learning life through yoga
, mountain pose
The word yoga means “to unite” or “to join.” It comes from the Sanskrit root yuj. Through the practice of yoga
postures and breathing exercises we learn to unite body, mind and breath. Through practice, we also learn about ourselves, and ultimately, how to live harmoniously
with our neighbors close and far. My young students often translate yoga as “working together,” “helping each other,” “teamwork” and “cooperation.” The practice, according to Sage Patanjali, can be difficult however. We may experience many obstacles along our way: hatred, anger, self-importance and unhappiness.
To overcome these obstacles, Patanjali advises us to:
• Be friendly to those who are happy.
• Be kind and compassionate to those who are suffering.
• Be happy when someone does something good.
• Practice equanimity when someone does something wrong.
Children can come to understand these fundamental yoga principles through the practice of group yoga games. Such games emphasize play and are non-competitive; the emphasis is not on winning, but on working together towards a common goal. Each player is a necessary part, and no one is left waiting for a chance to partake.
Group games increase student participation, cohesiveness and teambuilding, cooperation and communication and develop social skills. Children learn to share, to empathize, and to relate to their classmates. In addition, cooperative group games boost children’s self-esteem, feelings of acceptance and instill trust.
Moreover, leading developmental experts agree that play is one of the most important elements in healthy development. Making yoga fun and playful will create a lifelong love of the practice.We’re All It
This is a variation of Tag. Everyone gets to be “it.” Children are not singled out; there is no pressure of being “it,” nor the feeling of isolation that may accompany being “it.”
1. Ask children to freeze in their favorite yoga posture. Then, one by one, “unfreeze them.” The unfrozen children may freeze again in another posture or unfreeze their classmates.
2. If a child is unfrozen, she has a choice: freeze again in a new yoga posture, freeze someone who is unfrozen by tagging him, or unfreeze someone who is frozen by duplicating their yoga posture.
3. Variations: Children may only practice wide legged postures such as Warrior I, Warrior II or Triangle. To unfreeze classmates, students must crawl under them. Alternatively, practice only standing balance poses such as Tree, Dancer and Warrior III.Musical Chairs
This is a cooperative game for older children. It encourages trust and confidence and requires attention. You’ll need some music, but no chairs.
1. Have the children form a circle then turn towards their right (left shoulders to the center of the circle).
2. Ask them to move comfortably close, so that the circle becomes smaller.
3. Put on some music and ask the children to walk in their circle.
4. Stop the music. The children will bend their knees and sit on the thighs of the child behind them in “chair pose.”
5. Start and stop the music up again.
6. Variations: Have the children turn around and move in the opposite direction. Or, raise their arms overhead as they sit.Mountain Range
Creativity and problem-solving skills are necessary for this game. It also requires the group to cooperate and move together; it encourages camaraderie.
1. Ask the children to stand side by side in a line, in mountain pose, their feet hip-width apart. Each foot must touch the foot of the person on each side.
2. The group has to walk across the room without separating their feet from their partner’s.
3. If the group comes apart, they must begin again.
4. Variation: Ask the children to walk on their toes.
Have fun with your children, stay present and engage in their laughters. They will love you for it.
Darlene D’Arezzo is founder and director of Kids’ Yoga Circle - kidsyogacircle.com