Teaching Mindfulness Within a Yoga Class

In my yoga classes I have always tried to incorporate some mindfulness exercises; sometimes in the beginning, sometimes in the end or even both. Savasana is always a good time to bring them back to the present moment as the mind keeps working, essentially doing its job. Nowadays I also do it in the middle of class, when I sense there is some opening for a short lesson on mindfulness or for introducing some mindful technique while performing a yoga pose. Depending on how open the students are at that moment, they will absorb the new skill right there. If they are not, they might remember what was said in a pose later when it comes to mind or they decide to show someone else (parents in case of little kids) that pose.

The way mindfulness gets explained needs to be tailored to different age groups. Of course I would not talk about the prefrontal cortex or amygdala in the middle of a yoga class, even for adults (I try to keep them present and I believe those words could be an invitation for people to zone out!), but examples according to the students’ ages can be presented and made easy to understand or recreate. Like the yoga poses, as a teacher, we need to drop any expectations that all the students will get it on the first, second or hundredth time… Our job is to present the lesson, and the students take what they are ready for.

I taught a yoga class at an Elementary school on the other day and, toward the end of class, while they were lying on their backs for a pose, I asked them to look at the ceiling and notice new things they had not seen before. We sat down and shared what they noticed. When performing the pose on the second side, I asked them to look at the ceiling again, notice what their friends shared and maybe even notice other things no one had mentioned. We then sat and shared some more, giving a chance to those who did not share anything on the first side. Of course, about two of them never shared anything because they were distracted with their hair or looking at their neighbor during that time. For adults, I tend to ask them to focus on feelings and sensations in their bodies while in the poses. For teenagers, I would recommend something in bICS_WP_20150126_002etween the two examples I just mentioned.

I came across an article today and thought it was worth mentioning here. Check out item #4 suggesting to drop the expectations, just like I mentioned in the second paragraph above. This article is geared toward parents, but I believe it can help kids yoga instructors get an idea or two on how to implement mindfulness in their classes. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/monisha-vasa/teaching-kids-mindfulness_b_6458950.html

“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” – Abraham Maslow

Rainforest Adventure Book Workshop June 2014

I had the honor to share my book at a studio owned by a friend of mine, who graduated from Yoga Teacher Training with me two years ago. Her studio does not offer Kids yoga classes yet, but some of her students mentioned they would love for their kids to try it out some time. So, when this friend invited me, I jumped in! We decided to offer a workshop with my book as an introduction to yoga for them, which I think is a great idea, since they get to take the book home after the class, being able to practice some more tat home with their family and friends.

As I drove to the studio, I brought my younger daughter along for many reasons, one of them being that I could use some company in the car while driving three hours to my friend’s studio. But a more important reason is that she gets to see the book we worked IMG_1504on together (she was the concept artist for it) being shared and enjoyed by other people; even those who had never done yoga before. As the kids started coming into the studio, my daughter pointed out to me that they were a bit older than she expected as the book is recommended for ages 3-10. I told her, “Not to worry; I can just offer more challenges in the poses”. And it is exactly what happened> Depending on the age and energy of the group, I offer different variations for the poses already in the book and call some extra poses to meet their level – of energy, physical readiness, knowledge and maturity.

 

 

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We had lots of fun with individual, partner and group poses. Everyone got to laugh, and that fills up my heart. If the book can bring at least one smile to a reader, how great! There were actually many smiles and laughs as we learn to take it easy when we cannot accomplish a certain pose or stay balanced for more than one second – it’s all good!

 

 

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At the end of the workshop, we had time to play the game (included in the book) as a group and to enjoy some relaxation (savasana) by lying down on the mats, reaping the benefits from the hard work doing the poses. I had some nature sounds playing in the background, encouraged them to relax, close their eyes and visualize themselves in a rainforest. Maybe they could focus on one animal sound they could recognize and try to visualize it, or simply try to identify as many animals as they could among the sounds being played. One thing I have learned from having done this before is to let them know, as we lie down, that the animals are not in the room with them, just the sounds, so they are able to relax more fully.

 

It is a great honor to share my book with other people – of all ages. When I decided to write the book, I had the vision of presenting it to groups like this one, and spreading the love for yoga to kids and their families and friends through my book. I feel grateful for having opportunities like this in my life.