Type of Pose: Standing

Level: Blueprint

Appropriate for Ages: All

Mountain Pose is known as a “blueprint” pose. The alignment and physiological dynamics of this pose are found in many other postures. Some yoga teachers say that once Mountain Pose is mastered, other poses will come more easily. While from the outside, someone in Mountain Pose may appear to be “just standing there,” from inside the pose, one can feel a strong sense of grounding, as well as extension. Far from being an easy pose, Mountain requires great mental skill and physical endurance.


For Youth

Create context with a discussion about what it means to “stand for” something. Talk about the causes and people that students are willing to stand up for.  Make a list of qualities that are required to make a strong stance including clarity, commitment, stability, perseverance and courage.

1. Stand tall with feet hips distance apart. Place feet parallel. Spread toes and press centers of heels into Earth. Take time to cultivate the connection of the feet to floor. Lift arches.

2. Firm leg muscles, pressing tops of thighs back.

3. Extend tailbone toward heels, lengthening lower back. Firm abdominal muscles.

4. Stretch sides of body, lifting back ribs away from hips.

5. Spread across collarbones, drawing upper armbones back and shoulderblades onto upper back.  Reach down through fingertips. Lift top of chest.

6. Lengthen back of neck, keeping throat open and relaxed.

7. Extend upward through crown of head.

Be a mountain. Remember what you stand for and feel your connection to the Earth and Sky.

For Young Children

See previous post: Jellyfish-Mountain Game

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The medical field has consistently identified self awareness as a hallmark of life long health. The growing Social and Emotional Learning movement has also touted the benefits of clarifying awareness of states of being as a first step toward cultivating higher emotional intelligence.

Try this simple exercise, either in the home or classroom, to boost self awareness and contribute to a healthy day of learning!

1. Take a moment with your child or students to “check in.” How are you feeling this morning? How is your body feeling? How about your self? Describe the feeling as best you can.

2. Now that you are aware of your feelings, decide if this is how you want to feel today. If so, enjoy 5 deep breaths into your feelings, helping them grow and spread throughout your whole being.

3. If you decide that you want to feel a different way today, then enjoy 5 breaths while thinking about the way you do want to feel. Send that feeling  to every corner of your body and fill yourself up with fresh breath and fresh feelings.

This is a simple and quick way to raise emotional awareness and begin to self care. Try this over a few weeks to increase effectiveness and build a healthy pattern of checking in.

In recent weeks, I’ve received multiple requests for yoga games appropriate for middle school age youth. Year after year, the following game is a favorite of my students. This game helps youth develop strategies for coping with distracting and challenging situations.

*Disclaimer! This game works well with a group of students you know very well and trust to be kind to one another. Not recommended for a brand new group or a group experiencing unusual conflict. Students need to display enough maturity to understand the term “mean-spirited” and be able to show a strong degree of self control.

Step One: Ask students to name all of the different balance poses they know. Guide students to practice each  pose as they name them. List the poses on a poster or white board that is visible to all. As a pre-step, be sure to teach students a variety of balance poses in advance of playing this game. (i.e. Tree, Dancer, Half Moon, Crow, Eagle, Warrior 3)

Step Two: Ask for a few volunteers willing to try and keep their balance through a challenge. Explain that they are allowed to change poses and/or change feet, but that they are to be in balancing yoga poses through the whole challenge.

Step Three: Have the rest of the class develop a strategy to try and test “the balancers.” Be very clear that touching, screaming or any other act that could violate their classmates are completely off limits. Let them know the game will stop immediately if anyone behaves in a way that presents any danger at all, be it physical or emotional in nature.

Encourage the class to develop subtle, nuanced strategies like whispering funny words as they walk through the room or clapping in unison. They can also “tip-toe” through the classroom, or make wild animal sounds. Let them develop strategies and make sure they get your approval before playing. Let them know that you will ring a bell when the game is done.

Step Four: Position “the balancers” in the center of the room and ask the rest of the class to apply their strategies for distraction.

Step Five: After a few minutes, ring the bell and have everyone settle. Now, the best part, allow each “balancer” to talk about how they held their balance through the challenge and write them on a white board or poster. Some replies I remember from the past include:

“Hopping and Hoping:” A student said he would hop on one foot for a moment and then hope he didn’t fall!

“Keeping My Eye on the Prize:” Focusing on one spot.

“Staying with My Breath”

“Being Invisible”

“Staying Rooted”

“Just Being Strong”

and, finally, one students reply when asked how she kept her balance through the challenge was, “I didn’t. I fell a bunch of times, but I just got back up and kept playing and tried not to worry about it too much.”

And so, through this lively and age-appropriate yoga game, students developed a short list of coping skills and strategies that apply to many situations “off the mat.” We briefly discussed some of those situations and then students were invited to journal about specific times in their lives they can use their skills.

Depending on the length of your class time, the game can either be repeated to give additional students the chance to “balance,” or it can be played again another day. Be forewarned, your students may request to play this game over and over again! It taps into their need to let go and be silly on one hand, and also harnesses and hones their ability to focus on the other.

If you try it out, let me know how it goes!

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.

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.


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

Adolescence is a time of constant, drastic physical changes. It is common for pubescent youth to feel overwhelmed and confused about  their  transforming bodies. Mindfulness practices offer youth the opportunity to relate with their bodies in ways that can increase awareness and promote positive body image.

The following technique asks youth to consciously observe and feel the sensations in their bodies.

Step One: Lay down in a comfortable, symmetrical position. Close the eyes gently or gaze at one spot. Spend a few minutes relaxing the body from toes to head. Become aware of the inhalation and exhalation, slowly deepening each breath.

Step Two: As the body and mind begin to settle, observe the sensations in the body. At first it may be difficult to focus the mind on the body. If the mind wander, gently guide it back to the body using the inhale. Notice the feelings on the surfaces of the body. As you notice a sensation, mentally note it. For example, if you feel an itch, note “itch” in your thoughts. Then, continue to scan the body and notice other sensations.

Step Three: Move your awareness to the internal body now. Sense the pulsation of the heartbeat. Continue to make mental notes of the sensation. Explore the sensations in the belly region, back and head. Observe and make mental notes for 4-6 minutes to start.

Step Four: Bring the attention back to the breath. Follow the inhale and exhale for 10 cycles. Feel the floor supporting the body and the space all around. Slowly open the eyes, bringing the attention into the surrounding room.

After this exercise, let students share their observations with a partner or journal about their experience. Remind students that it is not necessary to judge the sensations of the body, that simply being with the feelings is the goal.

*image by visionary artist and yogi, Alex Grey.)