The other day someone asked me, “But what do you actually teach little kids in a yoga class? What do you want them to learn?”
It’s a great question.
Such a great question, with so many possible answers, that I think it needs its own blog post. Coming right up.
But if I had to choose just one overarching goal, for all the kids I teach, preschoolers to teens?
Self-regulation. I want them to know their own nervous systems well and to know how to up-regulate, down-regulate, and find a flexible sense of home in a range of bodily/emotional states.
In order to self-regulate, kids need to explore different energy levels.
Musical Savasana is a game we play to feel the contrast between high, creative, expressive energy and the feeling of calm stillness, trying to feel a sense of play and pleasure with both.
It’s simple. When the music is on, kids can dance. When the music is turned off, they return to their mats and lie in Savasana, as still as they can. When the music is turned on again, they get up and dance.
A Few Pointers:
- I often have an older school-age child ask if we can play this like “real” musical chairs, with a mat taken away each time. I have found that playing this version leads to more tears than joy, and also distracts from the real aim – not getting to your mat the quickest, but really enjoying the dancing and then trying to relax as quickly and completely as possible. However, for the kids who are motivated by some healthy competition or who resist games where “everyone gets a trophy,” I sometimes ask kids to help me choose the “Most Mellow” kid. I tell them exactly what we’re looking for: Arm, leg, and hand muscles that are relaxed, a smooth forehead, slow breathing. The “Most Mellow” kid gets to be the “judge” next time.
- Its always helpful to have guidelines for the dancing, within which kids can be as “wild” or inventive as they want to be. I teach in a space where there is a large rug away from our mats, so that’s our dancing spot, and the only rules are keep your body on the rug and no cartwheels (I have a group of girls who are VERY excited about cartwheels!) or screaming.
- When kids are in Savasana, point out that stillness isn’t relaxation if muscles are clenched and you’re not breathing. We sometimes alternate a few times between “Fake Savasana” (exaggeratedly still and stiff, eyes wide open, holding your breath) and “Lovely Savasana.”
- This game can be a great transition to your final relaxation at the end of class. It’s always helpful for kids to have a final chance to move, shake out their sillies, express themselves before being asked to be still and quiet. The last time they return to their mats, dim the lights and begin your relaxation routine.
- Any music will do, but my current favorite is For the Birds by Fire Dog (got it from iTunes). I like to use music that’s energetic without being frenetic.
Have fun! As always, I love to hear how you use these ideas in your classes!