For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of being an ambassador for National Kids Yoga Day in early April. Just a few years old, this day has been designed to celebrate children, yoga, and the beauty that occurs when these two things come together. The idea of little yogi’s is becoming more and more mainstream as the benefits are becoming more and more evident. Boosting physical and mental health, increasing concentration and focus, and encouraging kindness and compassion are just a few of the many positive benefits of teaching yoga to children as early as two or three years old. As one parent described it to me, "this type of work has longevity, its something the kids can use forever more..." and this is what sets yoga aside from so many other children’s activities. It’s encouraging to know that there are things we can do to help children navigate todays seemingly challenging world, helping to lay the foundation throughout their most formative years.
Back to today, I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed with my role. Should I try to get the whole First Grade together for some yoga? Should I aim even bigger and teach the whole school? Or should I be realistic and see how the day unfolds, knowing that this week has already been full of surprises? Option three. I woke up excited for the day, whatever that may mean.
Our day in First Grade began with a morning meeting activity where the kids got to choose from a list of options and share something that they felt connected to with their classmates. Just last night I was reading an article by Dan Siegel, a leading nueropsychiatrist and New York Times best selling author, about the power of relationships and how essential they are for student success in the classroom. I already loved the way the day was unfolding. (Link below.)
I am truly learning the value of social media as I continue to build my own Yoga and Mindfulness practice, Growing Grounded. What was once a fun way to post pictures of cute kids and weekend fun, has evolved into a way to share ideas, showcase good things, and connect with others who share the same ideals and beliefs. One yoga studio I follow based in Chesterfield, New Jersey is called Breathe, Balance, Grow. In a recent blog post, they shared an activity where they turned what we know as a “cootie catcher,” into something meaningful; it was a new twist on an old favorite. Today seemed like the perfect day to give this a try so we let the kids make their own version, and named it a “Mindful Message.” After a brainstorm session and some careful work following directions, each child filled their sheet with eight different ways to have a Mindful Moment. They worked hard to fold along the lines and ended up with their own Mindful Message. They were so quiet through this process that we could have heard a pin drop, and even better they were so very proud of their new creations. The Mindful Messages were spotted at recess, in the lunchroom, and all throughout the halls. These kids were being ambassadors themselves!
The next activity of our day filled my heart even more. I brought in my Grounded Kids Yoga pose cards and told the kids that we were going to create our own cards based on these, and use them to create a memory game. They could use the same pose names and the same illustrations, or make up their own illustrations, and create two identical cards to make a pair. We would put them all together and have our very own Yoga memory game. I wasn’t really sure what to expect (which is our reality sometimes!) but I knew right away this was going to be a hit. The kids had so much fun exploring the different poses, practicing them, and thinking of ways to creatively illustrate them. When we were ready to play, we had close to 30 sets of matching cards! Here are a few highlights…
If the kids did not get a match, the person who flipped the cards picked one of the two they turned over for the group to practice. If they did get a match, they got to pick a partner and turn it into a partner pose. Who knew that memory for 20 would be so much fun?
The last piece of our day brought calm and stillness as we read “Goodnight Yoga” by Mariam Gates which one of my students brought in (P.S. I can not WAIT to see her new board book when it comes out!) My quiet and reserved student requested that we share in a guided visualization at the end of the story- I could not have imagined a more perfect end to the day.
I hope you had the chance to celebrate Kids Yoga Day as well- perhaps by just reading this post you are helping to spread the goodness of yoga around the world.