Saucha, or purity, is one of the key ideas Patanjali wrote about in the Yoga Sutras. It is vital in clearing the mind and creating a strong, healthy body. Most kids are probably not concerned with purity, especially when making messes is so much more fun! Of course, in kids’ yoga we make ordinary things enjoyable, interesting, and useful to kids.
One way to start from ground zero with this idea is to ask your students to explain what the word ‘pure’ means. That will give you a sense of what they associate with the word. Whether or not your kids have any ideas to share on the topic, I find it’s best to steer the discussion towards this very important idea: kids learn about purity through meditation and action. Most yoga teachers incorporate meditation into their classes, so we’ve got that part down. The next step is to focus on how action can be linked to selfless service (also known as seva), and what better way than to relate it to spring cleaning?
Yes, on a simplified level, cleaning is like purifying. Ask kids how they might help keep their homes clean. Prepare for a range of different answers, including a very common one: “My mom cleans the house.” Whatever their answers are, bring them around to the idea of seva and how this is related to helping to keep things clean around the home. The teachings of yoga encourage yogis to take care of not only themselves, but also others! You can use this as OMwork (kids state what they’ll do to help clean at home, then come back to the next class to share how it went).
One way to link this to yoga postures is through a story on housework. It can go something like this Together you and your kids can make up motions or poses for the chores (SWEEP, VACUUM, WASH, and DUST) : One day my mom (or dad/brother/sister/grandma) asked me to help clean up around the house. First, she asked me to SWEEP the floor and VACUUM the living room rug. Then she asked me to DUST the bookshelves and then set the TABLE for dinner. After dinner, I wanted to sit around and WATCH TV (cobbler pose with elbows on floor and chin in hands), but she/he said that first I had to help WASH the dishes. After all that, I was so tired, I sat down in my CHAIR; I decided to read a BOOK (open and close legs like they are pages in a book) instead of WATCH TV.
Since yoga teaches us so much about balance between self and others, you can add that a home is not only a house where you live, but also your own body is a home for your mind and spirit! I think of a snail and how it carries its ‘house’ on its back. Well, every ‘body’ is a house and we can think of the things we do to keep our bodies pure/clean. Ask your kids. They might say something like: brush my teeth, take a bath/shower, eat good food, wear clean clothes, brush my hair. Tell them that they can also use their breathing to ‘clean’ their bodies. More specifically, the exhale is the part of the breath that is cleansing. A nice, long exhale can help to sweep away tension and stress from both the body and mind. Some teachers call it a ‘cleansing breath,’ and it is often done by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
I find that, as well as making messes, kids also love to make sounds! So it is fun to add sound to the exhale, such as ssss, hahhh, shhhh, thhhhhh, or a blowing sound as if blowing out candles on a birthday cake. I usually add this type of breathing at the end of the class as a way shake off any wigglies and sillies that remain, especially if kids are restless in Secret Garden (what I call savasana).
Bring a (clean) feather duster to class, and use it at the end when the kids are in Secret Garden. Explain to the kids that only when they are lying calmly with their eyes closed, the Saucha Fairy (or whoever you want to refer to) will come with her feather duster to sweep them from head to toe to help their minds to clear and their bodies to relax. This provides a simple, tactile acknowledgement that you notice them participating in their Secret Garden. If time allows, you can have kids make their own feather duster, either earlier in the class or at the next one to revisit the theme. Bring a bag of feathers and provide sticks and strings or rubber bands to tie them on. Make sure that there is enough of every color so that kids can walk away happy!
For more ways to make spring cleaning fun, check out the ideas in this blog!