Yoga Treasure Box
June 8, 2010
Last Thursday night, I drifted into sleep reflecting on the past 12 years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching yoga at a dear andwonderful pre-school in Hollywood called The Walther School. It was the eve of our last class before I take maternity leave. I awoke the next morning with this inspiration from dream time; a teaching structure to complete the school year with a review and allow each student to express their learning with the group.
The class opened with reminding the students that this would be our last yoga class together. We could all go on to practice yoga with other circles, but this would the final time that this unique group of people would be together in yoga. I told them that we were going on a special treasure hunt to find a yoga treasure box. First, we built boats (Navasana) and sailed the seas, rowing and searching. Next, we flew like dragonflies (Virabhadrasana III variation) high above the land. Then, we even drove imaginary cars and trucks all around town in search of the prized box. (“Driving” is basically sitting with legs outstretched forward, holding an imaginary steering wheel with both hands, and “walking” forward and back with the sitz bones and legs. Great way to stimulate lower body awareness and gain some lift on the sitz bones for spinal extension).
After all of the traveling to far away lands, we needed a rest. So, while the children were in Child’s Pose relaxing, I placed a beautifully jeweled treasure box in the center of the circle. Of course, when they rose up from Child’s Pose, the room was alive with excitement: “There it is! We found it!”
“Would you like to see what’s inside,” I asked and received a resounding affirmative response. After building their excitement a little more, I slowly opened the box and sloooooowly pulled out a beautiful crystal and rudraksha mala. I explained to the children that our circle is like a mala wherein we are all treasures connected by a common bond. The bond that connects us in our kindness and teamwork. I also explained how a mala works for Japa meditation and what a mantra is. Yogin’s use the beads in meditation. We say one mantra, or affirmation, per bead and make our way around the whole necklace. A mantra is a set of words that helps us connect to our selves and be calm. Together, we created a 3 word mantra to use through out the class: Ocean, Sand, Sailboat.
Next, we passed the mala around the circle. Each child placed the mala around their neck and went to the middle of the circle to share a treasure they had learned in yoga this year. Some shared poses, breathing exercises or simply memories. When students shared restful poses, we whispered our mantra to hold our attention. Another idea is to make a quicker pass of the mala around the circle and say the mantra once per child.
This simple exercise was a great way for me as a teacher to check in on what students have learned and what they value from their learning. It also gave us a chance to honor each and every student for the jewel that they are. I tried this one with two different groups of children. For one group, the mala helped to hold their attention quite well. The other group was a little distracted by the mala, but the exercise still held value.
This exercise could be modified for older children and teens by skipping the opening treasure hunt and presenting the mala at the beginning of class.
In closing, I’d love to share a huge amount of gratitude to The Walther School for over a decade of dedication to their yoga program! To Dr. Gloria Walther, Brenda, Laryl, Zilda and all of the teachers, parents and children….my love and appreciation are yours always.