During my kids yoga classes I have the kids join hands in a circle standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and then I put a hula hoop between two children's arms. The goal is to get the hoop spinning in a circle. The children need to talk to each other, listen to each other's ideas on how to make the hoop twirl and then work together to sustain it.
It's a wonderful exercise to teach kids how to cooperate. What would happen if you brought a hula hoop to your next staff meeting?
I teach a yoga class after school for elementary school aged children. Everyday I pick them up from their school and we go to the studio to practice yoga, create art and learn how to be more compassionate human beings.
Yesterday my yoga kids were talking about the latest safety procedure that they had to learn how to do that day, I immediately assumed it was a new way to do a fire drill. It’s the beginning of the school year and I know as a veteran mom to elementary school aged kids that the first month of school there are several practice runs of the fire drill so that everyone knows what to do in case there is ever a real fire. But no, it wasn’t a fire drill. It is called “Lockdown”. The kids told me how they have to “stay quiet, don’t move and go to the safe place”. I asked one of my first grade yoga students, “Why would they need everyone to go into “lockdown”?
“If there was someone bad in the school, or outside of the school.”, she told me passionately, eyes wide with a bit of fear in her voice.
“Someone bad?”, I asked.
“Ya know if someone came into the school with a gun and wanted to hurt people.”
And in that moment my heart broke a little. I wanted to wrap them all up in a hug and put them in a bubble of protection so that they wouldn’t ever have to practice “lockdown” or know that such horrible things happen in the world.
My mom has told me stories about “duck and cover”, a safety procedure that was taught to children after the Cold War for fear of an atomic bomb, children would crawl under their desks to take cover. And now in 2014 we are teaching kids how to be safe if someone comes into their school with a gun. One of my kindergarten yoga kids told me how everyone in his class piled into the bathroom and it was dark and a tiny bit scary. Each child shared where their safe space was in their classroom; some were under the teacher’s desks, others in a closet. Another kindergartner told the group that his safe space was hiding behind backpacks.
We talked about how it made them feel when they practiced “lockdown”.
Everyone agreed on “sad”. Sad that a “bad person” felt so much hate in their heart to hurt other people. I told the kids that when they are in their safe place they should practice their “belly breathing”. At the end of every yoga class we lay on our backs in corpse pose (Savasana) and place our hands on our bellies and focus on our breathing. Inhaling on a count of three and exhaling on a count of three. The first grader that passionately told me about the meaning of lockdown smiles and says, “That’s a good idea Gretchen. Maybe I’ll do it when I’m mad at my brother too.”
So whether you are feeling scared, sad or really mad bring awareness to your breath and breathe in on a count of three or four and exhaling on a count of three or four. Letting the emotion pass through you while calming your mind.
You can do this exercise either sitting or standing.
Interlace your fingers behind your back, squeezing the shoulder blades together and draw the front of your shoulders back. This by itself can feel pretty freaking amazing. But now let's add a twist, literally.
Slowly slide your hands across your bum and try and get them to stay on the side of your bum/hip, look over your shoulder and breathe. Does that feel easy?
Well let's now bring an awareness to the entire pose, as you twist I want you to focus on keeping the hips forward…don't let the hips move at all.
If you are sitting you can really feel what I am talking about because the weight of your body on your bum keeps the lower part of your body steady while the upper part of your body is twisting.
So try the pose sitting first and then stand and try and recreate the same sensation of only moving the top part of your body from the waist up. Be aware of drawing the belly in and on each exhale try to go deeper into the twist.
Hold the twist for 5 breaths and then try the other side.
Listen to your body and give it what it needs throughout your day. Take the time to honor your spirit by devoting time for you. Drop into any of my classes to refuel your energy and spirit.
In the first few rounds of your Surya Namaskar use your hands to grab your legs and pull your chest into your legs on the exhale in the fullest expression of the pose. Around your 4th forward fold change the dynamic of the pose by drawing your belly in and only using your core muscles to pull the chest into your thighs.
Forward folds can be a surrender and also an invigorating pose depending on how you engage your body. Switch up your practice and let your body take a different dynamic in your forward fold. Snap a selfie of you in a forward fold and use the hashtag #beeyogafusion
I want to see you!
Give it a try tonight and see if you can bring your awareness to the pose while brushing your teeth, it's a wonderful challenge to try!
Have you tried my FREE yoga class on balance? Check it out!