Yoga in the Schools, Let’s Talk….

I’ve been meditating on writing this blog post for a while, and today, during an intense morning yoga practice, it all came to me, and well…here ‘tis.

Having just moved to our sweet new town of Encinitas, I would be remiss not to talk about the controversy and impending lawsuit surrounding yoga in the public elementary schools here in town. It seems quite ugly, pinning parents against the school administration against yogis, all the while portraying children’s yoga in a negative light. So I channel my old friend Winnie and think, “oh bother.”

I don’t wish to review the controversy here in this space.  And I want to take caution as I write this, especially since I do not know all the facts and I am the “new kid on the block” so to speak. Rather, I will write from my heart, experience, passion, and observations.

Yoga comes in many forms (Hatha, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Iyengar, to name a few).  Each of these practices stems from a certain set of beliefs, of traditions, and are practiced in different ways. As an adult, I enjoy mixing up my practice – chanting, “keeping up” in Kundalini, and the moving meditation of a good vinyasa flow class. For me, I find connection to a Higher Source. My intentions become clear. I am inspired to take better care of myself and my family, to eat healthier, and am reminded to be patient, compassionate, mindful, and grounded.

For me, a children’s yoga program (in particular a preschool program in the case of Yogi Playground) is a heart based program, rather than spiritually based. That is, a program in which children learn and explore that their actions, choices, and wellness begins at the heart. What we do affects others. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and the world around us. A children’s yoga program connects one to nature, follows the seasons, fosters self-esteem, teaches balance and coordination, and teaches us how to be still, how to breathe.

So Why Should Children Practice Yoga? Oh goodness, why shouldn’t children practice yoga?! Yoga, or we can call it Wellness, is a way of life, on and off the mat. Yoga improves concentration, focus, and balance. It promotes healthy choices, and greener choices for the environment. It’s living mindfully and presently, promoting positive self esteem and body image, body awareness, and impulse control. Children who practice yoga fare better academically as they have better concentration and focus. It builds a sense of community. And it empowers with the tools to make healthy choices, and to manage childhood stress and emotions through the breath.

 All this is done through story, games, song, and movement. We stretch like animals, we emulate the natural world, standing grounded as a tree or tall as a mountain. Sometimes we stray from our mats for a fun game of Yogi Yogi Dog. We use crazy amounts of props. We laugh. We talk. We dance.

In my classes we put our hands on our hearts and say “Home,” representing that we can always return to the safe, comfortable place in our hearts. We may repeat, “Peace Begins With Me.” We say Namaste, as a way to thank each other for a great class. If one parent expressed concern over any of these practices, I would modify immediately as it’s my passion to bring yoga to children, to build a positive, strong yoga foundation for our preschoolers. In no way do I want to jeapordize this opportunity by making parents uncomfortable.

Children’s yoga brought into public school should not include Hinduism, chanting, prayer, spirituality, or discussion of the divine in any form. My training, through MiniYogis, reinforces this idea of keeping these aspects out of our programs. There is room for this, of course, in a private class if the parents or caretakers ask for it.

 The reality is that teaching children is very different from teaching adults. And what’s more is that parents are trusting us with their children’s education. This is a grand responsibility! Most of my classes last school year were in the schools, preschool and a private first grade. As a parent myself, I do not want religious ideals imposed upon my children, particularly in the school setting. I can certainly empathize with the parents in the Encinitas public school district. I have heard (via parents) that the program, funded by one foundation and employing only teachers trained by the foundation, did introduce some fundamentals of ashtanga yoga, as well as postures. I’m curious to know exactly what was being offered. What were the elements of the program? After parents expressed concern, the principal stated that all aspects of Hinduism and devotion were taken out of the practice. Whether this happened before or after concern was expressed is unclear to me. I’m wondering if the program was presented in full to the parents prior to it’s inception. Was there a  frank, open conversation, to demystify children’s yoga, to clarify that it is not a religious practice, nor would it include any devotional aspects?  This would have helped set a positive foundation between the school, yogis, and parents. After all, yoga means union.

