Grown ups sometimes come into a kids yoga class with the expectation that it will be quiet, orderly, and that their child will participate and pay attention the entire time. Part of my job is to help them let go of all of that.
Although there are moments, children’s yoga classes are not quiet. One of the most refreshing (and challenging) things about teaching kids yoga is how transparent they are; they will say whatever comes to mind. They wander in and out of poses (and sometimes fall out of them). In younger classes, they wander around the room. My job is to keep them engaged, but I do not expect them to do every pose.
The feedback I get consistently from parents is that children who don’t appear to be paying attention in class actually are. They’ll do poses at home that they never do in class, sometimes singing all the words to songs and teaching siblings or playmates.
I’ve taken yoga classes with my own 5-year-old daughter since she was an infant, so I’ve not only seen all the typical child behaviors as a teacher, I’ve experienced a lot of them as a parent in class. Lately, a lot of yoga classes with Maya (and any practicing in her presence) has had an element of Mommy-Jungle-Gym:
photo by Siobhan Hanna Photography/ All Rights Reserved
So, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go when Maya and I went to the YoKid Challenge last week and I was asked to lead a quarter of the event’s 108 sun salutations. In fact, Maya was climbing on me so much during the set before mine, that one of the other coordinators offered to find someone else to lead my set. At that point, Maya became insistent that she would stay on her own mat and she wanted me to teach.
Maya blew us all away, participating in all 27 sun salutations in my set. Now, Surya Namaskar B counts for 2 during the YoKid Challenge and we did do a few of them, but that was still far more than the 2 to 4 sets that’s typical of a kids yoga class.
We were joined by two representatives from the Alexandria police force showing their support for YoKid:
Maya was very concerned that the officers did not remove their shoes and left footprints on the mat. We assured her that it was ok, just this once.
Maya demonstrating a Warrior 1 form variation that’s very typical of her age group.
What your answer and mine probably have in common is that heros tend to be people who have consciously decided to contribute their energies to positive change in the world. That is also my definition of Karma yoga.
Yogis toss the work Karma around quite a bit. The popular notion of karma as “what goes around, comes around” isn’t quite it. Different religions and philosophical systems have different interpretations of the same basic concept of the energetic impact of your life’s actions, but in yoga, karma as selfless service is one of the possible paths to enlightment:
The word karma is derived from the Sanskrit kri, meaning ‘to do’. In its most basic sense karma simply means action, and yoga translates to union. Thus karma yoga literally translates to the path of union through action.
Not all of us are prepared to dedicate our entire lives to a cause, but we can all consiously decide how we want to participate in the world.
Need a little more inspiration? In honor of Mahatma Ghandi’s 143 birthday, MC Yogi posted a video tribute:
The Power of We
That’s the theme of this year’s Blog Action Day, an annual event designed to “unite the world’s bloggers by posting about the same issue on the same day, in order to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all.”
“The Power of We is a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world, either for their own communities or for people they will never meet half way around he world.”
Ideas for Taking Action: Democracy Requires Participation
You might have heard that this is an election year in the United States. The next 4 years of executive branch governence, the entire U.S. House of Representatives, and 1/3 of the U.S. Senate offices are up for election. Not only that, countless state and local races for state and city government, school board, and more will affect our lives in sometimes very immediate ways.
Perhaps learning about your election candidates seems like a small thing, but as a concious decision, it is karma yoga.
Want to do more? Consider going door to door for candidates to get out the vote. Distressed that DC doesn’t have a vote in Congress and our presidential election outcome is not really in question? Virginia is considered a swing state in the presidential contest and Maryland often has hotly contested congressional races . . .
Like many mothers of girls, I’ve struggled with the rise of the princess culture. Until quite recently, we were all about princesses around here. Maya owns each of the tiny fashion dolls, a couple of the Barbie-sized dolls, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty costumes, princess underwear and several items of bedtime-wear with princesses. And my impression is that we’ve been fairly conservative in princess acquisition (the majority of which is hand-me-down in origin). We could have purchased clothing, furniture, bedding, lunch boxes, toothpaste, shampoo . . . even grapes.
