Research is showing us that more and more children are entering school with an excessive amount of stress, anxiety, anger, and fear. Although these are all fundamental emotions in our human experience, children now-a-days do not have the tools to deal with these.
It is through the self-regulatory tools of play-based yoga that our children can begin to turn their locus of control inward, trusting themselves in full confidence. Through play-based movement children are able to, in a fun and individualized way, access their emotional and physiological bodies. Furthermore, the pranayama and meditation practices remind children that they have all the tools needed to return back to a state of peace. In the day and age we live in now, this is offering empowerment, independence, and multi-domain intelligence. We are all different in the way we access, process, and express new information, and the powerful self-regulatory tools of yoga offer just this, a healthy and successful avenue for every child to express him or herself fully, safely, and with confidence and success!
Now this may all seem unattainable or a slur of beautiful words that sounds like it may work. But how do we really apply this and achieve the traditional goals of yoga through “play-based movement?” I want to give you an example of the way play changed the experience of yoga for one 7 year old boy.
Hector is a phenomenal human being. He lives with his mother (30), his step-father (30), his brother (9), and his sister (15), and her newborn baby. I met Hector when he was in his second year of kindergarten and had been kicked out of two schools, all by the age of 7. Hector is passionate, Hector is curious, Hector is hilarious, Hector is a full-body learner, and Hector has never been seen or heard by the people that matter to him. For this reason, adults started becoming people to fear, avoid, and rebel against, as opposed to entities of safety, inspiration, and support. My first interactions with Hector were, well, interesting. From physical manifestations of his anger towards objects, peers, and teachers, to verbal tantrums of frustration, disgust, and distrust, Hector sent me home many days in tears. The more he manifested himself towards me, the more love I felt building towards him. Hector was in my yoga class 2 times a week, as part of his weekly enrichment classes. For the first months Hector would spend his 45 minute yoga class either yelling “BOOOOOO, YOGA IS BORING, BOOOOOO” or flipping desks and making absurd noises during “quiet times”. Hector pushed and pushed me and he TRULY believed that Yoga was something that was very far from his human experience.
Hector did have one passion, though: his peers’ Pokemon cards. Hector had a couple cards friends had let him have, but never had he been able to go to the store with his mother and purchase his own cards. Hector was proud of the two cards he had and would take care of them like I hadn’t seen him take care of anything before. It finally clicked! My duty was to somehow make Hector see the joy and fun in yoga just as he had in these Pokemon cards.
That is how I invented “YOGIMONS!”. If I had to sit and explain to you how my idea came to life, I cannot. What I can tell you, though, is that Hector was my true and core inspiration. If he hadn’t challenged me and hadn’t manifested so much of his internal struggle, never would I have taken it as my duty as a teacher and human, to help him find his passions manifest in health and happiness!
Soon each student embarked on a journey to find his or her super powers, to find where each physical, emotional, and intellectual strength lies, and reminding themselves that everyone holds a special role and place in this world. Hector was gleaming and for the first time would happily sit through a whole 45 minute yoga class, from the breathing, to the meditating, to the reflecting. Hector was front and center through it all! I know with all my heart, that no matter where Hector ends up, he will forever remember the day that he started to not hate yoga and his health! 🙂