Soccer is huge in Argentina. When I started working with kids, the first thing the three-year-olds asked me, even before my name, was, “What’s your team, teacher?” Soccer is so huge in my country that usually the first toy for a boy is a soccer ball. And the second thing boys get is a tiny shirt with their team colors that they wear proudly.
Imagine how it is when The World Cup is on!! During the Soccer World Cup every person in the country has ONE team, and ONE shirt: Argentina’s. It’s a serious thing. People skip their jobs, and kids don’t go to school when the games are on. We get together with friends and family to see the matches and celebrate. Once every four years, the whole country stops and gets the World Cup fever.
Being a Kids’ Yoga teacher, it is impossible to ignore the soccer tournament. So during the entire month that the World Cup was on, my classes focused on one thing…making my students understand how yoga is a part of everything, even the World Cup, and how that frenzy and an enormous sense of joy that we feel when we are supporting our team can be present while we do yoga, too. But only if we allow it to be there and we channel it in a productive way, can it make our Kids’ Yoga practice so much more interesting.
Usually, my students love to sing OM. It is a peaceful moment that they have during the school day (chanting OM it’s an excellent kids’ meditation tool). It is a moment to get in touch with ourselves and to cool down a little bit. During the World Cup, the level of anxiety was up, not in a bad way but in the “ecstatic rejoice” way. OM was especially important during this time to help the kids deal with a season overwhelmed by emotions.
The first class I had to teach during the World Cup began with the kids walking into class shouting “Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!!!!!!!!!!!,” which is how we celebrate a score. I was trying to make them calm down to start the class singing OM, but the stress level was so high that everyone was out of focus. So I did what they taught me at my Kids’ Yoga teacher training with Kidding Around Yoga in Costa Rica. I used the opportunity to teach. I realized that the way we sing “GOAL” was the same way we would sing “OM,” so I used this as a bridge to connect what goes on in the classroom to what happens in my students’ lives.
So that’s how we started. I invited my students to sing OM with the same intensity and the same amount of love they sing “GOAL”…to put their hearts out there just like in the moment that their team makes a score…to focus on that overwhelming feeling of joy that springs out deeply within ourselves. I was amazed by the results. Everyone started chanting OM and vibrating into joy and happiness, and my students were able to understand that kids’ relaxation tools are not only useful to cool down our minds but also to get in touch with our inner selves. We sang Oooooooooooooooooooooooom!! and even the walls trembled, and all that anxiety my students had for not knowing how the World Cup would end transformed into enjoying the moment and taking it game by game.
That was the starting point for an entire month of soccer and yoga combined together. We partnered up to play pom-pom Pranayama soccer. We worked on poses that the soccer players could use to train, analyzing the benefits of each pose and how we can apply them to life. We talked about how the soccer players can benefit from meditation and Pranayama to give their best in the matches, learning that the kids’ relaxation techniques we use in class can be useful for everybody, even soccer pros. We painted mandalas de “Blanco y Celeste,” matching the colors of our country’s flag. We worked on our team coordination, playing team games, using inspiration from the way the soccer players have to work together to win. And we also made Argentinian bracelets to wear when the games were on, learning that even making team bracelets can be a form of kids’ meditation and mindfulness…using our entire focus on doing one thing silently.
We did tons of activities revolving around the World Cup. And not only did we have had tons of fun and we did tons of kids yoga, but we also learned that what we do in class is actually just like what we do outside of the class. We learned that by applying a few things from yoga into our lives, we can have a whole new perspective on things.
The most interesting thing that happened occurred after the final. For all of you that didn’t follow the World Cup, this is what happened: We lost. We got all of the way to the finals, played against Germany, and we lost by a hair’s breadth (I want to say that we lost by an inch of hair). Of course, everyone’s spirit was a little down after losing. My students came into class defeated. They were angry that we had lost and felt frustrated. I took advantage of this moment to share with them my point of view that it is just the way it is. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. And even if you win or lose that doesn’t say anything about the way you are. What really matters is what you do with it. If you seize the opportunity to grow, and if you had fun doing it, that’s all that matters.
And that is what I really love about being a Kids’ Yoga teacher. Yoga can happen in every situation in life such as when I am supporting my country at the Soccer World Cup, or even when I can’t nail a hard pose. For me, yoga is all about being my best self, even when things don’t turn out the way I expected them to.