I recently started teaching at in a pre-K program and was asked to lead the yoga before their naptime. The lights were dimmed and the cots were out with each child next to his/her cot with personal space; it was the perfect setting for yoga!
I decided to tell a yoga story with the characters being all the children in the class. I unintentionally arrived at the best method of building relationships with these new young students of mine. With the children scattered around the classroom, I simply let my eyes travel around the circle introducing a new student at a time into the story.
The most enjoyable stories are usually the ones created on the spot. So, my method is to look at a child and allow for my mind to simply choose a pose for this child. Sometimes my mind traces back to the child telling me about a favorite animal. Sometimes the child’s demeanor or appearance reminds me of a yoga pose. And at other times, I choose the pose based on what I think the child could use more of (such as strength or calmness).
Telling stories like this with new-to-me classes and students is so enjoyable and successful for me because I get to reveal myself as silly and knowledgeable at the same time. The children get to be IN the story, too, and so, by doing this, I invite them into the world I will be creating with them over the class session. Telling stories like this also reveals to me a lot about each student. I get to hear and see which poses the children enjoy and the ones they don’t.
Something that will also be revealed is how much the children as a group and particular children want to be involved in the story creation process. Personally, I make the call if the story is open for children to co-create with me. This decision is impacted by a lot of factors such as allotted time, age of the students, size of the group, ability to hear the students sharing (say, we are outside or there is a loud basketball game going on beyond the curtain that’s separating you from said game… yep, that’s happened several times to me), and also, frankly, my mood on that given day. If I’m not feeling like getting interrupted continuously on that specific day, I will share that this story is one that’s just going to come from me. That said, if a child happens to share something, I’m not opposed to integrating it. I’m not a rigid teacher by any means.
Don’t think you are able to tell a story on the fly? Don’t fret! Often the sillier the story the better! Remember, my students in this example are four years old. I’ve told stories with all ages. Laughing wins over rational sense.
Sometimes the story is A FLOP. The students don’t laugh at all. They don’t do the poses as I am showing them to do them. They keeping talking over me. Those are usually the ones I learn the most from, so it was a success in a different way. Students of any age don’t often remember stories like that anyways, so no harm done.
I’ve been teaching children’s yoga for a while so I now have a huge ‘tool box’ of known real yoga poses as well as a collection of made up yoga poses. I also love telling yoga stories, so I have a lot of practice with them, too. Seriously, the only way to become good at telling stories on the fly is practice, practice, practice! And a lot of laughing along the way.
A super cool reason for telling stories on the fly is you can go in any direction with your story! If you notice that day that the students need to be a bit kinder to each other, make the story about that. If it’s someone’s birthday, make this someone the main character! If it’s your very first class, make it a fun way for introducing the students to your class rules. The possibilities are seriously endless.
Inspiration for Yoga Stories:
- Storybooks, whether yoga-based or not
- Your students’ stories (about their days or from their imaginations)
- Yoga sequences (you could make up a story along with Sun Salutations)
A great part of yoga stories is that they are an incredible means for a number of ends, such as:
- developing camaraderie
- strengthening creativity muscle (yours and your students)
- teaching new poses
- understanding sequencing of poses
- learning children’s names
- taking yourself less seriously!
Enjoy your stories on the fly! And for more story-telling inspiration, check out The Science of Storytelling.