Children’s yoga is growing and I am so excited to be part of the progression. My sincere hope is that the Encinitas school district and the parents can find common ground, and that ultimately, perhaps with a change in the program and a better understanding of yoga for kids, yoga will continue as part of the school day for these children. At the end of the day, yoga is only positive, promoting and cultivating healthy lifestyle choices through creative movement, song, fun, and games.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my thoughts on all this. As a member of the Encinitas community, I will do my part to promote open dialogue among parents and educators. I would love to hear your thoughts as well. Please do share. And as always, dear friends, Peace and Namaste.

*Please note I do not take photos during my classroom sessions, out of respect for our special circle time together.

Yogi Playground in Encinitas!


Wow, my dear yogi friends. So much has been happening since my last post. The most exciting of news is that Yogi Playground is now living in Encinitas, California, very close to San Diego!

After we sold our home, my family enjoyed some very much needed rest and together time in Encinitas. The magic here pulled us in, literally and figuratively. And it became clear that we needed a quality of life change. And the time is Now!

The transition has been a bit of a challenge, but once again I am the Mother Bird and I’m happy to report that my nest is thriving and over the moon giddy in our new town.

We continue to hold a lot of Love for Los Angeles, and I’ll be travelling back once every month for work, and to visit with my dear tribe.

What does Encinitas hold for Yogi Playground? We will see! For now, I’m fully present for my boys, taking many yoga classes around town for myself, and meditating by the ocean.

I do hope this post finds you all thriving, giddy, and embracing all life’s transitions….listening to your inner guiding voice, your intuition.

Namaste Dear Friends….
YogiBeth

Friday’s Blessings…

Today I am thankful for

:: Breakfast with my sons. After a challenging morning preparing for another open house, my oldest son did not want to go to school. I debated keeping him home, but I knew he would have more fun at school once he got there. So instead I surprised him with breakfast at Fix in Echo Park. A little sweetness and Mama Love goes a long way. He declared, “I’m ready for school now Mama.”

:: Our Daycation with friends in Laguna Beach! What a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday, swimming and playing with friends above the world.

:: My meditation practice.

:: Our collective health.

:: My new Hoberman Sphere which I found for $3 at The Awesome Playground in Highland Park! Not only have I been using it in my classes, but I’ve stumbled upon both my boys taking deep inhales/exhales throughout the day. What a wonderful visual for breath. Time In, indeed.

:: My 5 year old son…5! He just celebrated his birthday last week, and I’m in awe of how sensitive, inquisitive, creative, and full of heart he is. Shine on Sweet Boy.

:: My almost 2 year old son! Such an independent spirit indeed. Lately our favorite outing is taking walks around the block, well actually I walk and he “drives” his ride-on truck. I smile from the inside out as I listen to him sing and drive. We culminate our walks with swinging and kisses in the backyard. His Light radiates, my beautiful angel.

:: My foundation. Yes, the foundation that we just spent sooo much money to fix and firm. But more so, the foundation I have with my husband, my partner. Throughout this whole process of selling and fixing and spending….oh my….we’ve remained solid, strong, a team. No matter how stressful life gets, we always manage to spend the evenings cuddled together with a glass of wine and a good laugh.

:: My son’s preschool. Lately they’ve been snacking on their harvest of snap peas, lettuce, and grapes, washing it all down with homemade lemonade. I couldn’t be happier with the lessons learned.

:: Friends. True friends. Nothing sweeter.

So many more Blessings I have in this life. These are just a few on which I’m vibing at this moment. Please do share your Blessings here or in your own space. Perhaps just  a moment of reflection.

*Namaste*

 

Checking In….

Hello Dear Yogi Playground Friends & Family,

Just taking a moment to check in and say Hello! My Yogi Playground school classes and privates have culminated, and I’m now taking time to be fully present for my 2 young boys. My days are spent playing Transformers, filling water buckets to “paint” the driveway, and basking in spontaneous dance parties and cuddles. Ahhh…Summer Lovin’.

My family is also in the midst of a major life transition as we are selling our Silver Lake home and moving westside to support my husband’s new, exciting partnership at a design house in Santa Monica. I’ve been an eastside gal for 8 years now, living in Echo Park and Silver Lake, but evolution is vital and a GOOD thing, as I keep reminding myself.

