Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yoga at TLS

You can be a cobra, a camel, a cactus, or a crocodile. You can be a majestic tree or a mighty lion. Who doesn’t know the warrior or the downward facing dog? But do you know the reasons why yoga is so endlessly good for you?

At this early age yoga incorporates the development of so many important skills! It fosters creativity of expression, strength and flexibility, coordination, body awareness, concentration and focus, social skills, listening skills and power of observation.

It inspires the imagination, promotes balance and breathing, builds self-esteem and fosters a non-competitive spirit.

“Yoga helps you to move and think in a new way, a way that puts thought into movement and movement into thought.” (Idiot’s Guide to Yoga with Kids).

“I find wrapping my trunk around my feet helps to stretch" (Babar’s Yoga for Elephants)

“It makes a big difference when we adults make efforts to give direction and show what habits lead to a vital, healthy, and happy life.” (My Daddy is a Pretzel)

Meet TLS’s Yoga instructor, Ms. Kiera:
Kiera's yoga practice began in 1990 with master yogini Kali Ray in Santa Cruz, CA while performing as a professional ballet dancer.

She has devoted her life to the study, practice and teaching of yoga, has lived in ashrams immersed in the study and practice of Bhakti Yoga, and currently teaches ballet and performs Indian Classical Dance.

She teaches at Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts (just down the road on Becketts Ridge Dr.) as well as at the Ballet School of Chapel Hill. She currently teaches pre-ballet to 3-8 year olds and has been teaching ballet for past 10 years. She loves sharing her two passions with children.

How Ms. Kiera describes yoga at TLS:
We start out yoga class by sitting on our mats in our yoga seats (a.k.a criss cross yoga sauce, pretzel) and begin to center ourselves by focusing on our natural breath.
We begin to feel ourselves more calm and grounded.

We then learn how to utilize our complete breath (filling our balloons up with air), which has many benefits, such as opening the chest and freeing the breath, going beyond our normal shallow breathing, massaging internal organs, reducing anxiety and stress, and much more.

The children have been learning many yoga asanas (postures) which build strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. Some of the regular favorites are butterfly, cat, mountain (or dog), cobra, tree and waterfall.

Sometimes we are very quiet and sometimes we use our louder breath as roaring lions, hummingbirds, buzzing bees and bursting volcanoes. Frequently we use themes with relating asanas such as; exploring outer space, visiting the beach farm, desert, rain-forest and going on a picnic.

We end with a quiet relaxation and affirmations to enhance self confidence, good health, and positive social & emotional well-being.

Some links from Ms. Kiera:

Benefits of yoga for children:

Quotes from the “yoginis” in Lauren and Diana’s class, on their favorite pose:

Emmet: “Tree pose, because I keep falling over and I need to practice my balance more.”

Leo: “I like the Helicopter, because I get so dizzy."

Xavier: “I like the airplane, because I balance really good.”

Isa: “I like yoga, because you can get healthy.”

Other highlighted poses include the Lion, the Butterfly, the Seal (=clap hands and feet :)

A discussion followed about yoga and setting a good example for your friends and “making your own choices”. The children spoke about learning to listen to Ms. Kiera, to watch Ms. Kiera and to focus. They talked about closing their eyes and covering their ears to hear their breathing (you should try it!)

Why yoga at TLS?
In efforts to help her oldest son through a chronic illness, Ms. Christa - together with her son - learned about deep breathing and mindfulness techniques at the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine. These techniques helped Grayson be more in tune with his body and regulate his breathing. It was very educational for both of them and it seemed that over and over again it all came back to yoga. As much as it has helped them both, Ms. Christa thought that it would have been such a blessing to Grayson if he had had an early experience with yoga going into it. It is likely that the deep breathing techniques taught in yoga would have given him tools that would have eased parts of his illness.

At the same time that Ms. Christa was reading about yoga and deep breathing, she and Ms. Jennifer began reading about Conscious Discipline and learning more about the techniques that we are now using in the classroom. It seemed like a completely natural addition to TLS’s program to add a piece like yoga that teaches the children how to breathe in a group, as well as individually and to give the gift of physical and emotional self-regulation.

Yoga and the Conscious Discipline connection:

Conscious Discipline is grounded in self-control and composure (the first of the seven basic skills!) The first step in any discipline encounter is to take a deep and calming breath (three deep breaths shut off the fight or flight response in the body).

The four core active calming techniques used in Conscious Discipline are S.T.A.R. (Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax), balloon, pretzel and drain. These are the images that you see posted in our classrooms, especially in each Safe Place.

The balloon is an exercise that helps us practice breathing. We create a balloon with our hands placed together, then as we reach over our heads, the balloon gets bigger, and so does the diaphragm as it fills with air. Letting the air out with sound effects is especially fun and a great de-stresser.

In yoga we also do the balloon exercise. Incorporating yoga into our lives at TLS supports our journey with Conscious Discipline.

Stay tuned for the next blog, which will elaborate on Composure and our Safe Places at TLS.

Enjoy the slide-show and see if you can find the butterfly, the robot, the lion, the mountain, the tree, the helicopter, the crocodile, and more. Thank you Davian, Dana, and Lauren for your beautiful photo contributions !:)

And of course, don’t forget to BREATHE.

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