I don’t remember owning much princess paraphernalia as a child. Sure, there were princesses, but there wasn’t a Disney Princess marketing machine the way there is now. There was almost a blog post here titled “Not Really a Ball Kind of Girl” (though I did get all gussied up and attend one once) where I was going to reminisce about my Cinderella dress.
When I was a kid, there was a dress at my grandmother’s house dubbed “the Cinderella dress” because it was old fashioned and twirled very satisfyingly. The thing about it is that it was clearly the scullery maid Cinderella dress – patched, faded, ragged in spots. While I have no doubt that I would have accepted a Disney-branded dress, I’m not sure they existed. Star Wars, on the other hand, had a marketing machine and features prominently in my memory of childhood toys and games.
According to the New York Times, Disney didn’t begin marketing princesses independently until 2001. Andy Mooney, who worked for Nike before taking over the Disney Store princess line of merchandise explains:
We simply gave girls what they wanted, although I don’t think any of us grasped how much they wanted this. I wish I could sit here and take credit for having some grand scheme to develop this, but all we did was envision a little girl’s room and think about how she could live out the princess fantasy. The counsel we gave to licensees was: What type of bedding would a princess want to sleep in? What kind of alarm clock would a princess want to wake up to? What type of television would a princess like to see? It’s a rare case where you find a girl who has every aspect of her room bedecked in Princess, but if she ends up with three or four of these items, well, then you have a very healthy business.
Does the Pervasiveness of Princesses Harm Girls’ Individuality?
For most princess objectors, it’s not really the merchandising that’s a problem (though, that is sometimes hard to take too), it’s the messaging. But experts will tell you that the sheer volume princess appearances in a girls life, the pervasiveness of that message, IS a problem.
“Playing princess is not the issue,” argues Lyn Mikel Brown, an author, with Sharon Lamb, of “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers’ Schemes.” “The issue is 25,000 Princess products,” says Brown, a professor of education and human development at Colby College. “When one thing is so dominant, then it’s no longer a choice: it’s a mandate, cannibalizing all other forms of play. There’s the illusion of more choices out there for girls, but if you look around, you’ll see their choices are steadily narrowing.”
There are no studies proving that playing princess directly damages girls’ self-esteem or dampens other aspirations. On the other hand, there is evidence that young women who hold the most conventionally feminine beliefs — who avoid conflict and think they should be perpetually nice and pretty — are more likely to be depressed than others and less likely to use contraception. What’s more, the 23 percent decline in girls’ participation in sports and other vigorous activity between middle and high school has been linked to their sense that athletics is unfeminine.
That makes me wonder about the current state of politics and what’s become known as The War on Women. What are the long-term implications of waiting for your prince to come as a preschooler?
Princesses Are Just A Small Part of Gender Inequality in Media
There are simply more boys than girls represented in media with male speaking roles outnumbering female roles 3 to 1 across G-, PG-, PG-13, and R-rated films.
Female characters are presented in a sexualized way 5 times more often than than male characters and are 3 times more likely to have an unrealistically “perfect” body.
Animated, G-rated programming presents the biggest imbalance, not a safe-haven for girl self image.
Girls are princess or nothing at all . . .
A Different Kind of Princess?
Not all the characters Disney categorizes as “princesses” have gotten the same merchandising as the 3 on the grapes above. Pocahontas’s story was markedly different than the others, not culminating in a wedding, for example.
Maya has asked for a Pocahontas “deluxe set” (her name for the approximately 4 inch dolls with changeable plastic clothing) like the ones she has for Rapunzel and the others, but it doesn’t exist. Did Disney just not think her Native American garb had the same play value?
I have no idea what, if any, the long term ramifications of princess obsession will have. Perhaps none, because as abruptly as they took over my daughter’s imagination, princesses have fallen out of favor.
