A skilled teacher knows how to relate the practice to children in a manner that makes sense to them on the ground, in daily living. Because I have taught in upwards of nine schools every week during an academic year, I have extensive experience observing how children respond to yoga and mediation. Over the years and still now, I constantly reflect on how to clarify for children why we do yoga. To teach kids, one needs to get to the root of verbal expression quickly and succinctly. Far from dumbing down one’s thoughts to a child’s level, it is an art to convey ideas, concepts and life’s lessons in simple ways that hold meaning. Showing a child what your words convey is also essential.
Our feeling state drives our thinking state. If a practice or task holds meaning for us, we will develop better memory of the event because we have a personal connection. We can then expand upon neural networking from memory and increase understanding, develop greater insight and creativity. I have found that the brain and heart are direct, simple and highly relatable topics for children. Children want to learn. Children want to feel calm. A calm brain helps us learn. A calm heart helps us relate to others.
Underneath it all, if a child feels insecure, nervous or overwhelmed, learning is impaired. Children are affected by the increasing stimulus of daily living, just as adults. I observe from sitting in front of more than 800 children each week, their eagerness to learn impeded by aggression or detachment and day dreaming. It is not uncommon for adults and kids to exert either too much effort or too little effort to navigate life and relationships. The practice of yoga and meditation gives children tools to bring themselves into a feeling state that is attentive and calm. Children learn to use calm breathing to go from anger, impatience and tiredness to a better thinking state. From a calm thinking state, we make better choices. If we repeat better choices through action, words or feelings, they become more habitual and they reflect within our behavior. We feel empowered when we make choices that come from the heart. When we listen to another, when we give to another, and when we help another, our hearts shine. A calm heart is a shining heart.
My Kids Yoga classes teach children why a calm brain and a calm heart are of benefit. And very importantly, my classes teach children how to get there, how to self-generate a calm brain and calm heart. The idea of a calm brain and a calm heart is not enough. The experience, and furthermore, the self-direction into a state of calm thinking and calm feeling is essential. I’ve not met a child yet who did not express interest in a calm brain and especially a calm heart.