Tag Archives: yoga for children

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…

 

 

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!!!  😀 😀 😀

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.

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!

what it means to be special…

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the other day, i got an email from a mom who wanted yoga for her child for very specific reasons. she listed the reasons and then went on to assure me “…but my child is not special needs“.

ah…special needs. who wants their kid to be labeled as a kid with special needs??? other children have special needs! not my child!

well…here’s the cold, hard fact. every child has special needs. that’s right. every child is a special needs child.

how dare i say that? i’ll take it even further…every person is a special needs person.

come on. what is all the stigma about? we all have special needs, unique experiences, different backgrounds, specific frames of reference. yoga isn’t “one size fits all” any more than life itself is.

every child that i work with gets special attention intended to address his or her specific strengths and challenges, mindsets and attitudes. having special needs doesn’t make a child defective. it just makes him human.

http://www.miniyogis.com

college prep yoga!

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kids these days are pretty amazing with their college prep. mandarin and ballet on monday. tennis and art on tuesday. spanish and french on wednesdays. don’t forget soccer and cooking every thursday. fridays are set aside for swimming…then rest! only one class! weekends…religious school, gymnastics, sports teams. and the most amazing thing of all…these kids are only in kindergarten.

seems you can’t start that college prep too early.

naturally, these parents would like to see their children in yoga, as well. not only because they would like their kids to be well-rounded individuals (one more activity!), but because their kids are suffering from stress and anxiety (go figure!) and they want me to teach their children stress relief, calming, and grounding techniques.

i love working with these kids (and i have a bunch of them). yoga gives them true life skills and these kids are not just smart, but wise. like little forty-year-olds in four-year-old bodies. more often than not, they are whisked into yoga immediately from another activity and are just as quickly whisked away to the next…sometimes mid-savasana. wonder why these kids are stressed out?

and here’s the frustration: time and time again, the moms wind up cancelling the class because yoga no longer fits in their schedule. there’s no time for yoga–the activity that is meant to decrease the anxiety and stress built up by the myriad other classes and engagements that take up every second of these kids’ lives. no one needs yoga more than these pint-sized powerhouses.

it’s amazing how backwards this line of thinking is. granted, yoga won’t get your kid a college scholarship or earn him huge piles of money when he grows up (unless, god forbid, he becomes a yoga instructor), but it will give him the life skills to deal with life’s challenges and stresses and live a mentally stable and balanced life.

if you ask me, i think yoga should be the most important activity these kids do all week.

of course, i’m just a little bit biased…

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this is home.

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it’s not always easy volunteering at a battered women’s shelter. the kids are sweet and polite as can be…but it’s sad. it’s sad that these kids have been taken away from everything that they know: their home, their room, their toys, their friends. as these kids try to piece together some normalcy in living in a group home, adjust to their new surroundings, there are a lot of inner conflicts, insecurities, and pain underlying the whole experience.

i love using yoga with these kids as a tool not only for calming and coping, but for playing and laughing. i love having an hour of seeing these kids smiling.

yesterday, we were doing turbo salutations and a four-year-old boy asked if we could do them even faster than a cheetah. “of course!” i said. and he continued on, telling me that he actually has a little cheetah.

wow. i wasn’t sure if he meant a real cheetah (!) or a stuffed cheetah, but he went on to clarify. “i have the cheetah at home.”

“home” is always a loaded word with these kids. my heart panged.

then, as much to explain to me as to rationalize to himself, he added “this is my home.” that just melted my heart…and i had to tell you…

men!

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the other day, i met a new guy and as i talked, he was sitting there with the most beatific smile, hanging on my every word as if i were the most beautiful and scintillating woman on earth. and all i kept thinking was “awwwwwww…isn’t that cute?” the guy was five years old. well…almost five.

he was joining one of my mini yogis classes that day with one of his friends and we all had a few minutes to bond over finger food before class started. this boy was absolutely entranced with me. he laughed at all my jokes, answered all my questions, and i thought, “phew! i’ve got this kid wrapped around my little finger. he’s going to be a great listener in yoga.”

if only it were that simple!

when we rolled out the mats, my five-year-old admirer suddenly became that obnoxious guy at the bar who tries to get your attention by being arrogantly aloof, defiant and smugly smiley…showing off for the other kids how cool he really is. cool guys don’t listen to teachers. and they never allow themselves to be wrapped around some broad’s finger.

how did this precious little peanut become such a pint-sized recalcitrant nightmare? ultimately, it was probably my fault. when you are too jokey or chummy with a child before class, all they want to do with you is joke and play. you can’t just go from shana-clown to shana-yoga-teacher…no matter how fun you make the class. it’s like a bait-and-switch.

as with all men, there is a fine balance between getting the little guys to fall under your spell, but also always reminding them who’s really boss.