We recently read Olivia and the Fairy Princess by Ian Falconer, in which the feisty young heroine pig grapples with some of these very issues, explaining to her mother that she liked princess just fine until everyone wanted to be one. Maya’s favorite scene is when all her classmates dress as princesses for a Halloween party except Olivia, who comes as an undead warthog. My favorite part is how the book sparked conversation.
What’s all the rage now? My Little Pony, and in particular, a character I don’t remember from my generation of the toy: a very speedy, not-very-girly, very-not-pink Pegasus named Rainbow Dash (seen below in a video montage playing off the double rainbow internet meme.)
Are you a teacher, adminstrator, school counselor, therapist or other education professional interested how simple yoga and mindfulness techniques could help you create a more peaceful, productive classroom day?
Yoga 4 Classrooms® is an evidence-based, low-cost, simple, effective and sustainable tool designed for classrooms, which facilitates students’ physical, mental, emotional and social personal growth. Y4C is anchored in well-validated evidence-based classroom pedagogies, developmental science, cross-sectional research in cognitive affective neuroscience, tenets of positive psychology and secular contemplative practices.
Yoga 4 Classrooms Provides Ready-to-Use Tools for Educators
Y4C workshop participants learn to lead a yoga motor break
The Yoga 4 Classrooms® Professional Development Workshop is a full day workshop that covers 67 yoga and mindfulness-based activities you can put to use in your classroom immediately. Y4C includes a mix of yoga postures, brain boosting movements, breath exercises, visualizations, mindfulness activities, creative movement and community-building games.
The Y4C curriculum is focused on social, emotional, and attentional self-regulating strategies and skills, grounded in mindfulness and yogic practices and developed to systematically cultivate well-being, resilience and lifelong learning.
Yoga & Mindfulness Activities Designed Specifically for the Classroom Setting
Elementary school students practice a breathing exercise for focus
Yoga 4 Classrooms activities are divided into six categories: Let’s Breathe, At Your Desk, Stand Strong, Loosen Up, Imagination Vacation, and Be Well. Each activity includes illustrated instructions, discussion points, sub-activities, and educational tie-ins, for a total of more than 200 beneficial classroom practices. The activities were specially chosen for their suitability for the typical classroom space and schedule and can be implemented in a variety of contexts. All activities can be done standing beside or sitting at desks, while bodies remain off the floor, away from dirt, germs and chemicals.
Though there are many worthy children’s yoga programs, none are entirely suitable for the classroom environment and/or there is too much emphasis on yoga stretching and too little on addressing the whole child: social, emotional and physical. Y4C was developed to fill in the gaps, and simply and practically address the needs communicated by teachers, administrators and parents.
Workshop participants learn a simple and fun partner activity
Yoga 4 Classrooms
Professional Development Workshops
The Yoga 4 Classrooms® Professional Development Workshop is the first step in learning about the Y4C program, its components and curriculum. Absolutely no yoga experience is required. This fun and informative workshop will relax and inspire you!
I’ve taught extra-curricular and enrichment yoga classes in a variety of settings:
public and private schools, for children just turning 2 to 12 years, and as part of the school day and within after-school care. In nearly
all cases, the teachers I’ve worked with are huge advocates of yoga for their
students. Not only do these teachers know their kids enjoy their weekly yoga
break, they see the benefits first hand.
the most often mentioned benefits of yoga for children by their teachers are that yoga:
relieves tension and stress, something
teachers are very concerned about as standardized testing requirements
continue to grow,
increases concentration, focus, and attention span,
expands imagination and creativity,
improves ability to be less reactive, more mindful of thoughts,
words, and actions,
Yoga & Mindfulness Integrated Throughout the School Day
Yoga 4 Classrooms® is not studio yoga in a school setting. There’s no pushing aside desks and chairs; no unrolling yoga mats; no removing shoes; and no 30 or 40 minute yoga class. Yoga 4 Classrooms is yoga integrated throughout the school day.
