Mindful Monday Mornings
“For everyone, the challenge is to do what works for us, for our body, in our moment, without the need to compare. In a world of ranking, yoga offers compassion instead of competition.”
By Talia Goodkin ’98, 5th Grade Teacher
Monday morning yoga class with 4th and 5th Graders has become perhaps my favorite time of the week, and not one that can be found at every school. Yoga has so many benefits for children, which is something that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC) agree on wholeheartedly. Physically, it increases their strength, flexibility, coordination, and body awareness. Mentally, it provides tools to manage stress through breathing and movement. It builds concentration, and increases confidence and body image.
As regular yogis ourselves, we the teachers have been aware of all the wonderful benefits that yoga offers and wanted to find a way to share the experience with our students. Paige and I both had the opportunity to attend a training program and become certified Yoga for Kids teachers. This gave us the idea to develop our own program that also heavily models and normalizes the concept of consent (students check in regularly about the kind of touch - if any - they would like to receive during yoga adjustments), creates a sense of community among upper Elementary students (we have noticed many more cross-grade friendships as a result), and provides the teachers a way to connect outside the classroom. For me, it’s an opportunity to get to know the class I will teach next year. For Paige, it’s an opportunity to connect with her former students. For Emma, it’s an opportunity to relate to all the students she teaches at once.
4th and 5th Graders have started every week with 45 minutes of yoga all year. Each child has a yoga partner from the other grade, and we set up mats either in one giant circle or in a tight overlapping design in the middle of the gym. As students lie down on their mats, the electric buzz of leftover weekend excitement fades as the first couple notes of a familiar meditation song comes on, and all the kids close their eyes and begin to focus on their breath. Their bellies rise in unison and a wave of calm washes over the Community Center.
We transition into a gentle flow: one movement, one breath. If the collective energy level is high, we will do a core sequence and plenty of sun salutations. If it’s low, we spend more time in twists and balasana (child’s pose). Sometimes, we do acro-yoga partner poses. Sometimes, we workshop a particularly challenging pose. We play with balance, stamina, and breath.
We also play with our own reactions to challenge. When we get to a place where that voice inside our head says, “Hey, this is hard,” how do we respond? Do we immediately give up? Do we grit our teeth and talk back? Do we do it for ourselves? Or to impress someone else? How much is ego guiding our response? How much is our fear?
For some of us, the challenge is to just give it a shot – to try that pose that always seems a little out of reach, to have this be the day where we take a risk, where we are okay with falling. For others, the challenge is to rest in child’s pose – to ease back, to edge away from our competitive edge that dances against the line of having to be the best. For everyone, the challenge is to do what works for us, for our body, in our moment, without the need to compare. In a world of ranking, yoga offers compassion instead of competition.
We save the last ten minutes of class for wind-down poses and a final shavasana. We turn off the lights, our bodies return to stillness, and Emma or Paige lead a guided meditation. We end by taking one last breath in unison, setting our intentions for this week and every week: May we have kind and loving thoughts. May we have kind and loving words. May we have kind and loving actions.
Posted April 30, 2019