While we deal with the chaos of showing our home (read: Keep it tidy with 2 kids!), looking for a new dwelling, dreaming of a beach side life, signing paperwork upon paperwork, and discussing emotions attributed to such change, I’m reminding myself to remain grounded and true. I am the Mama Bird of this house and it’s my responsibility to tend to my nest. No matter what wild changes may come, it’s most important that my children know home is within the 4 of us. Our family is home.

It’s been most insightful and heartwarming to talk with my (gasp) almost 5 year old about the move. When the “For Sale” sign was erected in the front yard, he cried to me, as I cried inside, and he said, “What if people buy the house and we still live here? There’s no room for them!” Ah, these babes of ours. After it became clear that new people will not be moving in with us, we talked about the nature of the house. How we spent the last 3 years repairing the house, tending to the orchard, growing a garden, filling it with Love and Light as only we could. Now it is time to pass it on to another family, so they can fill it with their own dreams, grow their own life. He said he knew the house would keep smiling.

And now, as we revel in our potato and lime harvest, we play more in the backyard. We stir up more limeade, and we leave our silent wishes with the bees and butterflies.

As Yogi Playground moves west, I will be taking a short hiatus from teaching weekly classes as I focus on my family. In autumn, I plan to begin my Seasonal Celebrations for children and families. I’ll also keep you updated on new class developments and exciting projects underway! In the meantime, remember to Breathe, continue to Love, and Savor the Cuddles in all your homes…

Namaste Dear Friends….

YogiBeth

 

“Wild Things” Yoga…A Tribute to Maurice Sendak

As I was eating breakfast this morning before teaching my preschool yoga classes, I learned the sad news of Maurice Sendak’s passing. Almost immediately, I changed my class plans for the day. After all, Mr. Sendak is a true inspiration, a bright light in the world of imagery and imagination for children and adults alike. It was decided. Today we would explore our “Wild” side with the book, Where the Wild Things Are!

I introduced the story to the children, explaining that Max was having one of those “wild” days. Do we ever have days when we feel particularly crazy or wild, or act out? Do we sometimes get into trouble if we chase the dog? We were ready to tap into our wild sides!

Here are some notes from our classes today:

We began in wolf pose. After reading the first page we howled at the moon.

When his mom sent Max to bed without supper, we were mad and sad in mouse pose.

As the forest grew, so did we! As shrubs on our knees to a great big forest of trees (tree pose). We held hands and tried extending our leg.

As the ceiling hung with vines, we swung side to side on our vines!

Max’s private boat arrived and we sang in boat pose, until we landed where…

The Wild Things Are!

We roared and clawed and showed our “terrible teeth!”

With “Be Still!” we sat in easy pose, with our eyes wide.

As Max was named King of All Wild Things, we put on our imaginary crowns, and practiced “King Dancer Pose.” Try not to let your crown fall!

And then…

“Let the wild rumpus start!”

To ‘Jungle Boogie,’ we truly let out our wild sides, dancing on our mats. When the music stopped, we practiced

Crescent Pose, leading into Half Moon Pose

Swinging from The Trees

Runner’s Lunge

As Max became lonely and The Wild Things slept, we sat again in easy pose, with our hands at our heart, and breathed Love and Blessings to someone special.

We took a roller coaster boat home, lined up one behind the other, until finally Max made it H(om)e, where his supper was still hot.

After the book, we talked about how we sometimes feel wild like Max, but no matter what, we are always loved. We then practiced finding our “calm,” while practicing our Dragon’s Breath and our Take Five, ending in a walk to the clouds where we rested in savasana.

Rest in Peace Mr. Sendak, and Thank You for allowing our imaginations to ROAR! Now, Let The Wild Rumpus Start!

Namaste Families. Love one another.

 

 

Let’s Hear it for The EARTH!

We bring our hands to the sky

And then we touch the Earth below.

We say Hello to the Sun

And then we plank and lower slow.

We salute the tiny snakes

And all the great big dogs

And we end in crescent moon.

(Inspired by The Yogi Pokey by Mini Yogis!)

This week we celebrated our Home, Earth! We discussed all the small things we can do to make a big difference for our planet. Some of the ideas shared were….

Planting, gardening, picking up trash, recycling, sharing, and one yogini said “helping the government” (!)

