To be in the company of 4 year olds is indeed a gift in so many ways. They love the world of make-believe and are keen to follow you (usually) wherever you want to go. As I was getting ready for my pre-schoolers’ Yoga class this past week, the unthinkable happened…the electricity went out! (We did have some emergency lights on so we weren’t in total darkness but close enough). No lights. No music. And now no plan! With a pack of 4 year old boys descending upon me!
What to do? I thought to myself, when do you sit around a circle in the dark? Why, at a campfire of course! So began our adventure into the wilderness. First, we needed fire. Luckily, I had been planning on using bean bags for one of the activities, so we talked a bit about what colors make up fire. The consensus was orange, red and yellow, and sometimes blue. We chose to stick with the basics of red, orange and yellow. We put them in the middle of the circle and began to stoke the fire with our breath. Breathing in deeply through our noses and getting low to the ground and letting out a steady stream of breath through our mouths to get our fire going. Success!
Now time to meditate and feel ourselves get comfortable being in the woods. A wonderful way to help kids get centered and begin meditation is a simple but very efficient method called Peace Begins With Me (PBWM). We sit up nice and straight and feel our roots grow and anchor us deeply into the ground. Begin by taking your pointer finger and thumb and press them together and say “peace”, your middle finger and thumb and say “begins” , your ring finger and thumb “with” and your pinkie pressed to your thumb, “me”. Repeat it out loud a few times to get the rhythm, then whisper it, and then you can do it in complete silence with only fingers moving.
We discovered when we were quiet, our ears perked up and we could hear more sounds from the woods around us. The boys shared their sounds and showed us the yoga poses that went with them. They heard birds, bears, frogs, lions and of course a monster! If the sounds had traditional poses (like lion), then we did the posture. But if the sound we heard didn’t have a pose that corresponded, we created our own (like for bear and monster). We let our imaginations go wild ~ after all we were in the woods.
All this meditating and listening made us hungry, so we decided to make some soup. We straddled the fire with wide, straight legs, feet touching in a circle, and made soup with fresh coconut, chicken, carrots and water. We stirred the soup and then set the table to eat it. It was “YUM”. We remembered to take deep breaths in through our noses and really smelled the soup. Our exhales cooled the soup. (Pranayama took all different forms during our camp trip.)
And what campfire is complete without story telling? So it was SILLY story time. As each person contributed to the story, we created poses and laughed harder and harder. We forgot about being in the dark!
All of the giggling and activity had made us tired so we rolled ourselves up in our Yoga mats and pretended they were our sleeping bags and settled down for our trip to the Secret Garden. In adult Yoga classes, this is called savasana, and it is when the body is still so the mind can rest, too. I guided them through their quiet meditation by having them look to the stars to guide our way. We noticed they shined much brighter here in the woods, and that if we looked closely we could see shooting stars! Here we practiced our Loving Metta Meditation: the first shooting star we made a wish for ourselves. Then the second shooting star was for someone we love, and the third one was a wish for someone who might not be so easy to love. Our last wish was for the world! We then slowly returned to the studio. As we opened our eyes, as if by magic, the power had also returned.
We ended our camping trip by sharing our wishes, rolling up our sleeping bags and heading home.