What are the three rules of Yoga? The teacher asks her wiggly students at the beginning of the yoga class. The teacher feels pretty aversive to rules, really. Freedom is the best, right? Yet, over decades of delighting in/stressing about the anarchic nature of the child’s (i.e. human’s) mind, she has a plurality of practical and philosophical reasons to set ground rules. Raise your hand if you can remember. Most hands shoot up. Avery, can you remember one?
Stay on your own mat! Avery replies, with the particular confidence of a seven-year old girl.
Poo on your own mat, six-year-old Miguel whispers too loudly to Brody, his five-year-old co-conspirator. They both snicker as though neither one has ever heard a bathroom joke. In their defense they have restrained themselves for a solid five minutes.
That’s right. Stay on your own mat unless we are doing off-mat activities. But I will let you know if we are!
The class pauses for a moment to untangle the two boys, as Miguel has tackled Brody.
What’s the second rule? Most hands shoot up again. The teacher has a hunch on whom to call. Everett, she says to the five year old boy. He is consistently quiet with watchful eyes.
Umm, yoga should never hurt? He asks dubiously.
Right, yoga should never hurt. If something hurts, what should you do?
Stop! Several kids whoop. Yes, stop what you are doing and do something more gentle. And the third rule?
Yoga should be FUuNNNN!!!!!! Screeches Miguel as he tackles Brody once more. Brody shrieks and laughs with delight.
After untangling them again, the teacher says, That’s right. Yoga should be fun. So let’s have some fun!
And they do. And by the end of the class, all of these children-with their radically different abilities to self-regulate-have danced the dances, done the poses, played the games, listened to their bodies, and, the teacher dares to say-even meditated!
Isn’t this great news? Yoga can benefit us in so many ways, and it can also be fun. One need only observe children briefly to see that they are built to play! I like to say to children, Playing is your job! Fun is a delicious- and even essential- ingredient for children to successfully learn, and the good news is that rules don’t spoil the fun- they make it possible!