The fall season is the perfect time to practice yoga in honor of abundance in nature and in our lives. The theme of abundance not only teaches children to give thanks for all they have, but to focus on how they can give to others by being peaceful, kind and considerate. Here are three fun ways to tie abundance into your yoga classes or conversations with children this autumn.
Tree Stories: Begin by asking children what their favorite tree is. Next, ask children to visualize it or “pretend” to be their favorite tree. It helps to have lists and pictures of common trees in your geographic location; you can visit Arbor Day for help learning about trees in your community. Have children name the type of tree they are and be as specific as possible. For example, “I am an apple tree.” or “I am a palm tree.” If you have not done so already, teach Vrksasana or tree pose. Younger students who may struggle with balancing poses should be encouraged to try the tree with their back against the wall. Ask children to think about what their imaginary tree gives to the earth. For example, you may mention fruit bearing trees and nut trees, maple syrup, pine cones, or any trees that lose their leaves each fall. Children may wish to be trees that remain splendidly green all year long such as pine trees or tropical trees. Here are some tips for discussing trees: Remind children that all trees provide oxygen. Most offer some degree of shade, allowing other plants and insects to flourish on the ground below. Many trees are home to birds, squirrels and insects. Flowering trees are aesthetically pleasing and provide nectar to butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Once you have taught tree pose, each child can take a turn coming to the middle of the room or circle, raising their arms up as high branches, and as they lower their arms, they can explain which tree they have become, and what their tree has given to the earth this year. Ask each child, how are you like this tree? What do you give freely and abundantly to your family and friends?
Falling Leaves: A great transition into the Secret Garden or yoga nidra, is to tell children the story of why leaves fall and ask them to imagine they have become a falling leaf. In communities where children are not familiar with this concept, first explain how certain types of trees lose their leaves each fall in many parts of the world. If you need a review of the science behind falling leaves to inform your discussion, check out this helpful information from the National Wildlife Federation. Children should lay down on their mat in corpse pose or Savasana. If you are playing music, a great addition to this story is the sound of wind. It helps children form a mental connection to the sensation of leaves falling all around them. For a great wind song guaranteed to get your class relaxed, check out this YouTube track by Mindamend.com. Get creative with your own story for yoga nidra by having children imagine they are a leaf floating slowly down to the ground or flying off into the wind. Perhaps they prefer the idea of landing in water and gently drifting down a stream or maybe they would like to imagine being carried off far away by a gust of wind to a distant land. Once the children are relaxed, pull out your bag of leaves that you will prepare before class. Silently place the leaves around the students. For your bag of leaves, if you have access to clean, dry leaves from your community, feel free to use real leaves. If you do not have access to leaves, you may want to use a leaf template to create a set of leaves for your classes. To customize your leaves, you can write student names on leaves and after yoga nidra, students can quietly search the room for their own leaf. You may also wish to write messages of peace, tranquility and abundance on each leaf. Students may take the leaf home or you could provide leaves to be decorated or colored at the end of class.
When they awake from yoga nidra, the children will see an abundance of leaves. You can ask the students about abundance in their own lives with simple questions such as, “What do you have an abundance of in your life?”. Or ask simple yes or no questions such as, “Do you have a lot of love in your life? Do you have abundant playfulness in your life? Does your family give many hugs? Do your friends give high fives all the time?” Let students tell you what they have an abundance of, and gently guide them away from material possessions or unhealthy foods such as soda and candy. Encourage them to speak of the abundance they feel in their heart. This is a great time to give students some homework (OMwork) to go home and ask their caregivers about abundance in their lives. Ending the class with a mantra meditation, repeating “peace begins with me,” reminds students that an abundance of positive interactions and emotions in the heart and mind create inner tranquility and joy.
Harvest Yoga: Devote a class to the theme of abundance at harvest time. Since many crops are harvested and stored for winter, it is a perfect time to talk to children about how communities use abundance by planning how to protect and store food in silos, barns or even by dehydrating, canning or freezing foods. Find out about locally grown crops in your community or near your geographic region. Some examples in the United States are: beans, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, kale, herbs, mustard greens and squash varieties such as pumpkins. For more examples, visit Harvest to Table’s website and check out this guide. Talk to children about these crops and ask them what their favorites are, and how they like to prepare them to eat. You may want to bring in dried ears of corn and some mini-pumpkins to pass around the class during the discussion to get students more engaged. During a sharing circle, students should talk about their favorite fall food and why they are grateful for the abundance of this crop at harvest time in the fall. Mention that abundance is about taking care of what nature gives us, and is also about making sure to be thoughtful to the needs of others, too. Abundance at the time of harvest is a great example of how communities take care of each other’s needs instead of wasting resources. Giving to others is in the spirit of the harvest, and in-line with our peaceful nature as yogis of all ages!
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