The Pint-Sized Optimist with a Full Gallon of Self-Confidence

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the other day i was teaching an awesome little five-year-old. this guy has the biggest eyes and the brightest smile and–just ask him–he can do anything.

anyway, i found myself talking to his mom when he wandered off and found one of my “bop it” games. naturally curious little kitten that he is, he asked me to show him how to use it.

if you’re not familiar with the game, “bop it” is like really fast, electronic “simon says” where simon always says. it gives you rapid commands that you follow by bopping, pulling, twisting, flicking, and spinning little do-hickies that are located in various places on the toy. get it right and quickly and it keeps on giving commands. if you get it wrong or are too slow, your turn ends and the computer voice guy says something nice–or snarky, depending on which version you buy.

this kid picked up the nice one.

“bop it” is a fabulous game for focusing, staying calm, keeping a clear mind, and for mind-hand coordination. but it’s really designed for older kids. not an easy game to play at all.

so, this little dude is trying to play the game and keeps getting out on the first try. the thing would say “bop it” and he’d spin it. “spin it” and he’d pull it. “pull it” and he’d flick it. etc. etc. etc.

i felt bad that he couldn’t really play the game and told his mom “it’s really a game for much older kids. i don’t think he can really do it.

and just as i said that, he missed on the first command…again.

and the computer voice guy says in his most chipper encouraging inflection “that’s okay! you can do it!” (the timing couldn’t have been more perfect)

so, the little boy turns to me with a big smile “yes i can! he said i can!”

and, by golly, he kept on playing until he really did figure it out. by the time he was done, he had about a dozen moves in a row…better than a lot of adults i know can do!

all it took was a tiny message of faith and encouragement…from a pre-programmed computer.

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…