she’s okay, if she needs to go to the bathroom, perhaps…

she says she doesn’t need the bathroom and goes on to explain that it feels like there’s “something up there.”

quickly the boy pipes in “i know!”.

i spin to him…how could he possibly know? i mean, besides the fact that he pretty much knows everything…

“a suppository, right?” he proudly exclaims, his pride in his worldly knowledge gleaming across his face.

her reaction could best explain why the following emoticon was invented —–>  :/

apparently, that wasn’t it.

about that long…

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when i teach kids, they love to watch me do some tricky stuff…arm balances, inversions, funky transitions…things like that.

today, i was teaching a bunch of children–some of whom i’ve been working with longer than others–and they were begging to see a yoga trick. so i did one and they all ooh-ed and aah-ed. and one girl always asks the same thing: how do you do that?

this girl, by the way, is obsessed with handstands and is pretty much trying to kick up every free nano-second available between poses or activities. she’s amazing for her age, but long holds aren’t yet in her cards.

i explain to her that the reason i can do some hard stuff is because i listen, i’m patient, and i practice practice practice.

she responds, “yeah…it’s like you’re a pro.” (some might say that’s exactly what i am…).

of course i try to impart that with patience and perseverance, she can do it, too. i’ve just been practicing for a really long time.

at this point, a boy pipes in–he’s new to this particular class, but not new to working with me–“i know,” he brags, “because you practiced yoga for so long ago with me!”

“yeah,” i agree out loud. and then think to myself…that’s about how long it took me to master this stuff….

fyi…the boy is now 3 1/2 and i’ve been working with him for almost a year…  ;)

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…