WELLNESS | Yoga in the Classroom
A recent study by California State University, Los Angeles found that yoga improves students’ behavior, physical health, academic performance, and attitudes toward themselves. A perfect resource for schools seeking to incorporate yoga and mindfulness programs into their curriculum, or for parents to encourage body-mind awareness at home, Creative Yoga for Children promotes physical, emotional, and social development through stress reduction, movement, and free exploration.
The following is a sneak peek at the upcoming Creative Yoga for Children by certified Montessori teacher and registered yoga teacher Adrienne Rawlinson. Be sure to enter for your chance to win a free copy below!
Creative Yoga for Children is the product of many years of observing children in both yoga and Montessori classes. After teaching both Montessori and yoga, I have observed that the likenesses between the two are abundant. We know that yoga is the process of uniting the body and mind to become clearer and more centered. Montessori education is a holistic, hands-on approach to education that includes physical movement. So when combined, these two philosophies can only complement one another. This book merges the two practices into a fluid and beneficial program.
I have created a program that is completely accessible to all educators and parents, not just Montessori or yoga teachers. The classes are individually and logically laid out. They are divided into easy-to-use, age-appropriate parts (ages four to six, seven to nine, and ten to twelve). The classes help develop each child’s conceptions of many subjects while remaining active and fun.
Like any learning environment, an engaging yoga class has a centering effect on children. It aids in constructing their confidence from the inside out. There is no huge emphasis on producing an end product, just a joy in the process. Children always feel successful in yoga; there is no competition, just an individual progression. Any child can enjoy yoga.
I believe in creating an environment that feeds a young child’s need for order, movement, sensorial exploration, and language. This notion has been at the center of my yoga program. My teaching experiences have taught me that children’s minds are at their optimal period for learning and absorbing the world’s lessons and experiences before the age of twelve. These too are the key years for introducing them to the world of yoga.
Creative Yoga for Children provides a contemporary extension to traditional classroom activities. The child’s understanding of specific educational topics is reinforced through a series of yoga poses, activities, and games. I know you will find this compilation of classes, developed from my years as a teacher and yoga instructor, to be beneficial to the children in your lives.
The Anatomy of a Class
It is comforting to a child to establish an ordered routine to the classes, just as order is so important in a child’s home life.
Children take great satisfaction in knowing how each class is going to play out. This notion is a little less important as the child gets older, and of course we often have to improvise depending on the day, the children’s moods, the weather, and just about any other variable!
All the classes [in Creative Yoga for Children] contain the following activities: Educational Elements, Props, Intention, Warm-up, Connect, Activity, Meditation, and Gratitude. Additionally, they may contain some other activities. The following is the complete list of activities that may be found in each class:
1. Intention. We discuss how we are feeling and then what we will focus on that day in class. For example, we might focus on the development of respect for nature, which we would explore by taking a trip to the park. Our goal might be to feel ultimately grateful for the natural world. We will revisit our intention whenever needed throughout the class.
2. Warm-up. This is a fun time of stretching and a series of interconnected poses or “vinyasas.”
3. Connect. These are activities that stress how we all need one another—perhaps we might rub our hands together to create hot energy and connect our hands together in a circle, noticing how this feels. It is during this activity that we stress our need for human connection and how if we support and help one another, we can accomplish anything.
4. Activity. These are thematic activities based on the intention for the day’s class and can involve large group games with music or dancing.
5. Breath. We introduce a new type of breathing technique or practice a cooling or heating breath.
6. Arts and crafts. This relates to our previous activities. For example, we may draw mandalas if we are discussing how to relax and focus, or we may make a clay model of the body if we are discussing muscles and bones.
7. Book. A book or story may be used to reinforce the intention of the class.
8. Partner pose. Partner poses are fun at any age, and we often introduce a new one in each class.
9. Meditation. This is often what kids look forward to and what they need the most. We relax, lie down on our mats, close our eyes, and enjoy a guided meditation for at least five minutes, accompanied by music. Some children enjoy a little foot and toe massage during this time, and I like to apply different scented lotions to add to the experience. They love this!
10. Gratitude. Once we come out of meditation, we take a few minutes to silently be grateful for something in our lives—perhaps our friends or our health. We sit for a moment and then end the class by repeating the word “Namaste,” with our hands to our hearts. This means that we salute and honor each other.
In addition to these activities, each class will also contain reference to recommended “Props” and “Educational Elements.” The “Props” are the recommended materials for each of the classes. These are items that I have found easy to obtain and may already be in your classroom. The educational elements are concepts that will be reinforced in each individual class.
Supporting all of these activities is music. This seems to be a key ingredient in all the classes, and I find that this is an ever-changing component. It is important to keep this element of the class alive and exciting. I recommend having different genres of music on hand. Children love to hear songs that they are familiar with and can dance to, as well as music for relaxation.
About the author:
A certified Montessori teacher and registered yoga teacher, Adrienne Rawlinson has worked as a teacher in New Zealand and Canada. She studied yoga under Maureen Rae in Toronto and Erich Schiffmann in Chicago. She currently teaches Montessori and yoga in Oakville, Ontario.
The above excerpt was adapted from Creative Yoga for Children: Inspiring the Whole Child through Yoga, Songs, Literature, and Games by Adrienne Rawlinson, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2013 by Adrienne Rawlinson.
Congratulations to Mary Tabash, the winner of the NAB Communities Creative Yoga for Children contest!