I was recently approached by a physical education teacher to do a yoga demo for a group of thirty 5th graders. In their weekly Fit Club they had been constantly asking if they could do yoga. The instructor had no background with yoga and felt she needed to seek out a professional for a little help. She contacted the studio and asked that an instructor come to an afternoon session and demo this practice. Since I have experience with children and yoga, I volunteered my spare time to this class.
As I entered the gymnasium at the local elementary school, I was greeted by so many enthusiastic tweens. It was obvious that I was the instructor since I was carrying an armful of yoga mats. These tweens were all ready and lined up to do yoga.
As I handed them a yoga mat, I asked that each of them take off their shoes and socks. The idea of not wearing socks or shoes for a physical practice seemed foreign to them, but when I explained that they would perform better postures, they then followed.
In the beginning of the class, I explained to them the four W’s of yoga. What is yoga? Where did it come from? Who started it? and lastly, Why we practice. There facial expressions had so much curiosity as I explained each answer.
We started out in crossed legged position and we inhaled and exhaled. The rooms energy felt calmer as we each took deep breaths through the noses and out the mouths.
Next, I kept them in the crossed legged position and we did three rounds of lateral side stretches. Each of them did this pose with such grace as their bodies stretched from one side to the next.
Once we were finished with side stretches, I put them in table top position and we did three rounds of cat/cow. Their bodies flowed naturally through this spine stretching warmup. Once they finished the last round, I put them into downward facing dog and then into mountain pose. From mountain pose we did four rounds of sun salutations, which then lead to warrior 1 & 2 followed by triangle. At this point in the practice I only had about six minutes left of the thirty minute class, so it was time to put them down on the floor into a forward bend, which then lead to a guided savasana. Once they were finished taking savasana, I had them bring their knees to chest and come onto the right side of their body. I brought them back into cross-legged seated position and ended with birthday candle breathing and one long sound of Ohhhhmmazzing!
After the class I offered them coupons to the yoga studio. My heart filled up as they approached me with numerous amounts of questions. One girl asked me if I would come to her house and teach her yoga every week! Another girl asked me how old I was when I started yoga. Lastly, another girl asked if yoga would help depression. I literally almost cried with joy when they asked me all these questions (and more). My response to the girl who asked if yoga would help depression was “If you love yoga then I suggest you keep practicing. By doing this you will become the happiest person you know!” A group of them smiled as my answer gave them a flow of ease. In that moment I sensed that yoga is the best thing a tween can do.
Tweens are at such an awkward age. They are no longer little children and they aren’t quite teens. They are just beginning to enter that awkward phase where their bodies develop and they wear braces, glasses or whatever cosmetic uniform the doctor prescribes. I sensed in the group that they were searching for something deep and meaningful. Why else would they have requested yoga from the start?
This is also an age when they become more self-reflective and notice how different they are from others. Some bully others and others get bullied. Yoga is the answer to the end of bullying. If we can teach the tweens to become comfortable with their bodies, minds and spirits then we can transform the way the youth treat one another. Together, they can change the world one sun salutation at a time!