Ahimsa, ahimsa…we all fall down

Saturday, 13 January 2019

Making the Eight Limbs of Yoga kid friendly

It wasn’t till much later in my own yoga journey, that I came into contact with these guidelines towards living a more meaningful and purposeful life; employing more thought and action into becoming a more accountable, conscious, conscientious (…and yogi like) being.

Self study (one of the branches) becomes a great source of wonderment and curiosity (a lifelong study) as we begin to view our life from this curious vantage point, observing how it is we interact and participate with life (sometimes in academy award fashion). Armed with this knowledge and a little creativity, passing these effective tools for life onto our children in a fun, engaging and imaginative way seems to be now, more necessary than any other time; building great little humans early on..

Kid’s Yoga provides many opportunities for children to absorb the teachings of this path while having fun throughout the journey. It makes a wonderful theme; offering hands on practice to explore and learn what it is that makes them a unique human. The potential to create a ripple effect – as the discovery overflows from the classroom to life – can be transformative as they begin to weave their own experience in a confident way amongst their peers, family and environment.

The First Limb – Yamas (kindness towards other people and the world)

This is made up of five traits including: kindness, truth, non-stealing, honouring your body and non-greed. Kindness, perhaps makes up the biggest component of our class and it is apparent that kids love this concept.

For the most part they have a good understanding, which almost always kicks our first class off with lots of enthusiasm, sharing their existing knowledge (sometimes still navigating turn taking) and opening up to one another; there’s a confidence build right there!

We might talk about how we can be kind to all people; even those who are not very nice to us and how a simple act of kindness might make us less likely to get angry or upset which can lead to being a much happier and healthier person; someone that others want to be around.

THOUGHT: Think about treating other people the way that you like to be treated.

The Second Limb – Niyamas (being a good person to yourself)

This limb is also made up of five traits and includes: cleanliness, deep happiness, self-discipline, understanding ourselves and giving up control or surrendering.

The big theme here for us often leads our class to working with the concept of gratitude; being thankful and grateful for the things in our life.

Life may not always be sunshine and roses (insert your own analogy),  but feeling deeply content with who you are (warts ‘n all) teaches us to be “ok” even when things don’t always feel that way. Guided meditation can provide the perfect opportunity to explore the way that we can foster and develop tools for becoming and being our own best friend.

THOUGHT: What could you do for yourself to make yourself a better person every day? Can you create a good habit, see something that bothers you in a different light or maybe find something that inspires you to want to learn.

The Third Limb – Asanas (postures and movement of your body)

Let’s face it! This is about the fun stuff that we do with our bodies (like tree pose, splits or handstand) and what kids show up for and parents might expect of a yoga class.

Movement for modern day could not be more important than it is right now in the mind-altering, addled world of technology; but also as a therapy to assist in a plethora of learning impairments or challenges that seem to be more and more prevalent.

Movement provides an opportunity to not only ‘do’ but ‘feel’ the different effects that poses bring to your body. This might open up conversation about how different poses work to make your body feel good…it can be slow, fast, strength or balance-based and the pace might be determined by the ambiance and general feel of the class’s energy on that day.

THOUGHT: Yoga is not just done on a mat; how might our body move in different ways through the day that might look a little and feel a lot like yoga? How might nature imitate a yoga pose?

The Fourth Limb – Pranayama (controlled breathing)

Breath happens around 18-30 times per minute (school age children) every day without much conscious thought or awareness of it. We cannot survive without it. It is a “medicine” and when we begin to notice it and its function, it can assist to keep our body healthy and our mind calm.

In our class, breath might be explored with an activity, prop or partner to give a more visual experience of the part that the lungs, belly and ribs play. It is an invitation to experience fullness of breath and also for a little fun exploring it along the way.

THOUGHT: How many times do you actually stop and notice your breath throughout the day? Can you notice what your breath is doing when you are afraid, in an argument or feeling unwell?

The Fifth Limb – Pratyahara (control of your senses)

This is the practice of mindfully experiencing the senses of touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste. The children become more accomplished in honing in on their senses through mindfulness activities, guided meditations and fun games that allow for the use of multiple sensory facets.

THOUGHT: Pick a sense and explore it deeply. For example find a quiet space, gently close your eyes and hone in on hearing the sounds around you; from as close as your breath to as far away as you can possibly tune your ears into. Think of nothing else but the sounds around.

The Sixth Limb – Dharana (focus and concentration)

Sometimes this is near impossible in a class when there is so much other stimulation going on around and that is the “challenge” in creatively and imaginatively engaging them long enough for focus and concentration to occur.

Tree Pose comes to mind here and learning the concept of “Drishti” (or focal point) can lead the kids into a challenge (of the personal type) to explore concentration through allowing distractions to fall away from them and the real experience of focus to bring with it steadiness and a sense of being that tree; that beautiful sprawling tree for just a moment in time.

THOUGHT: Practice staying focused on one thing (your breath, a task or an object) at a time by removing the other things around you that cause the distraction. Notice how absorbed you might become in that one thing, how fulfulling and full of purpose that task becomes.

The Seventh Limb – Dhyana (Meditation)

Also, another tricky one (for some children more than others), particularly in a class environment. This is where the art of distraction can be helpful (or coaxing, perhaps with a foot massage!)

All children have different sensory and experiential needs, just as their learning styles differ. Meditation can be experienced by sitting, standing or even moving (as long as you are able to focus in on what is happening in that moment – job done!) If you try to meditate and keep thinking about something that happened through the day, this is ok. It is just letting you know that this is at the front of your mind.

THOUGHT: The goal to meditation is to try to stay present (and awake) to what is going on in that moment…the tendency is that your mind will wander. Allow the thought to come and gently pass by as you bring your attention back to the moment. Be gentle.

The Eighth Limb – Samadhi (the “Secret Garden”)

The ultimate attainment; this is the place that happens when you are not thinking about anything and not distracted by anything. It is a place in your mind where you are completely peaceful and truly happy.

THOUGHT: Is it things that make you happy? If so happiness might only last as long as the novelty of that possession (then you’ll want to replace it, upgrade it or compare it to what others around you have…the cycle goes on). Take some time to find where true, deep, lasting happiness and beauty lives within you (you’ll possibly save yourself a fortune!)

“Kindness”, (Ahimsa) – start here and build on that for yourself and your close-knit community and then let it spill out into life.

Think back to a time in your own childhood, the games you played the imagination, interaction and satisfaction you found from play and fun with your siblings (when you weren’t arguing) and your friends…and how those relationships developed you as a human.

“Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be.” Rita Pearson

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