My preschoolers enjoyed reading The Earth Book by Todd Parr. Following the book we practiced poses such as bicycle, tree, mountain, flower, and various animal poses.

We also sang the song above and learned about Half Moon pose, which connects the earth and the sky, and celebrates everything in between! Of course we also enjoyed a whole lot of dancing since Earth Day is kind of like The Earth’s birthday 🙂

My first graders further explored how to help our planet. We worked in small groups to develop our own poses for the statements

:: We walk and bike when we can.

:: We pick up trash and recycle.

:: We use both sides of our paper to help the trees.

:: We use less water when brushing our teeth, showering, and bathing.

:: We give away old toys and clothes rather than throwing them away.

It was a really wonderful experience to watch the groups work together and come up with some very clever poses to help us remember these ideas. I took photos of each group which will be posted in their classroom!

In all my classes we practiced our focus and balance in tree poses, playing Windy Trees, and using bean bags and drishtis. What an experience to witness these yogis, with whom I’ve been working since September, find they can balance a bit longer! Their sense of surprise and accomplishment just shines.

Next week we’ll continue exploring and connecting to all that surrounds us. Happy Earth Day everyone! Love one another.

Namaste.

Children’s Yoga versus “Real” Yoga

In the past couple weeks, I’ve had 2 students remark that (1) “I do real yoga at home with my Mommy” and (2) “My Mommy takes a real yoga class!”

Oh the mouths of babes. I followed up both statements by asking, “Do we practice real yoga?” This lead to giggles and a clear “No.”

Real Yoga. Real. Yoga. I’m so so delighted to hear that children are practicing with their parents, and being exposed to their parents’ daily practices. Perhaps our yoginis are even bringing some of their yoga into our vinyasas and daily routines. But I really had to smile and put myself into the 4 year old minds of my yoginis, and meditate on “real” yoga.

Yoga, at it’s core, means union – a union of the mind and body, or in a spiritual sense, a union of mind, body, and spirituality. In our classes we talk about joining our moving bodies and breath. Of course, yoga means so many different things to so many people, but what does it mean to my yogis?

Delving a bit deeper with my students, I was enlightened to learn that “real yoga” means advanced or “harder” poses. It means Mama saying “I’m going to my yoga class now!” It means being still in our poses and in our thoughts. Yes! All of these scenarios are yoga. But the yoga we practice in our circles is also the heart of “real” yoga.

As a children’s yoga teacher, I believe it’s my responsibility to cultivate an appreciation and respect for yoga, and to create a strong, positive yoga foundation. Of course, we practice poses and sometimes give them silly names. We learn Balloon Breath and Volcano Breath, and we play Yogi Yogi Dog and Pass The Planet. But we also discuss the seasons, the Earth, our feelings, our friendships, our connection to nature and all that is around us. While practicing ant (plank) and spider poses we may talk about how we take care of all creatures, even the smallest beings. While passing around the singing bowl we may fill it with our dreams and wishes for a new season (intentions). All of which is real yoga – yoga as a way of being, a way of life. And how fortunate to begin practicing these ideas at such a young age!

Of course, at 4 years old this may not be entirely clear, but I do smile. And once again, I’m given a brilliant opportunity to delve a bit deeper, and for myself, to meditate on the connections and sense of beings we are cultivating. And of course to giggle and play with all my yogis!

Namaste Yogis!

 

It’s Earth Month!

It’s a funny thing, planning “Earth Month” themes for children’s yoga classes. After all, Yoga is Earth – Respect for Mother Earth, all creatures, ourselves, one another. Yoga is Breath – Breath from the trees, clean air. Yoga is “living simply so others may live.” Throughout the year, these are the ideas on which we meditate and practice. This month we celebrate and honor Mother Earth.

With a return from Spring Break, my classes this week centered around planting, growth, and breath. We begin with soil and seeds, and we breath and we grow! In my preschool classes we planted magical flower gardens. In my first grade class we “took a walk in the rain.” In all classes we experimented again with our breath using pinwheels. We found that when we breathe deep from our bellies our breaths are longer and one student remarked that she felt “stronger.”

Throughout the month my main focus will be to cultivate and encourage an understanding and love for the outdoors. Happy Earth Month Yogi Playground Families & Friends!

Namaste.