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.


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!


  • 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


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


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


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


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


  • 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.

Image by Ilyah Duzhina

Reprinted from Kids on the Mat column, Yogi Times, October 2005

For all ages

What you will need:

  • Space to move
  • Music
  • Your family, friends or classmates

Step One: Choose the music. Pick 3 or more songs that you love.

Step Two: Create a space. Find an area that has some open space. Carefully move away any delicate or breakable items. Ask for help if you need to move anything heavy. Set up a cd, tape, record player or radio. Collect a few items that remind you of a forest such as leaves, pictures of trees in books, toy trees or live plants.  Place them in the center of the space.

Step Three: Gather your family and/or friends. Pretend that each person is a tree in the same forest. Everyone shares what kind of tree he or she would like to be.

Step Four: Play! Take turns being in charge of the music. While the music is ON, everyone gets to dance or do any yoga poses they wish. When the music STOPS,everyone stands tall and still with feet together in mountain pose. Next, take a deep breath in and out. Then, slowly begin to grow into a tree.

  1. Grow millions of roots into the Earth. Spread your toes apart. Feel your roots reaching down and drawing in nutrients from the soil of the forest.
  2. Make your center as strong as the trunk of a tree.
  3. Place the sole of one foot on the inside of the other leg, either below or above the knee. Find your balance by keeping your roots spread wide and your center steady.
  4. Use the forest objects in the middle of the space to focus on. Try to look at one item the whole time. When our eyes get still it is much easier to balance.
  5. Grow branches up and out in all directions.

After a few moments of tree pose, start the music again and begin be a dancing tree. Repeat as many times as you wish. BE SURE to change legs each time you practice tree pose. Remind each other when the music stops to switch sides.


  • Try lots of different kinds of music. All kinds of music can work; slow and peaceful or fast and rhythmic.
  • One variation is to keep the feet rooted to floor while the music is on and move the rest of the body like a tree bending in the wind.
  • If tree pose is easy, try closing your eyes!
  • Name your forest.  Imagine what kinds of creatures and plants will live there.
  • Try this game at birthday parties, sleepovers and even at school.
  • You can also play this game in a real forest making your own music with instruments and voices.

To  learn lots more games and meaningful ways to share yoga with children, join our teachers training course in May in Los Angeles or June in New Orleans. Email abby@shantigeneration.com for more info, or visit www.shantigeneration.com


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


photo credit: Lissy Elle copyright 2009

Today is the Vernal Equinox. The day and night are in balance. Spring has sprung! Nature is celebrating the return of the light with a glorious array of colors, sounds and smells.

This morning my husband and I planted a small pepper plant and seeds of dill, lovage, shiso, cilantro and basil to bless our herb garden. While pressing the tiny seeds into the Earth, I felt their potential to become flourishing, flavorful foods for our family. I thought about the imagery I sometimes use when teaching Child’s Pose to children.

Being in Child’s Pose is like being a seed planted in fertile soil. I remind students to be still and slowly breath in oxygen to awaken their energy within. In this pose, we can imagine soaking in the nutrients and minerals from the rich Earth surrounding us. While we are still, our potential awakens, tensions fall away and we often feel the urge to sprout!

As we sprout, the Sun bathes us in life giving light, inspiring our ongoing journey.

To practice Child’s Pose, start with a soft surface like a rug, blanket or mat. For sensitive knees have an extra padded surface. Sit on the feet with the big toes touching. Make space between the knees. Fold forward placing the forehead to the Earth. Let the arms rest comfortably out in front of the head or beside the body. If the forehead does not reach the floor, stack the fists in a tower or place a dense pillow beneath the forehead.

Keep the hips pressing down onto the feet and allow the heels to splay open. Adjust the spacing between the knees until favorable. If practicing with a friend or family member, take turns gently pressing the lower back and side hips down towards the floor.

Find the breath and watch the inhale and exhale. Just as the day and night are equal on the Equinox, balance the length of the inhale and exhale. Feel your connection to Earth and surrender any worry.

For a few minutes, remain in the pose and visualize yourself growing into whatever plant or tree symbolizes your path for this Spring. See yourself sprout, grow and become the vibrant, life affirming part of nature that you are.

***For kids yoga classes, students can plant a whole garden! Have them make rows of seeds and sprout one at a time into their chosen plants and trees. Talk about growing into healthy foods that heal our bodies.


The final installment in a series of 5 posts on teaching mindfulness to youth. These techniques are geared especially for youth ages 11-15 years.

So far, we have:

  • created a reference point for mindfulness by transforming a mundane activity into one that requires focus. (Part 1)
  • invited students to notice and label the sounds around the room. (Part 2)
  • guided students to pay attention to the sensations with their bodies. (Part 3)
  • directed students to follow and count the cycle of breath. (Part 4)

Now it’s time to bring it all together! Once students have a little experience with each piece of the puzzle, the full activity will be much more successful. Take your time leading your students through the first four phases. When your students give you the indication that they are ready to bring all of the steps together, move on to the full technique. Here are some indications to look for:

  • Increased and prolonged focus evidenced by less fidgeting and more stillness. It is not necessary that students stay perfectly still, but look for students to cease extraneous movements.
  • Students ability to keep attention within own “space.” As students become more adept, they will be able to maintain a more steady gaze, or keep eyes closed, rather than looking around at classmates.

