When I entered the small room at the community center for day one of my Kids’ Yoga training, I had no idea the number and variety of valuable tools I’d be leaving with. We all go to training classes with certain expectations about what we’d like to learn or experience, but THIS class was truly life-changing and OMazing. The one tool I’d like to focus on in particular is enough to change children, their families, and teachers everywhere positively and permanently….

It’s called the “Secret Garden.” Big yogis know it as Meditation, or Savasana for the experienced yogi. Sure, it sounds all cute and whimsical—and that it is—but it is also so much more! It is a secret weapon that takes children of all ages from 60 to 0 (reverse pun intended) in literally about 45 seconds flat (flat—they lay on their yoga mats! Get it? I did it again!)

In a typical KAY yoga class, we get our young yogis centered and calm from the moment they sit on their mats, using a warm-up phrase such as “peace begins with me” which they repeat as they sit cross-legged with their eyes closed for focus. Then, after some stretching, fun, and traditional yoga poses cleverly disguised as fun and games, our little ones dance and pose their hearts out to original, upbeat, kid-friendly songs. By about halfway through the class or a bit thereafter, they’ve experienced a fun and safe workout that is so good for their growing bodies that they are almost too happy to take a short rest.

But, hey, any gym teacher can get children riled up and then expect them to be so tired that they’ll plop down on any surface to catch their breath, right? Wrong. I know. With two children in school, I’ve spoken to many a gym teacher. And while teaching three yoga classes of 3-5 year-olds back to back a few weeks ago, both parents and teachers alike were floored (there it is again!) by the children’s response to the “Secret Garden.” They were OMazed at how their children were so willing to settle down after such good yoga fun and excitement. But they were even more surprised when the kids stayed on their mats for the duration of their brief but significant journeys into the Secret Garden.

Here’s how we get there: as our little yogis are full of happy excitement from so much darned good yoga fun, the instructor quickly and quietly goes over to the light switch to lower or turn off the lights. This automatically lets kids know something is coming—something mellow, but no less great than the rest of their yoga class. The children are encouraged to lie on their backs, stretched out on their often colorful yoga mats and start to breathe in and out slowly. Many children become little yoga burritos by rolling up in their mats while others lie comfy under their yoga mat blankies. Any way they choose to do it is fine. They’re kids. The children are then guided to lay still and quiet because there is no talking in the Secret Garden. They are guided to relax their arms, legs, face, and bellies, as they imagine their mats lifting off of the floor like a magic carpet, taking them to a far away, special place just for them.

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Soft music plays in the background as the children’s fidgeting slows to a minimum. Little Tommy may imagine a Secret Garden full of dinosaurs eating from trees and resting near water. Little Tina might put stickers on her garden and a pink fence all around it. They can be alone or with friends. Their gardens can be at the beach, in their rooms, or at their grandmother’s house. They are reminded that they can come to this unique and personal place whenever they want. During the few moments of quiet relaxation, I often describe my Secret Garden, complete with mermaids, colorful flowers, and a waterfall to encourage their young and vivid imaginations further.

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And just like that, the once vibrant and energetic room is now peaceful and calm. A soft, gently fragranced eye pillow or colorful scarf is sometimes placed over the children’s eyes. They love it. They are not rushing to a sporting event. They are not living by mom or dad’s rules during these precious few moments. They are not sitting straight up in a chair copying school notes. So, they feel free. It is their time. They embrace it. They look forward to it. They even ask for it at the beginning of the next class and every class.

Children of all ages have “stress” just like grown-ups. They just don’t know to call it that. And what seems “stressful” to them as children may seem like nothing more than a trifle to adults. But to them, it’s big. And KAY’s Secret Garden gives all yogis great and small the perfect opportunity to forget about it all—even if it’s just for a few moments. And those quiet few moments, when practiced again and again, lead to many moments of peace and many peaceful children.

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