Since January 2012, I have taught many children many things. I have been a babysitter, a yoga instructor, a crafts leader, a friend, a taxi driver, and a mother. As a yoga instructor last year I taught up to 15 classes a week some weeks! On average weekly, I had the opportunity to teach 120-150 children yoga. THAT is a lot of responsibility! As my son says, “with power comes great responsibility.” Not that I was powerful, but any of us who parent or teach have the power to choose how and what we share with these young lives being formed right before our eyes.
Each week I planned classes to be fun, energizing, challenging, and then ultimately to lead them to relaxation and stress relief. Something else I tried to do was teach them basic values through teaching two of the limbs of yoga: Yama and Niyama. I would assign Om Work to practice a concept, or we would incorporate it into a game and how we interacted with one another in class. This was not always an easy task, as it can be difficult to explain “grown-up” concepts or philosophy in kid-friendly terms.
One week my husband and I had the opportunity to teach children in a different way. We were Tribe Leaders for the Tribe of Simeon (the second son of Jacob in the Bible, one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel) during the five days of Vacation Bible School at church. Sure we had a curriculum to follow and mostly we are there to herd the children from one activity to another, but they also look to us as grown-up examples of what following God looks like in life. BIG responsibility again. Lately, as I have grown up studying the Bible and these last several years studying The Yoga Sutras and other yogic texts, I have been able to see the universality of many—if not all—of these teachings. I love when I see the invisible thread that weaves it all together. This week, as we learned the Ten Commandments from “Moses” (a guy dressed up as the biblical figure), the one that stood out was the Tenth Commandment about not coveting. Shew. Does that even apply in modern morality? We won’t get into that here, haha.
As we talked about it with the kids and other children asked questions, I found myself connecting this to the Niyama of Samtosa, commonly spelled “santosha” as it is pronounced. This just means contentment. So when we practice either the Tenth Commandment or the Niyama of Samtosa, we are ultimately practicing contentment. It becomes less about what we have or even what we purchase, and more about the condition of our hearts when we view what we have or what we buy. Do we look to that latest gadget, toy, car, house, or fashion to bring us joy or happiness? If so, we are not practicing this commandment, AND we are violating our practice of this Niyama. When we are able to just be in whatever situation, regardless of income, status, or possessions, without going to outside things for happiness, we find joy. Being content means not relying on anything else to be added or removed from our life as a condition of our happiness. Even thinking about the addition of things, “If I just had that new job” or “If I just had that new toy, then I’d be happy” is a violation of the practice of contentment. It becomes a trap, and once we allow these thoughts, we invite stress. We take our minds off of our practice, off of the moment, we often become less mindful, and we begin a pursuit of all things that will bring us “happiness.” Sutra II.33 says, “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.” That is a practice I often use when I find myself spiraling into worry about survival or keeping up with the proverbial Joneses. I stop, breathe, spend time on my mat with the intention of practicing contentment, and I think of all the reasons I do have to be joyful—to be content. I teach this practice to my son as well since the little TV time he gets is inundated with commercials telling him all the toys and things he “needs” to be a happy child. He understands it, for the most part.
As you can see, as Kids’ Yoga teachers, we teach more than physical fitness. It is about more than keeping your kids busy for an hour so you can grocery shop. We are helping to share ideas that will carry them into adulthood, planting seeds that will help them grow to live healthy lives physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Take some time this week with your children to look (maybe even list) at the reasons you have to be content—right where you are, just as you are. My wish for you is that in doing this you will find a joy you don’t always experience daily. Take that joy, breathe it in, hold it in your heart, and never forget to share it.
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