Walking meditation was not the first yogic technique that came to mind when developing curricula for teen yoga classes. Yet, it’s that practice which helped my students find a deeper connection not only to yoga, but to the planet and their place on it.

Read article here on elephantjournal.com

And please recommend it if you like it.

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People often ask me for a list of the potential benefits of yoga practice for children and teens. Here I’ve provided a starting place for creating a comprehensive list. Please fill in with any additional benefits. I will compile them all into one list and repost for communal use. Please invite friends to participate!

Physical

  • Overall muscular strength and tone are increased
  • Increased muscular strength contributes to joint health
  • Aids in digestion and elimination
  • Boosts metabolism and weight loss
  • Improves flexibility
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Builds balance and coordination
  • Improves overall body awareness

Mental

  • Develops concentration and focus
  • Teaches students how to work with their minds
  • Releases tension
  • Improves quality of attention
  • Develops mind/body connection

Emotional

  • Promotes emotional awareness and ability to manage emotions
  • Encourages calmness
  • Teaches students to respond, rather than react
  • Promotes self control

Social

  • Boosts confidence
  • Teaches self respect and respect of others
  • Encourages altruism
  • Develops empathy

Spiritual

  • Encourages connection to inner self and innate wisdom
  • Enhances understanding and experience of interconnectedness

Academic

  • Enhances learning readiness
  • Encourages self-discipline

Teach kids about the health benefits of practicing yoga. Kids are more likely to be dedicated to their practice when they understand the immediate and lasting positive effects of yoga.

A Bowl Full of Yoga

May 5, 2010

This article is reprinted from the Kids on the Mat section May 2006 issue of  Yogi Times. Over the next week, I’ll be posting additional columns I wrote for the magazine.

A Bowl Full of Yoga

Sometimes when sharing with people that I teach yoga to kids, the response is: “That’s cool. Can kids really ‘do’ yoga?” With a deep breath and steady eyes, I reply that kids can not only ‘do’ yoga, they can BE yoga and, in fact, they ARE yoga. We all are!  We’re just all at different phases in the process of recognizing that beauty.

Investigation into the art of teaching kids yoga reveals that there are multitudes of ways to engage kids authentically in yoga practice.  In Deborah Rozman’s book, Meditating With Children, she offers the idea that imagination is the part of our being which lives closest to the soul. Most children still have direct access to their imaginative faculties, a gift that so many of us let weaken over time. To keep that channel alive and open is an important element of unification within our being.

Of course, there are challenges to sharing yoga with kids. For instance, encouraging kids to remain supine during savasana can be very interesting.   In search of creative ways to successfully facilitate this essential portion of the practice, the instinct emerged to imaginatively engage student’s minds during the process of letting go of the physical body. Hence the bowl full of yoga was born.

The next time you feel inspired to share a bit of calm, relaxing time with your young ones, I invite you to read the following meditation aloud slowly, pausing for a few seconds between sentences. Start sitting on the floor and have a blanket handy.

Cup your hands as if you are holding a special bowl. This is your yoga bowl and right now it is full of yoga.

Slowly lie down on your back and place the imaginary bowl on your belly. Be careful not to spill the yoga. Make your body comfortable while you take deep, smooth breaths. Feel the bowl moving gently as you breath in and out.  Rest peacefully and still while you picture in your mind what your bowl looks like.  Remember, if you wiggle around the yoga could spill out one drop at a time. If you are very still, you will have a bowl full of yoga when we are finished.  Visualize what the bowl looks like and what it is made of.  Imagine what size it is and how it feels.  Notice its’ color and any designs, patterns and textures.  Look inside of the bowl to see what your yoga looks like.  Pretend that you are resting inside of the bowl now and experience what it feels like to be surrounded by yoga.  Now take a couple of deep, slow breaths. It’s good for the bowl to move with your breath, in fact that makes the bowl stronger and more able to hold yoga.  Imagine that you can offer this bowl full of goodness to someone who needs it. Who will you offer your bowl to? When you are ready, take the bowl into your hands and put it beside you. Roll to one side and use both hands to lift yourself up to sit.

Enjoy a few moments of sharing the visions of the bowl and have art supplies on hand to create a memory of the experience. Invite students to think about sharing their bowl of yoga with others.

Below the drawing one of my students made of her bowl of yoga, she wrote: “I gave it to the warrs. To talk out their problems and not get hurt. To stop shouting and killing.” Julia, 8

Ahimsa Mandala by asiantees.blogspot.com

This past weekend marked the second workshop in our year long Youth Peacemakers Training at Yogaglo. February’s workshop focused on developing the meaning of peace and non-violence. To help us accomplish this task, I invited Dr. Christopher Key Chapple, Navin and Pratima Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology at Loyola Marymount University, to guide our teens in a workshop on the foundations of non-violence, ahimsa (Sanskrit).

Ahimsa, one of the Yamas (restraints) in the eight-fold system of yoga,  is sometimes referred to as the first step on the path of yoga. Dr. Chapple brought this essential aspect of yoga philosophy alive for our youth participants by providing an historical account of non-violent movements in America including those led by the Quakers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since all of the students were familiar with the abolishment of slavery and the civil rights movement, the information was immediately relevant. Then, Dr. Chapple traced back to the work of Ghandi in India before revealing the roots of ahimsa as developed by ancient Jain traditions.

Dr. Chapple, a celebrated and revered professor, modeled an effective system for teaching yoga philosophy to youth.

1. Create context. Before teaching the traditional meanings of particular aspects of yoga philosophy, present current or historical narratives that are relevant to the  knowledge base youth already possess.

2. Build a bridge. How do the ancient yogic practices relate to life today? Help students develop their own understanding of yogic philosophy by guiding them to make connections to their daily lives.

3. Reveal the Roots. Sharing the origins of yogic philosophy can be intriguing for youth once there is context and basic understanding. Many youth are inspired to learn that they are participating in an ancient practice.

To learn more about yogic philosophy, check out Loyola Marymount University’s Yoga Philosophy Program. You can also catch Dr. Chapple’s 1st Sunday talks on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras FREE on the Yogaglo site.

Great News: In the near future, Dr. Chapple’s presentation on ahimsa to youth will be available on Yogaglo as well! Stay tuned for details.

Check out Shanti Generation’s Yoga Skills for Youth Peacemakers DVD for examples of how to weave yoga philosophy into yoga practice in youth-friendly ways.