Yoga for Helping Children Cope with Disasters
January 13, 2010
On September 11, 2001, I was set to teach a yoga class to young children ages 3-6. Horrified by the mornings events, I called the studio, Yoga Works, to find out if we were still having classes. I had hoped the answer would be ‘no’ because I was not sure how to approach the days lesson. The response from the studio was that we would maintain our regular schedule because the community needed the serenity of yoga that day more than ever.
Driving to class that afternoon, I kept the song “Across the Universe,” covered by Fiona Apple, on repeat. The song helped me cope with my own feelings of sadness, fear and confusion. By the time I got to class, I was centered and ready to be present with the students.
Because the students were so young, some did not know the specifics of what had happened that morning, but everyone could feel the tangible loss and worry. To begin class, I asked the children to share a pose that helped them feel safe and healthy. One by one, the dozen or so children shared their poses and the rest of the class joined in.
Next, I asked the children to sit back to back, supporting each other and feeling the movement of breath in each other’s backs. Then, we practiced a few partner poses including “Lizard on a Rock,” in which one person is in Child’s Pose (Rock) while the partner rests gently on the “rock’s” back like a “lizard.”
Finally, we spent the rest of our class passing around a chime and making wishes for people who needed them. We started by making wished for ourselves, then our families, and eventually people around the world who needed extra love and caring that day. To end class, we dedicated our resting time to all of the children in the world who needed a good rest.
Overall, the experience of providing children a safe place to be on a tragic day was a true honor to me. What a privilege it is to serve children in this way. I remember these easy steps as I enter the classroom tomorrow and take the role of guiding middle schoolers through the process of coping with news of the disaster in Haiti.
1. Take care of yourself first. Get centered and calm.
2. Check in with students and allow them to express their thoughts and feelings. Ask them to share something that makes them feel safe, as well.
3. Try engaging students in partner work so they feel supported and in community.
4. Take the time to send wishes and loving kindness to each other and those in need.
5. Dedicate the practice to those in need.
(Artwork above by Emeka! Okoro www.peacepeas.com/ blog/tag/imagekind/ )