To be a kid’s yoga teacher you need to love 2 things a whole lot, yoga and kids. Some yoga teachers recoil and run in the other direction at the thought of teaching kids. For me and the Nitya Living teachers though, we run into the room and are eager to take on the challenge of instilling stillness and silence to little humans who typically are loud and active. Most of the time it works. We can see how yoga is a tool for children to self-regulate their emotions and manage themselves mindfully by just focusing on their breath.
Here are 3 inspiring stories: One of the venues where I teach is at a school for exceptional education where children with various behavioral disabilities and traumas can safely learn. For legal reasons I am not told what their disability or trauma is which leaves me to just focus on delivering a fun class regardless of whether there is an autistic kid loudly stimming (self-stimulating behavior typical for autistics) or a fight has broken out. One day I rolled out the mats and realized I was short by one. For these students I try my best to keep things calm, familiar, and without upset on my end. As I am scrambling in my head to think of a solution, Sincere, who is a very quiet but super sweet boy immediately jumped off his mat and offered his to the student who was left without one. His actions were so self-less, so considerate of others and genuinely kind. Truly we are all capable of such acts of kindness.
A dear student of mine, Juno, has been a student of mine for many years. She attends Fox Elementary school where I teach a mindfulness yoga program to all grades K-5 plus she also comes to my summer yoga camp. Juno had told me with some trepidation about a growth on her cheek that was going to be surgically removed. She told me how anxious she was about this procedure and I reminded her to use her breathing techniques. So here is an email I got from her mom:
Today we had to wake Juno at 5am to take her into St Mary’s Hospital for some facial plastic surgery on a enlarged cyst. She had done her worry sheet with you last week and so when she opened her eyes and I told her today was the day she started crying and panicking and I asked what you would suggest if you were there. I got her to breathing and we talked through the last session you’d had and she was calmed within minutes. I had given her a detailed timeline of what would happen a few days before so then she just got on with the steps and of course the staff in the hospital were beyond amazing. She woke up very disorientated and weeping and unable to see. Again we started breathing together. I’m not sure she even knew who I was at this point – she calmed down and lay back to rest. At ever step I was able to get her to manage her responses and I just felt such joy for what you do and the team at Fox who help fund this program and that my kid, in public school, can help herself stay focused in strange and scary situations, even when under the influence of some mind-tripping medications.THANK YOU Nitya.
The third story is about an activity I did this fall at Fox Elementary focused on mindful eating. When we think of mindfulness concepts we must realize that every part of our day is meant to be lived mindFULL not mindLess. I instructed the students to take their organic Virginia grown apple slice and first look at it carefully noting color variations, then feel it noting the texture of skin and flesh and any bumps or bruises, then closing eyes to smell the apple, finally slowly eating the apple slice by chewing it until it is like applesauce noting if there is a different flavor on one area of the tongue than another, lastly swallow the very chewed up apple noting how it feels going down your throat. The picture with this article is from one of my classes. The benefits to eating mindfully without conversation or screens is 1) you are less likely to overeat – when your mind and body are communicating you notice when you are sated 2) The body absorbs more nutrition when you eat mindfully rather than just shoving food into your mouth 3) Your body digests food more effectively which means less spit up burps, indigestion, and tummy aches. The students love this activity! Try this at your next meal and note the difference in how you experience your food. Mindful eating is also about choosing mindfully how you nourish your body. Are you going to grab a bag of chips for a snack or have sliced apple and nut butter? Do you throw a frozen dinner in the microwave or make your own food from wholesome ingredients? I always tell kids to choose foods that come from trees and the ground like fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. No sad meals!