Wait...Is Yoga...Religion?

When it comes to Kids' Yoga, a question parents and school administrators have is whether Yoga is religion.  Since many of these exercises were originally inspired by the wisdom traditions of India and Asia, one might wonder if kids take part in chanting or rituals that conflict with family beliefs or school policies.

At Yoga Buggy we have a deep respect for all religions and cultures, family traditions, and personal values.  We often weave folktales or wisdom teachings from various world cultures into our classes to widen our perspectives and celebrate diversity.  Having said that, our approach to teaching Yoga is secular and does not involve teaching any religious rituals or beliefs.

The Yoga Buggy teaches postures, breathing and meditation exercises, as well as games and songs, as forms of exercise, play and learning.

We look for creative ways to help all children feel more at home in their body and in the world, to relate well to their emotions, and to have fun.   

At Yoga Buggy we welcome and include all children.  Contact us to bring some Yoga to your kids!

Kids Love to Get Smooshed!

I liked getting sat on when I was a kid.  True story! The pressure felt safe and...relieving somehow. Although my son hasn't asked to be sat on, he does like hugging contests, which can get pretty smooshy too.

Almost invariably at the end of kids' yoga, children want me to roll them up in their mat.  "Roll me up like sushi!" they cry.

Of course, smooshing isn't new.  Since time immemorial people have been swaddling their babies to emulate the warmth and comfort of the womb.  Those of us that work with kids are probably familiar with deep pressure therapy used to calm the nervous system. Check out this post to learn more!

So, the next time your child is being a little wild, offer them a hugging contest or a yoga mat swaddle.  Perhaps they just need a good smoosh!

Yoga Should Be Fun!

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!

​Cheer Me Down

Little people have a lot to learn. How to read, how to count, the difficult task of putting on socks…. The biggest challenge we all face as we grow up, though, may be how to run this whole “body and mind” thing we find ourselves in. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual. The people around us do a mixed job of handling it well themselves. 

Yoga helps children to be more comfortable in their bodies and minds and gives them tools to calm themselves down, cheer themselves up, or even, as my son used to say when he was three, “cheer myself down!”

Yoga poses and meditations, when taught in a playful and creative way like we do at Yoga Buggy, help children’s brains and bodies to grow and become friends with each other. Studies show that Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children. Yoga and the mindfulness that comes with it offer psychological benefits as well,  improving focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, as well as reducing anxiety and stress in children.

Helping children feel more at home in their bodies and the world is our raison d’etre at Yoga Buggy. 

The Yoga Buggy relies on the generosity of our community to bring Yoga to more Kids. Please click here to learn more about what we offer, and connect with us to learn more about ways you can support!

The Pearl

The Yoga Buggy kids have been so excited to make up new poses lately.  When I say excited, I mean, nearly jumping out of their skin to demo a new version of Flamingo, Elephant, or Rat pose.  It’s a special yoga teacher challenge to keep the class a balance of calm and engaged. And yet it’s delightful when the kids are bursting with creativity!  

The other day our class had an ocean theme.  When we got to Oyster pose, I showed my version.  Blanca had a standing version to show off. Oliver topped that by folding over to create the top half of the oyster shell.  There’s a pearl in there! He declared.

A Pearl?  Cool! That sparked a thought.  

I love that idea, I said.  Imagine we all have a ‘Pearl’ inside us. The Pearl is the best thing that we can offer to the world.   Some of us have the Pearl of Funniness, or Kindness, or Awesomeness at Soccer. What’s your Pearl?

Awesomeness at Riddles, said Everett. And Kindness.

Ninja Stealth, whispered Raleigh, her eyes darting around the room.  Everyone laughed.

Making up new dances with Camryn, said Isabella, grabbing onto her friend’s hand.  

One by one the kids effortlessly shared their inner ‘Pearl.’   This was a win for me. Sometimes I feel shy to name my strengths and I’m a grownup!  Imagine how much harder it is for kids, who can be very shy indeed. It feels good to find a way to help them reflect upon and verbalize their great qualities.  
Take a moment friends.  Ask your kids, ask your friends, let us know.  What’s your “Pearl?

Yoga for Children with Autism

Inspired by a couple of my own students, I’ve decided to set some time aside to explore the benefits of yoga for children with autism. The “6 Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism” post on the Autism Parenting Magazine website has been one of my favourite reads so far!

I’m looking forward to learning more about working with this group, and finding ways to make my classes even more relaxing and enjoyable for them!

It Might be your New Favourite Thing

That looks yucky Mummy, says Z., scrutinizing the unfamiliar noodle dish before him.  

Queue the teacherly speech.  Flex that ‘trying’ muscle!  I say for the five thousandth time in his young life.  You won’t know until you try- it might be your new favourite thing.  

It’s good to remember how scared I was before I taught my first yoga class.  Even now I have to marshal some courage before I walk into a new class. But when I first started...I was sweating with anxiety.

It was like Z’s noodles in two ways:  1. He was hungry!/I wanted to teach! 2.  I had to TRY to find out if it was good/So did he.  

To quote the kids’ book Going on a Bear Hunt:   

“You can’t go OVER it.  

You can’t go UNDER it.  

You have to go THROUGH it.”

It can be hard to go through it/try it/do it if it’s new and unfamiliar.  But if you do...it might be your new favourite thing!

Kids experience that feeling of anxiety often because so much is new and scary for them.  But also, it’s the new scary stuff that can benefit kids the most. Indeed, it can benefit all of us the most.  

Mmmmm, says Z., as he tries the noodles.  Not bad.  Feel my ‘trying’ muscle.  It’s getting so strong!