One of the best ways to teach compassion and to build more empathetic kids is to reframe the world in the perspective of the viewer. Children are naturally curious, open-minded, and flexible in regards to integrating new information and differences among people. They generally make less a fuss about how things are “supposed” to be because their expectations are not the same as an adult’s.  Honestly, this is one of my favorite reasons for working with children.  They are ready, willing, and enthusiastic about learning. 

A lot of people do not realize that learning happens beyond the classroom in other settings and within various experiences. Again, this is one of the best “pros” to teaching kids yoga.  There is such a wealth of material and time to introduce a multitude of concepts to these young people.  With the holidays approaching, it is a most opportune time to present information about the season and how it houses many diverse holidays for people around the world.  The advantage?  With yoga, this information can be presented in a fun, unique way that lights up their imaginations and helps them see the similarities between all people, thus building compassion. This creates kids who want to be friends, not people who are fearful of others.

Christmas– The holiday that many of your children will celebrate in December and one that the United States really amplifies is both Christian and secular (to some extent).  Most kids are familiar with St. Nick (aka Santa Claus), gift-giving, and decadent meals with family. Most people agree that the key feature of Christmas is the idea of giving. To inspire generosity in your students, play a game of Secret Santa wherein the children pull names from a hat and they MAKE a gift for their yoga peer. If your students do not know each other ahead of time, ask the students and their parents to please purchase a gift (of less than $5) for a wonderful charity such as Toys for Tots and you all go together to donate.   (Click here for more blogs about Christmas, yoga-style) It’s also fun to take a well-known story, song, or poem and put a yoga spin on it, like this one about family meditation based on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas:

Twas the night before Christmas

When all through the house

Everyone was sitting

Even the mouse!

They sat by the fire

As it crackled and snapped,

Clearing their minds,

Not taking a nap.

The tree stood tall and

glowed in soft light,

the sky was inky

but stars shone bright.

Chests rose and fell

With each breath they took.

Their lungs expanding,

They had to look!

The room smelled of apples

And cinnamon, too.

All thoughts drifted

And a baby said “coo”.

Bodies were still.

Worry eased and sadness melt.

Minds were free!

They loved the way they felt!

Peace filled their hearts

And happiness the room.

They held hands

As they watched the moon.

The fire was in embers

Providing little light.

They looked at each other and said,

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Chanukah– Also known as the “The Jewish Festival of Lights”, this Jewish holiday is celebrated over eight days and nights.  The Menorah is a staple and each candle is lit on one of the nights. On the final night, the center one is lit.  A fun game/song to play is Yoga Nagila as it is based on a Jewish folk song and encourages people to come together for friendship and fun.  Make sure to include a holiday table display with a menorah! For more kids’ yoga with a Jewish twist, check out Yoga Yeladim

Kwanzaa -A holiday beginning in 1966, was created to celebrate and honor persons of African descent.  The core message is of family, community, and culture.  As many persons of color’s voices have oft been left off the table, this holiday is way for many African-Americans to honor their collective traditions and values.  The holiday speaks of unity and working together.  Partner poses and a good reading about social justice and family would be in order here! Karen Katz’s My First Kwanzaa is an excellent read.

Diwali – The original “Festival of Lights”, Diwali is celebrated in many areas of Southeast Asia and India.  As yoga’s purpose is to reach Nirvana, this holiday celebrates an old sage who is said to have reached enlightenment and peace.  The name itself means “lamps in rows”. One of the biggest themes of the holiday is goodness and how goodness always triumphs over evil.  Now would be a good time to discuss Namaste and practice saying it with your students! Click here for ways to include Diwali and the meaning of Namaste in your classes.

            Include crafts such as paper wreath making, activities that encourage friendship and family relationships such “gathering” around the “table” to share a feast, play games, and have St. Nick/Jack Frost lead the children in their sun salutations.  Have fun and remember that our differences make us special while simultaneously connecting us this holiday season!

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