The culmination of these steps are found in the following mindful awareness exercise written as a script for you to read.

Please sit on the floor or in a chair. If you are seated on the floor, please cross your legs and find an easy, steady position for your body. If you are in a chair, place both feet on the floor if possible.

Place your hands gently on your thighs with your palms turned down.  For the next few moments, pay attention to your body. Allow your body to settle into this position. Feel the soles of your feet, relax them. Let your legs be heavy. Feel your sitting bones grounded on the floor or in the chair. Feel that you have a steady, stable seat in this position.

Now, please bring your awareness to your center. Let your belly move with your breath. Allow your belly to be soft and relaxed, yet still supportive of your back. Find your tailbone rooting into the Earth and begin to draw length up through your entire spinal column. Gently draw your shoulder blades onto your back, so your chest is uplifted. Feel the crown of your head  quietly reaching toward the sky.

Now, relax your face. If it feels right to you, close your eyes or gaze softly at one spot.

Relax your jaw. Allow your shoulders to soften a bit. Feel the energy in the palms of your hands.

Now, please listen to the sounds around you. If you are inside, listen for the sounds coming from outside of the room. If you are outside, listen to the sounds around you.

When you hear a sound, notice what that sound is, then listen for other sounds.

Now, listen for sounds happening closer to you… in the room, or right around you.

Notice the sounds you hear, then listen for other sounds.

Now, listen to any sounds happening in your body.

Begin to notice any sensations in your body. When you notice a feeling, be aware of what the feeling is and then move your awareness to other feelings in your body.

Now, bring your attention to your breathing. Let’s count 5 breaths together.

Inhale- Exhale 1

Inhale- Exhale 2

Inhale- Exhale 3

Inhale- Exhale  4

Inhale- Exhale  5

Now count your own breath. Start with the number one. When you notice that you have lost count, simply start over again at number one. With practice, you’ll be able to stay with your breath for longer. Begin counting now. (pause for 1-2 min).

Notice what number you are on now.

Bring your awareness back to your body.

Listen for any sounds around you.

And, slowly open your eyes and bring your attention back to the space around you.

You can use the breath counting meditation anytime you need to connect to yourself and your life.

*** An audio version is available on Shanti Generation’s Yoga Skills for Youth DVD.


copyright Gregory Beylerian.com

Valentine’s Day reminds us of the importance and joy of reaching out to our loved ones and letting them know we care. Fortunately, there is a growing movement in education to extend this practice beyond the calendar holiday and into the daily lives of students in schools.

As my Valentine to you, I am excited to share a sampling of resources I have discovered in my research on the subject of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). For parents, teachers and community members who wish to make an impact on the climate in local schools, there is growing support. Here are a few places to start.

What is Social and Emotional Learning?

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as:

A process for helping children and even adults develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. SEL teaches the skills we all need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work, effectively and ethically.

These skills include recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically. They are the skills that allow children to calm themselves
when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices.

How do we know SEL works?

The movement to implement SEL in schools is not based on speculation. To the contrary, scientists and education theorists have been hard at work over the past decade researching the far reaching benefits of SEL. For a powerful and inspiring primer on the extensive body of research, enjoy the following interview with psychologist, Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence.

What does SEL have to do with Yoga?

Practicing yoga deepens self awareness and enhances our ability to self care, both fundamental aspects of SEL.  In this month’s Yoga Journal, Trudie Styler (wife of Sting), says yoga practice ” is an exercise in listening…it teaches you to tune in to your relationships.”  The ability to  listen deeply is essential to developing empathy, another core component of SEL. While most dedicated practitioners of yoga will enjoy these benefits if studying with a qualified teacher, in my experience, these benefits are greatly enhanced in yoga classes for adolescents due to the nature of class experience. Time spent in dialogue, journaling and self-expression help youth discover ways to transfer their yoga education into daily life situations.

For folks interested in learning more about the connections between yoga and SEL, Shanti Generation’s Yoga Skills for Youth Facilitator’s Training offers a well spring of experiential learning on the topic. We have trainings coming up in Los Angeles and New Orleans.

The Trailblazers of Social and Emotional Learning

Here, I would like to honor a few of the individuals who have courageously carved the path toward Social and Emotional Learning in schools.

“Education is a social process. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~John Dewey

“What will transform education is not another theory, another book, or another formula but educators who are willing to seek a transformed way of being in the world.” ~Parker Palmer

“We’re finally learning that it is not an either-or situation … Feelings and learning and emotion are all very integral to each other.” ~Linda Lantieri

“No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.” ~Paulo Freire

There are way too many incredible leaders in the field to mention here. In closing, I’d like to pay tribute to  one last trailblazer the movement lost this year, Rachel Kessler (1946-2010). Kessler’s The Soul of Education is an excellent book that is sure to upgrade anyone’s knowledge of SEL.

“Kessler celebrates the diversity of beliefs in our free country…But she wisely understands the spiritual emptiness of our times and knows that we ignore the souls of our children at their peril, and ours. Children need encouragement and guidance in struggling with the deeper meaning and purpose of life in a society that glorifies the material over the spiritual.” ~Marian Wright Edelman

A new era of care and compassion in the classroom is coming. I am heartened by the many ways that yoga can help teachers and parents achieve our goals for creating harmonious, loving environments for our youth.