Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Goals Lead Balloons

                                  A goal without a plan is just a wish.
                                  Antoine de Saint-Exupery
                                  French writer (1900 - 1944)

A successful mandala
Fun is always my goal for the children I teach yoga to. I've found the best way to achieve this is to have a lesson plan for every class. Despite that, even the best laid plans don't always work, and factors out of my control sometimes change everything. Several weeks ago, New York was having a heat wave. The children at the day camp I am teach at were exhausted from the 90 plus degree heat & wanted nothing to do with the active games I had planned, and understandably so. My lesson was based around mandalas: we would make human mandalas out of our bodies, an actively that has always been very successful in the past.  The expression "lead balloon" fits the students reactions to this quite well. I was able to get the older children to participate early in the day, but the younger children were not interested at all once the sun came out. It was back to the drawing board for me, but luckily drawing boards can hold a lot of inspiration. We started playing "chalkboard" instead.

 Chalkboard is a great game that's played in pairs. One child draws a picture on their partners back, like a sun or a tree, and their partner tries to guess what is being drawn.  And let me tell you, what a difference from the physical games I was trying before! There were smiles all around this time, and everyone stayed cool. 

Children playing chalkboard

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day camp and changes of plans

Today, I taught that class at the day camp I mentioned last post. The original plan was to teach two classes of about 50 kids each, but rainy weather forced us to change our plans. I ended up teaching all the children in their individual camp groups- about 10 or 15 kids each.  I had the privilege of teaching over 100 kids yoga, most of them complete first timers.

I started the class with something I call 'transforming'. This is a child-friendly way  to introduce the proses of movements flowing into each other. After that, we went through the steps of tree pose, which led nicely into a game of bean bag tag (always a crowd favorite, despite how difficult it can sometimes be). Kids walk around with a bean bag balanced on their head, and if it falls off they are 'frozen' in place until another child hands the bean bag back to them. Some fun variations I've used include walking backwards, sideways, or holding tree when frozen. Next, I had all the kids stand in a line shoulder to shoulder, and go down into down dog. This forms a tunnel, just wide enough for a child to crawl through. Each child did, going back into down dog on the other side once their done to keep the tunnel going. Our last activity was 'foot ball', passing the ball around the circle with their feet. I added more balls of different sizes depending on the age and skill set of the group. I love watching the students trying to use their problem-solving skills when the balls cross. Always entertaining!

I ended, as always with relaxation.  I'm always a little shocked at how much the kids seem to enjoy this part of the class. It was a struggle to get them to sit still when I first started teaching! The turning point came when I realized that a child's perception of time is very different than an adults. Remember how long 10 minutes could seem when you were 5 or 6? The trick is to keep the time intervals short and the directions clear "close your eyes and don't move anything but your breath until I finish counting to 10'. This is much more manageable. After that, you increase the time frame: count to 20, or even 30, depending on your group of kids.  For younger children, I often enforce this point
with a visit from the  "yoga fairy".  The "yoga fairy" is very shy, any movements or noise will scare her away. Children laying very still will receive a kiss on the toe.

Please feel free to share any comments or thoughts you have on children's yoga. I love hearing from all of you!

That's all for now! Until next time, Namaste.