YOGA KIDS IN NATURE
Program Leader: Jacqui Fownes, ARAD, CYA-E-RYTGOLD, YT, CYT
The Yoga Kids in Nature spring session was supported by Small Neighborhood Grants, which allowed parents to enroll their children free of charge. We met each Tuesday afternoon for an hour at Redwood Park for four consecutive weeks.
The response to the program was very positive. There were 12 children registered within three days, and a long waitlist. I hope to help meet this demand with similar future programs.
The curriculum was designed to connect children with themselves and nature, through yoga, breathing and mindfulness practices, and through observation of nature around them and within.
Our four classes each focused on one of the elements: Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Each of these themes delved into these qualities in nature and in ourselves. Each child was provided with a Yoga Kids in Nature folder on our first day. A handout, illustrating that day’s poses, breathing practices and meditation was given at each class, to gather together in the folder. This helped children remember, and allowed parents to understand what their children were learning, and to support home practice.
The children learned yoga positions to support their physical development in strength, mobility, and balance. They also practiced focus and mindfulness through observing, challenges and walking meditation. They learned breathing techniques that support emotional regulation and mental stability, such as slowly blowing a pinwheel, imagining ocean waves of breath, humming our hearts, and letting out big energy and feelings with “wood chopping breath”.
Positive reinforcement and encouragement were offered to build confidence and connection. Each week we experienced a conscious relaxation, including cloud watching, soaking in the sunlight, feeling our body relaxing into the support of the earth, and being aware of the fluidity and flow of breath within our bodies.
As well, each week, during our mindful walk, we gathered an item from the natural world, that reminded us of the day’s theme, which we then used as the focus of that day’s meditation. At our final class, we used all four objects to practice the following meditation (and children then took home their sachet containing their four chosen natural objects):
“Breathing in, I imagine I am the earth. Breathing out, I feel strong.
Breathing in, I imagine I am still water. Breathing out, I feel calm.
Breathing in, I imagine I am the sun. Breathing out, I feel bright.
Breathing in, I imagine I am the air. Breathing out, I feel free.”
The children responded very well to the program. It was heartfully rewarding to observe their engagement and focus, especially with this final, cumulative meditation practice. There were several special moments, such as:
The triumph on one boy’s face after successfully completing a difficult balancing position.
Seeing the internal awareness of the children, and its stabilizing effect, while practicing tree pose, after seeing and discussing the “center ring” of a tree trunk.
The quiet stillness of the children while they imagined soaking in the sunlight while lying in relaxation.
The helpfulness and kindness of the children toward each other.
The joy on the face of the mother of one autistic boy after hearing he was fully engaged in our program activities.
Several parents observed from a distance, and were very positive in their comments and gratitude for the program. For example, one parent wrote to me afterward, stating, “We truly appreciate and are grateful for your kindness, positive energy, creativity and inspiration throughout the Yoga Kids in Nature classes over the last four weeks. Everything that was learned in your extremely valuable classes will continue to be practiced”.
I am grateful to have received the support of Small Neighborhood Grants for this children’s yoga program, and also for the support of two volunteers: my 13-year-old son, Koen, who assisted with mentoring, teaching, and supervising, and an adult yoga student, Nanette, who helped supervise.
I will continue to do my best to support our community in this and other ways.
ARAD, CYA-E-RYTGOLD, YT, CYT
15595 Thrift Avenue
White Rock, BC, V4B 2L8