August 10, 2011
Breathing exercises for young children focus on building awareness rather than actually manipulating or regulating the breath to the degree adult yoga may teach. Here a few ideas and pointers to make yoga breathing safe, fun and calming for little yogi’s.
- Little Lungs: Remember that little folk have a much shorter lung capacity than adults. When modeling breathing techniques for young children, modify the length of your inhales and exhales to account for this.
- Hiss, Hum, Buzz: Make breathing a fun activity by offering a playful way for children to interact with their own breath. Invite them to inhale deeply, then hiss like a snake on the exhale. End your hissing sound sharply to cue the children to stop. Then start again with a fresh inhale. Repeat, using a humming sound for the exhale and then a buzzing sound. Encourage children to feel the vibrations in their lips and cheeks. Always check to be sure children are inhaling between the sounds and stop the exhale in an appropriate amount of time.
- Feeling Breath Move: A wonderful way to introduce young children to the wonders of breathing is to let them feel the movement of breath in a partner’s back. Be sure to instruct them to use the lightest, most gentle touch, like they would use for a baby. Let them lay hands on the back of a friend in child’s pose and feel how the breath expands in the back of the body. Instruct the friends in child’s pose to breathe into the place they feel hands touching. Play soft music, perhaps harp or piano, to encourage slow calm, slow breathing.
Remind children often to use their breathing to relax in situations where they may feel angry or scared. I’ve had countless parents share adorable stories of their children using their “yoga breath” in all sorts of situations to cope with stress. Make breathing fun now, so children can utilize their awareness for a lifetime.
June 15, 2011
One of my greatest joys these days is rocking my 9 month old son to sleep in his room while listening to music. I’ve been using the playlists I’ve made over the years teaching yoga at pre-schools. Recently, one of my old favorites came on and a flood of beautiful memories filled my heart. I thought I’d share these musical gems with the community. These songs were chosen especially for young children, but can be enjoyed by all. All of these songs have been collected from special sources including my teachers, friends and musicians I’ve met along the way. Hopefully you’ll find something new and off the beaten path to enliven your teaching and/or practice.
For Yoga Play
Balinese Fantasy by Zakir Hussain
Maracatu by Kodo
Daidi 4-4 by Solace
For Calm Yoga
Satie_ Gymnopedie #1 For Solo Harp by Sjur Bjerke, Ellen Sejersted Bodtker
Rag Pahadi by Shivkumar Sharma, Brijbushan Kabra, Hariprasad Chaurasia
For Resting in Sea Star (Savasana)
White Sandy Beach Of Hawai’i by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Peaceful Valley by Peter Kater & Nawang Khechog
January 18, 2011
Teacher: How are you today, Hiro?
Teacher: How did you sleep last night?
Hiro: Oh, okay.
Teacher: Did you get to bed late?
Hiro: Yeah, pretty late. And I had to get up at 5:30am to catch the bus to get here.
One of the most common complaints among teens is being overtired, which leads to whole host of other issues including lack of focus, inhibited learning and just plain grumpiness. One reason teens miss out on a good nights sleep is the shift in circadian rhythms they undergo during puberty. By nature, teens want to stay up later in the night and sleep later into the day based on the changing hormonal situation in their bodies and brains. Their biological clocks literally slow down. Some schools have even tried responding to this teen tendency by re-scheduling the high school day from 11am-6pm, or just starting the day slightly later.
Fortunately, yoga practice offers an effective way to restore energy: Savasana (Sanskrit), or as it’s commonly known in the West, Corpse Pose. Savasana can be a wonderful tool that teens will gravitate to once they buy into it. At first, there may be resistance to the idea of “just laying there,” as the pose appears to suggest from the outside. Other students might have the tendency to fall asleep during the practice. The following five tips are meant to help teens develop the practice of Savasana as a skill they can carry with them through their lifetime.
