Children learn and grow with Kindness.
This story is about how children can learn and grow from Yoga with Kindness, highlighting the importance of cultivating compassion and self-awareness from an early age.
“Children do learn what they live. Then they grow up to live what they learned.” – Dorothy Nolte.
Yoga in schools and Kindness grows.
When you say ‘Yoga’ to children, they instantly go into Tree Pose, shut their eyes and say ‘Ommmm!’ I love that their immediate response is an accessible pose, coupled with the idea of meditation and calm. Adults often see yoga as a workout and forget about the spiritual aspect of yoga, especially as many classes are held in gyms.
Yoga is an eight-limbed path, and the physical postures are only one of the eight limbs. Another limb is the Yamas, which are actions to avoid. Ahimsa is one of the five Yamas and is often translated as ‘non-violence’. The flip side of non-violence is compassion or Kindness. Kindness not only to other people but to yourself, and Kindness grows and grows.
How do you witness Kindness grow in a children’s yoga class?
I’ll use the example of a seated forward fold, or Paschimottanasana, to give it its Sanskrit name.
Firstly, I tell children to listen to their bodies. If anything hurts, they shouldn’t do it. This may sound simple, but it’s at odds with the messages they get in other aspects of life. Children are often told to try harder, spend more time working, constantly improve, aim for a goal, and push themselves harder. By contrast, yoga postures should be a balance of ease and steadiness. If you can’t relax and breathe into it, you should modify it to suit your body. In Paschimottanasana, you can bend your knees slightly and not strain. This is Kindness in a yoga pose.
Secondly, I don’t praise individual children. Of course, there will be hypermobile children who can twist and bend themselves into impossible shapes. Their parents will tell me they’re ‘good’ at yoga because they have been born with more flexible joints. They haven’t worked hard to get that flexibility; they have it naturally, and moving feels good. But that doesn’t make them ‘good’ at yoga. So when performing a pose, I encourage children to think about what this pose is doing for them. Paschimottanasana stretches the backs of the legs.
This can be more challenging for children who do lots of sports that involve running, but stretching out helps to avoid injury. I don’t praise the children who can easily get their heads onto their knees or reach past their feet. I praise everyone for doing the pose. This is Kindness by not comparing; yet again, we see how Kindness grows.
Thirdly, there is no standard that children must reach, no tests to pass, and no individual awards. I ask them to pay attention and make their best effort, but the only assessment is for the child to ask themselves, ‘Do I feel good?’ Everyone in my smaller yoga clubs gets a sticker because they have chosen to show up. They are all valued. When performing a pose like Paschimottanasana, I’m not measuring the angle of their backs, the distance they reach etc.
I check that they’re doing it safely. Kindness grows by not judging.
I show Kindness to my class members and am rewarded with their willingness to help wipe and roll up mats and carry my bags. This is how Kindness grows!
Conclusion: Kindness grows when children learn Yoga.
In conclusion, the story of how children can learn and grow from Yoga with Kindness highlights the importance of cultivating compassion and self-awareness from an early age. By incorporating the spiritual aspect of Yoga, such as the Yamas, particularly Ahimsa or non-violence, children learn to be kind to others and themselves. In a children’s yoga class, Kindness can be witnessed by encouraging children to listen to their bodies, modifying poses to suit their needs, and refraining from praising individual abilities to avoid comparison. Instead, the focus is on acknowledging everyone’s effort and value, fostering a non-judgmental environment. As the teacher shows Kindness, it reciprocates in the children’s behaviour, leading to a growing sense of empathy and willingness to help others. Through Yoga with Kindness, children develop the foundations for a more compassionate and accepting outlook as they grow into adulthood, living what they learned and embracing Kindness in all aspects of life.
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