Loving is something we all strive to do more deeply and with less conditions. With our set precedance of Namaste yoga becomes the perfect setting for children to explore their love for self, and ultimately others.
Over the past week I have integrated self-love activities into the yoga classes I teach for children. I exercised my curiosity to observe how well they could express what they loved about themselves. I learned quite a bit in just one afternoon.
I asked the children what they loved about themselves. They did not understand the script. I received answers including; “I love my mommy”, “I love my dog”, “I love to ride my bike” and touchingly “I love you”. After confirming I loved them too I prepared automatic closure sentences. These are used by speech therapists to provide an easier and more automatic avenue in which to elicit language. I started with “I love my_______” and then added nose to the mix. I then said “I love my toes”. Stretching it a bit further, I said “I love the way I do yoga poses”.
Slowly the children began to explore what they loved about themselves, but it was clear these had not been rehearsed. Mia told me “I love my feet” and Jenna expressed “I love my hands”. We explored other words to tap into the appreciation including, what do you appreciate about yourself, admire, respect, etc. We discussed that kissing our knee when we brought knee to chest was an expression of loving our knee and how it bends and supports us. I further explained that yoga hug is an opportunity to feel self-love as we open and close the heart chakra.
We used the song and yoga hug sequence outlined in the CD Songs to Grow on. We also held a rose quartz heart when expressing self-love. Listening quietly, we provided support for each child as they took their turn.
I plan to explore this area further by integrating and discussing self-love mantras in our classes. Perhaps mantras do matter, for self-love is expressed through the words and chanted as a vibration through the body?
What are qualities of a good teacher? Why do some teachers captivate their students, while others not so much? Perhaps it is in the passion, the love, for what they are sharing. Maybe there is an awakening inside of them to continue the beauty of what their teachers brought to their life. Yoga seems to have that effect on people and yoga teacher training courses are being offered in small towns, most cities and in the most remote countries on the map. This phenomenon has not escaped the children in the classes for Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child.
Once a yoga student has established themselves with the yoga protocol and demonstrated an aptitude with grading, posture, breathing and relaxation, they are a go! I begin supporting the student in teaching a short activity within the yoga class. This involvement grows and each student begins teaching different aspects of the yoga class varying from a posture, a breathing activity and eventually participating in demonstrations in the community.
I have discovered that the chldren listen more carefully to my instruction and respect the process of teacher/student relationship. They begin to claim yoga as a part of themselves and realize they have an aptitude and inner knowing that perhaps others in their peer group have not yet cultivated. Their ability to positively reinforce others reflects confidence in who they are. For a child with special needs it can be empowering to have others look up to them and listen.
I often begin mentoring a yoga student by asking them to teach their favorite pose. The ability to demonstrate the pose, while also explaining each step of the posture, cues them into important language expression and the motor planning process. They learn to speak with adequate volume and to make crucial eye contact with the other students. Social skills evolve, language processing improves and the child’s confidence blossoms.
Students have assisted me at the University of Arizona Book Fair where we taught yoga to over one hundred children. They have participated in yoga demonstrations in public venues, private conferences, and even Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child workshops. I will have two teenage students available to talk to educators at the Pima County Educators Fair in Tucson next month.
Imagine that, my love of yoga led me into teaching and my love of teaching children yoga led them into loving yoga and ultimately into budding yoga teachers. I cannot wait to see what is next.
RESCUING A DOWNWARD DOG
Brown paws of an unfamiliar stray trotted across the hot sandy beach bordering the Sea of Cortez in San Carlos, Mexico. The tiny canine leapt and landed in the shade of the silent sail of a beached catamaran. My daughter, Kate, turned to follow my gaze and began to question the origin and condition of our new interest. Within seconds my gaze shifted to the security worker walking the resort beach. I sensed the danger of his instructions from management to eliminate any possible threat to the families vacationing at this prime location.
Kate and I immediately emerged from the gentle waves and began a slow and deliberate course towards the vulnerable animal. Fear became movement as the diminutive dog retreated from our reach. The hesitation with this escape made us wonder if there had been people in the little one’s life or whether she was simply in desperate need of fresh water.
Quickly retrieving water from our condo, we set out as saviors of Guadalupe, attempting to intercede any efforts of eviction from security. As we retreated from the offering, our furry friend began to drink. Not yet trusting us she moved away each time we approached her space.
Later in the afternoon, the sun was beginning to lower in the sky while Kate was gracefully moving through her asana sequence. I breathed in the ocean air as a gentle breeze reminded me of the grace and serenity in her moves. Her backdrop of expansive water was decorated by a small moving dot of dark fur. As I watched the four legs carefully move toward Kate I smiled in the synchronicity of having just observed her flow of downward dog pose as it glided into upward facing dog. Kate caught the timid movement of puppy paws near her yoga mat and moved onto the sand crouching in a low puppy posture. This engaging friendliness enticed our furry friend closer and eventually into a playful interaction. Kate immediately offered both water and food and it was not long before there was closer proximity and a new friendship. Kate rummaged through her beach bag and retrieved her camera and zoomed in on her friend. She called to our now gathered family that this collarless one was a girl and that she had markings similar to a German shepherd. Closer and closer the girls played until Kate and the puppy touched.
The energies of yoga, the playful wisdom of my daughter, the ocean and a puppy overcoming fear to accept a loving hand all wrapped into a moment that spirited the deepest breath of compassion ever experienced by my heart. Tears ran down my face and I promised myself there was to be no further abandonment for this puppy.
Action became our mantra as we made plans to rescue our downward dog. My son, Clay, offered himself as the dog’s new master and his generosity and commitment helped me see him as such. My partner, Tom, put forward a donation for whoever rallied to our cause. We unified to search the small Mexican fishing town of San Carlos for the veterinarian who could provide the necessary doggy passport to freedom. This support came from a woman who herself sheltered ten abandoned dogs and knew what the summer heat would do to a dog without a home. She secured the necessary rabies shot from a generous veterinarian and each step of the rescue flowed easily and gracefully to result in tests, treatments, bathing and the necessary shots to help our new friend across the Mexican-Arizona border.
Shortly after the ocean receded in my rearview mirror I took a deep breath and released the anxious determination that spirited me through the past days events. The enormity of the accomplishment of six reminded me of the strength in unity. I welcomed a deeper breath and whispered a prayer of thanks to the players in this miracle and forever logged this event in my being. I placed it gently within the organ that pumps compassion throughout my veins and reminds me that we beat to one purpose. I fell in love with four brown paws belonging to our “beautiful girl”, Bella. We all had matched our actions with our heart and our lives had become exponentially more abundant.
I promised myself I would not move again for a very, very, long time. And here I am moving my blog to a new site. Fortunately I had great help getting myself here and hope to nest a while.
I love to share all things that open my heart, lift my spirit and nurture the child that resides within me. I will share with you thoughts and experiences that impact me at a deeper level, or simply make me laugh and want to play.
I wrote a book titled Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child – Meeting Needs in a Natural Setting. This was fun because it melded all of my previously mentioned loves for sharing. I soon will be releasing Guided Meditations for Children – I am the Breeze. This CD involves a practice embedded in the yoga tradition as well as opening hearts and lifting spirits for children eleven years and up.
I hope you will join me in my journey to share impressions that make a difference in my life and which I hope will touch yours.