1. Savasana Appetizer
In most yogic traditions practiced in America, Savasana is dessert; a well deserved rest to savor after an hour plus of hard work. However, there are some schools, like Sivananda Vedanta, that offer Savasana first and throughout the practice. This technique works very well with teens. Give them 5 minutes of rest to begin class and enjoy a much more refreshed group of young people practicing yoga. Short Savasana “palate cleansers” can also be offered between poses to bring teens back to balance as well. For instance, between standing poses and floor poses, give a 2 minute rest. This will also help to avoid distractions during transitions.
2. Play Music They Love
Music can be an effective way to calm the mind for Savasana. However, teens may not respond well initially to the same music that is commonly heard in adult classes. If the instruments and tones are unfamiliar, the music can actually be distracting and have the opposite of the intended effect. Rather than playing music teens hear as “weird,” ask them what they want to hear. Have a conversation inquiring about music that helps them feel calm. This does not mean you will play raucous metal music or inappropriate tunes. But, many teens find popular love songs relaxing. Playing a song they like to get Savasana started is meeting them half way. Then, once the song is over, students are more likely to follow suit with a few minutes of silent relaxation.
3. Enhance the Environment
Darken the lights, spray the room with aromatherapy mist and light a candle. Better yet, assign theses tasks to students, with the exception of the candle. Flameless candles work fine in schools that do not allow the real thing. There are also many products on the market for infant nurseries that project stars and other patterns on the ceiling. These can also help to set a relaxing mood for teens. (More later on the parallels between adolescence and early childhood!)
4. Guided Relaxation
Give clear verbal cues on relaxing the physical body. For teens, cues like “let everything go” may be too vague to begin. Start with the toes and work up to the crown of the head, relaxing each specific part of the body. Once this technique is established, guided visualizations can wok very well and teens love them. Try to always give atleast one minute of silent time for relaxing even when using guided techniques. Slowly build on these minutes until teens can rest in silence for 5-8 minutes.
5. Try an Alternative Pose
For some youth, Savasana feels too vulnerable in the beginning. Try other postures to start. A few options here:
~Laying on the belly making a pillow with the hands. (Turn head to other side half way through.)
~On back with knees bent, arms draped across chest. (Known as Constructive Rest Pose. See our DVD for full instructions.)
~Legs up wall or feet on chairs.
Once students have a deeply relaxing experience and trust the process of Savasana, they will be more likely to practice the traditional posture with less special effects. In fact, I’ve heard from many experienced teachers that teens come in to class requesting Savasana, which is a wonderful indication that they are learning to listen to their bodies needs. There is an attitude among some adults that teens are lazy and just need to get with the program. I couldn’t disagree more. Teens bodies and minds are working overtime to keep up with the incredible changes they are experiencing. They need rest as much as any of us, perhaps even more so.
December 23, 2010
December marked the 12th month of Shanti Generation’s pilot Youth Peacemakers Training. Over the past year, a small group of dedicated teens and teachers have met monthly at Yogaglo to explore the topic and practice of peace. Our main objective has been to develop the meaning of peace and discover how to cultivate a peaceful culture in our lives. Each month, we were guided by masterful guest teachers. In January, Dr. Chris Chapple, professor of Indian Studies at Loyola Marymount University, shared the historical narrative of the peace movement, tracing some of the non-violent practices used in the civil rights movement all the way back to the Jains of India. Each subsequent month, our teens participated in powerful workshops to develop their peacemaking skills.
This month, I asked the group to reflect on the year and think about what motivated them to stay committed to the training. I asked them to simply sit and listen to the answer that would come from their heart. Listening to their answers as they expressed them aloud to the group turned out to be one of those shining moments a teacher never forgets. Each teen shared the same motivation in different ways. The monthly workshops provided a time and place to relax and just be themselves. Perhaps peacemaking is really that simple. Relax…be yourself.
The dialogue reminded me how important it is for teens to enjoy a place in their lives where nothing particular is expected of them. A place wherein they are not being judged, rated, graded or ranked. This peaceful place allows teens to connect to their inner world and learn to regulate emotions, finding balance. Activities like journaling, meditative walks and yoga provide non-competitive peaceful spaces in the chaos that can sometimes occur in teens lives.
Love and Gratitude to all of the parents and teachers who helped to manifest our monthly place of peace this year!