The first time your child rolls out her mat in a Yoga class, she is exposed to many new words, which shouldn’t be surprising, really. The practice of Yoga is from ancient times, 9201914481_c1e11a2e60_zfrom a foreign culture, and utilizes a relatively obscure language (Sanskrit). And while kids can have a beautiful, effective practice without exposure to the vocabulary of Yoga, I believe having a basic understanding of Yogic terms and philosophy can take your child’s practice to whole new level. One of the first words I expose my Yoga kids to is ahimsa, or non-violence.

About 400 CE, Patanjali compiled 196 aphorisms about Yoga from older traditions, added his own explanations and wrote it all in the Yoga Sutras. In it, he described the eight limbs of Yoga (interestingly, none of these “rules” involve the physical practice of Yoga postures). The Yamas and Niyamas constitute a set of principles for ancient Yogis to live by for an enriching, joyful life. And the very first Yama is ahimsa.

Ahimsa requires a compassion for all living things: the self, other people, animals, and all of nature. To me, it is a guiding principle for my life, and one I continually share with my own children and Yoga students.

One way to demonstrate the meaning of ahimsa is through books. The Recess Queen is a picture book about a bully that is eventually shown compassion and learns how to be a friend. This energetic book leads naturally to discussions about fairness and inclusion. After reading it to your stu12446672144_5714ee087b_zdents, I encourage you to brainstorm some Yoga games that would include everyone, and then play it! For example, a game of Orange You Grateful is perfect. Players sit in a circle and pass an orange (or a ball) using only their feet. When a player has the orange in their feet, they share something they’re grateful for by saying, “Orange you grateful for _____?”.
The Great Kapok Tree is a beautiful introduction to caring for our natural environment. In the tale, jungle animals take turns explaining why the great kapok tree should be saved. As you read the book aloud, act out the story using Yoga poses. Of course, not every animal in the story has a corresponding pose. That’s when you get to be creative and silly, making up your own poses. Finish up with a round of Jogging Through the Jungle to keep with the rainforest theme.

The idea of nonviolence toward yourself and others can also be taught through partner poses. When doing Yoga (or anything!) you don’t want to hurt yourself or your friends. So, you practice ahimsa! Remind kids to move slowly and listen to their bodies, and their partner’s voice and breathing. Some of my favorite partner and group poses are:
Double Boat: sitting feet-to-feet, children hold hands, press their feet together and sit up, each in a ‘V’ shape
Dog House – One child does downward facing dog while the other crawls underneath to rest in the doghouse. Switch roles.18285395899_c52aeeb977_z
Bunk Bed – One child comes into reverse table. The next child (usually a smaller one) does the same pose on top of the first child, with their feet on the bottom one’s knees and their hands on the bottom’s shoulders. This can go three high, too!
Meditation is another way to teach ahimsa. “Peace Begins With Me” (or PBWM) is a simple meditation. Begin seated and bring both index fingers to the thumb pads (like the OK sign). Say “Peace”. Then bring the middle fingers to the thumbs and say, “begins”. The ring fingers are next saying, “with”. And the pinkies finish with “me”. Repeat the words and gestures several times out loud, and then become quieter, and quieter, until you are whispering. Eventually, the words are only spoken in your head, but your fingers still move. I would also suggest introducing the Loving-Kindess meditation. (There is an article about the meditation and how to teach it here.)
Lastly, I encourage you to teach ahimsa through song. A favorite song among Yogis is May the Longtime Sun. It is a simple, lovely song to wish yourself and others wellness and joy.

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Kidding Around Yoga Justice Information

 Company Justice Statement

We stand with you, our Black family. At Kidding Around Yoga, we are a worldwide multicultural community committed to bringing the teaching of yoga to children and families worldwide. Our aspirations have always been to treat all humans with dignity, respect and care. We recognize that aspirations and intentions are different from impact. Our good intentions have not diminished the impact of our lack of understanding. We acknowledge the harm experienced by Black people and people of color within our organization. We have been blind to the ways in which white supremacy culture has been at play within our materials, structures and communications. We are deeply humbled and saddened to start to realize the extent to which BIPOC have been harmed, undersupported, ignored, dismissed, asked to perform emotional labor for free, and otherwise not held in the ways we aspire to hold everyone. We appreciate those who continued to point out to us our blindspots, even when we failed to listen or honor the wisdom they were bringing. We apologize. We know it is not enough. We are committing to strengthening our anti-racist actions, to continue looking deeper into our structures and personal biases, and to make ongoing changes to embody the teachings of yoga.

This is a time to wake up, to speak up, to stand up. This is a time to fight for what is right and educate those who are still in the dark. Every Black life matters. We all recognize that these are not new issues, but this IS a new opportunity to be allies and agents of change, in large and small ways. Let us not hide from this challenge or wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting. We each have a voice and a responsibility to fight for a better, more just and peaceful world. Join us as we listen, as we learn, as we change, and as we do what we do best: share the ancient and powerful practice of yoga and meditation with children across the globe.

In addition to the ways in which KAY supports bringing yoga to all children, we specifically recognize and commit to the following:

► Our materials and content need to be reviewed and updated. Some existing content contains ideas or themes rooted in racist structures we are now becoming aware of. These have caused harm and discrimination, and we are committed to a thorough review and action steps. We will give updates as to our actions regarding these materials.

We also recognize that we have not fully understood what cultural appropriation of yoga looks like. We understand that, in certain instances, we have used yoga in a way that has diminished its roots and caused harm to the culture from which it arises. We are undergoing a deep review of our materials and marketing, in this light, and will give updates as to our actions as a result of this review.

We also recognize that asking our Black teachers to share what they are doing to guide themselves through these “trying times” was felt as insensitive by many teachers. It was not our intention to cause harm in this way, but we understand how this is emotional labor, and that teachers need to be compensated for this. We will compensate any teachers we call upon to support us in this process.

We acknowledge the lack of Black leadership within KAY, and are actively expanding the leadership team to include and elevate Black wisdom and voices. This week, we are delighted to welcome Shawandra Ford and Camelia Brown onto the leadership team. We will continue to expand our team in the coming weeks.

We are revamping our KAY4ALL training to include specific anti-racist training. We will make it mandatory and included for all trainees and trainers. Meanwhile, KAY Leadership is undergoing anti-racist trainings themselves, which will be ongoing.

We are in the process of allocating resources to support scholarships for BIPOC trainees, to fund classes in underserved communities, and to offer financial support to organizations upholding anti-racism and helping make yoga accessible and available to BIPOC families.

In order to move forward and accomplish the mandates listed above, we have created a Justice Task Force. The JTF will identify and implement the changes needed within KAY. The JTF consists of seasoned and new team leaders committed to serving to create an anti-racist culture within our organization.

We will be adding tasks to the list, as we grow and evolve in our understanding of what needs to be done. We hope you will join us in doing this work in your own lives.

We are open to feedback, but we understand that it is no one’s job but ours to look, to learn, to digest, and to take action. We stand by our commitment to become an anti-racist organization whose work uplifts, supports and learns from Black wisdom and leadership.

Please email info@kiddingaroundyoga.com if you wish to reach out to us in regard to this statement, whether it’s feedback, an offer to join our efforts, or you want to be kept up to date with these promises. 

Namaste,

Kidding Around Yoga

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