It’s pretty easy to show kids the connection between summer and the element of fire. What’s less obvious is the connection between autumn and the element of water. While not all systems regarding the elements make this particular association, read on to see how you can help your little yogis make the connections between the different forms of water and the season we call autumn, or fall.
Autumn is About Change: Water is always assuming different forms! I don’t mean just as oceans, lakes, and rivers. On a more abstract level, it helps to start off with the idea of water as something that can take different forms: liquid, solid, and gas. Of course, when teaching kids it’s always better to make concepts more friendly or memorable. You can start off with caricatures of these, for example, Dewey the Water Drop, Iggy the Ice cube, and Victor Vapor; do your own drawings of these characters before class or reserve some time for the kids to draw their own.
Explain that Dewey tends to go down because he is liquid water and he follows gravity (if kids don’t understand gravity, then you can name forms of liquid water that go down, such as a waterfall or rain); Iggy stays still because he is frozen (like ice cubes, glaciers, or snow); and Victor goes up because he rises like steam (like clouds or steam from boiling water). Play a version of Freeze Dance in which the music stops and you yell “Liquid!” or “Vapor!” or “Ice!” and the kids do a pose that either moves down, moves up, or stays still, depending on which form you call out. Kids can either improvise a pose for each form of water, or you can set up the activity with a group decision about which poses represent liquid, vapor, and ice. Post the drawings of Dewey, Iggy, and Victor on the wall for reference during the class and to help them recall at the next class.
Water Salutations: Next, rather than the traditional Sun Salutations, lead them through the Water Salutation: inhale, steam rises (wiggle fingers as you slowly reach straight up to extend the arms); exhale, make a cloud (blow out slowly through pursed lips and gently expand arms overhead to create a cloud, hands touching); inhale, stay in the same position; exhale, rain comes down (breathe out with a shhh sounds and bend forward until fingertips touch the ground, tapping the ground a few times lightly with fingertips to mimic raindrops); inhale, stay in the same position; exhale, flowing stream (bend knees, walk hands forward through plank and lower slowly onto belly); 3 full breaths as they swim (pretend to do the crawl or breaststroke).
This is the midpoint of the salutation. This is where it is different from your usual salutation: from face-down, bring arms overhead and roll over like a stick rolling in the tide. Bring knees to chest and rock back and forth like a seashell rolling in the tide until feet come flat to the ground, then straighten legs into RAG DOLL (kids often need to use their hands to help them to push to this position, or come onto their knees first before placing feet down in this standing forward bend). Inhale, steam rises (same as the first movement at the beginning of the salutation), exhale, rain comes down (breath out with a shhhh sound until hands come together at the heart. Now they will be standing facing the opposite direction they began in. Repeat to end up facing forward again. Click here for a video of the Water Salutation.
Water is Stillness and Storms: Here is a short story to introduce this idea of water as a double-edged sword: There once was a cloud high up in the sky, and a MOUNTAIN so high that it rose up above the cloud. But even higher than the MOUNTAIN were the STARS. Suddenly there was a LIGHTNING BOLT (Chair) and thunder and the rain started to come down. It filled lakes and rivers and WATERFALLS (Rag Doll) came rushing down all over. It rained so much, it flooded and I had to make a BOAT to get to dry land….
At the end of the story, tell the kids, “You know, water can be dangerous, but it is also very important for health.” This is a great opportunity to remind kids of the simple, but important benefit of drinking water. Autumn is often a time of dryness: drier air and vegetation after the heat of summer. How can we replenish our own water element in Autumn? By drinking water, of course! One simple way to encourage kids to drink water more regularly is by creating a fun cue to drink water, such as calling out a word or phrase. Drop the cue several times during class to keep kids on their toes (and hydrated, too).
Focus on Water: Finally, water has been used so often as an object of meditation, that it is worth revisiting here. Put on some rain, ocean, or other water soundtrack and guide your little yogis to enter a water-inspired secret garden. Touch upon anything that might have come up in class (for instance, remind them of Dewey the Water Drop and how he can blend into the wide ocean; or address a child’s fear of water if it surfaced during the class). After they come out of their Secret Garden (guided meditation in savasana) and sit up in the closing circle, guide them through three rounds of ocean breath: teeth together as if saying ‘sh,’ relax the face and breathe in through the teeth and out through an open mouth as if fogging up a window.