Right at their desks, students can bring their body, mind, and breath together using adapted-for-the-classroom yoga postures and developmentally-appropriate mindfulness and meditation exercises. A 30-second breathing exercise can center an entire room. A 2-minute motor break can invigorate and focus a class for a quiz. A 5- or 10-minute activity can relax, distress, enliven, build confidence, create community, and more, depending on the needs of the group and the exercises chosen.
About Yoga 4 Classrooms
Yoga 4 Classrooms is an evidence-based, low-cost, simple, effective and sustainable tool designed for classrooms, which facilitates students’ physical, mental, emotional and social personal growth. Y4C is anchored in well-validated evidence-based classroom pedagogies, developmental science, cross-sectional research in cognitive affective neuroscience, tenets of positive psychology and secular contemplative practices.
Yoga 4 Classrooms Professional Development Workshop
The one-day Yoga 4 Classrooms Professional Development Workshop is open to all classroom teachers, administrators, school counselors, phys ed teachers, health educators, therapists and others seeking to bring simple yoga and mindfulness techniques into the classroom or similar setting for a more peaceful, productive class day.
We cover a classroom-appropriate mix of yoga-based motor breaks, brain boosting movements, breath exercises, visualizations, mindfulness activities, creative movement and community-building games. We’ll explore wellness and character-building discussion points such as the power of positive thinking, nutrition and being a peacemaker, which address the whole child and also many school initiatives such as bullying prevention, health and wellness and social and emotional education.
Teachers who implement Yoga 4 Classrooms usually report that taking as little as 30 seconds to 5 minutes to practice these simple tools throughout the day helps their class community learn to self-regulate, leading to a more positive, peaceful, productive school day…not to mention happier, more resilient students.
Each workshop participant receives a fully-illustrated, full-color Y4C teacher’s manual, ensuring the program is both easy to use and sustainable for long-term use. No yoga attire or mat will be needed because we will simulate the classroom setting.
Yoga 4 Classrooms professional development workshops are offered around the United States and online. Find out more at www.Yoga4Classrooms.com
Apparently, now that I’ve made yoga my job, I need a new hobby. Last week, Maya and I treked out to the suburbs in rush hour traffic (OMG, people do this daily?) and came back with these.
Maya has been asking to play the violin for well over a year and we’ve been putting her off. I looked into it last fall, but was overwhelmed enough with her starting full-day school, ballet, and gymnastics while I attempted to turn teaching yoga into a living.
For ballet and gymnastics, parents simply sign up and then cajoledrag take our child to once-a-week lessons where we sit around with other parents and/or a book/laptop for 45 minutes and bask in the glow of an excited gymnast/ballerina afterward.
Preschooler instrumental music lessons on the other hand, at least Suzuki method style, are a high-parent-commitment endeavor. Parents don’t have to play, but they do have to attend lessons, take notes, and guide daily practice. I’ve opted to join in with an instrument because I played as a child and I’m gambling that practice is less of a battle if I’m holding an instrument too, plus (as Mac pointed out), I’ve been looking for an excuse for years to pick up violin again.
I did pick it up yesterday and while my technique is certainly very rusty, I discovered that some of my decades-old Suzuki repertoire is still there as I played Lightly Row from memory. That’s a good thing because we’re spending the equivalent of a significant car repair to refurbish my grandfather’s violin (the one in the photo is a loaner), so I’m pretty much committing to two years of lessons for me no matter what Maya does.
I am so excited to begin sharing the Yoga 4 Classrooms program in the Washington, DC area this fall.
The Yoga 4 Classrooms mission is to transform educational environments through yoga-based wellness training and support, empowering students and educators to create positive, peaceful, productive classrooms that support exceptional learning and a lifetime of health and wellness.
Y4C is low-cost, simple, effective and sustainable program designed for use in the K-8 classrooms. It's curriculum includes a mix of yoga postures, brain boosting movements, breath exercises, visualizations, mindfulness activities, creative movement and community-building games, which facilitate students’ physical, mental, emotional and social personal growth and address anti-bullying, health and wellness, and character education.
In 2007, while volunteer teaching in a local elementary school, Lisa Flynn, E-RYT, RCYT and founder of ChildLight Yoga, was inspired and challenged by the classroom teachers she encountered to create a yoga and mindfulness-based program focused on the whole child that would also be appropriate for the classroom setting. Since its implementation in 2010, Yoga 4 Classrooms is quickly expanding nationwide and beyond.
Get Started with the Yoga 4 Classrooms Professional Development Workshop
On October 27, I will lead a one-day Yoga 4 Classrooms professional development workshop at Christ Church on Capitol Hill for classroom teachers, administrators, school counselors, physical education teachers, therapists and others seeking to bring simple yoga and mindfulness techniques into the classroom.
When: Saturday, October 27 from 2 – 8 pm (includes a dinner break)
Where: Christ Church on Capitol Hill, 620 E Street SE, Washington DC
How Much? Tuition of $180 includes:
6 hr. interactive workshop (includes lunch or dinner break)
Fully-illustrated, full-color, 230 pg. Y4C Manual
possible PDP or CEUs and reimbursement from your school
Certificate of Completion
The 230pg, fully-illustrated Yoga 4 Classrooms® Manual is utilized in this workshop ensuring the program is both easy to use and sustainable for long-term use. Absolutely no yoga experience is required. In fact, educators are encouraged to wear their regular, comfortable clothing and flat soled shoes to the workshop as we'll be simulating a classroom experience.
As I was getting off the phone the other evening, Maya asks:
M – "Mom, were you talking to SunTrust?"
J – "No, why do you think I'd be talking to SunTrust? Who's SunTrust?" (No one in the family has a SunTrust account.)
M – "They are the people you call when you need someone to help you solve your problems."
That, of course, immediately made sense. We've been hearing the same Pandora Internet Radio ad for weeks. Maya is quite effectively primed for the inevitable encounter 14 or so years from now with the SunTrust account rep selling credit cards in exchange for T-shirts in the student union.
Though she sees comparatively few advertisements, we've talked a little bit about them. There are ads every half dozen Pandora songs (wondering if paying for ad-free Pandora is worth it now), at then end of a few of the selections on Netflix, among the previews of some videos, and inserted into new toys. She knows ads are a company trying to sell her things, but her response is often "But I want to buy it!"
M – "Mom! Mom! I can talk while I'm screaming."
J – "Oh, really."
M – In a high pitched squeal: "I LOVE YOU MOM!" Normal voice: "That was talking through screaming."
And We Visited The Enchanted Forest
School let out last week and we spent our first full day off at Clark's Elioak Farm near Ellicott City, MD. We got off to a slow start, arriving at the farm around 1 pm. They didn't quite have to kick us out at their 5pm closing time, but not by much.
I found the place thanks to a CertifiKid promotion. If you grew up near Baltimore and were the right age before 1988, this stuff might look familiar. Remembering the Enchanted Forest theme park from childhood visits with Mom Mom & Pop Pop, it was a no-brainer to take Maya to Clark Farm's Enchanted Forest where they are reconstructing the old features. Even without the coupon, the $5 entry price is reasonable. $2 to ride the pony, cow train, or hayride.
Maya had a blast. She RAN from feature to feature announcing every character she recognized. Her resolve that she wanted to ride the pony wavered once face-to-face with a real one, but she persevered and went back again to finally ride. Our final act of the day was to feed the sheep and goats (technically, my final act), and Maya declared that the best part.
When researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth began feeding mice low levels of arsenic considered safe for human consumption in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency, they intended to study the heavy metal‘s affect on the immune system and susceptibility to the flu, but they didn’t get that far . . . Read more and join the Conversation at Care2.
The state of North Carolina is one of only 5 in the nation that requires certified nurse midwives to practice under a physician who signs their license in order to deliver babies. Last week the doctor who worked with 7 of the state’s 11 homebirth midwives notified them that he would no longer certify their licenses, effective immediately. One doctor shut down 4 midwifery practices over night, leaving dozens of women, some very near their due dates, scrambling for alternative care . . . Read more and join the Conversation at Care2