Yoga and Mindfulness in School can turn young people’s lives around…
Managing Competition in Class
I have always encouraged non-competitive activities in my children’s yoga classes in the belief that games should develop co-operation not competition. Competition creates winners and losers and can cause children to give up trying if they feel that other children are bendier or stronger or calmer than them. I even avoid playing Grandmother’s Trees with children under 8 yrs because I have had children in tears because they didn’t win. But recent events have made me question whether it is good to avoid competition altogether.
The opposite of fostering competition is creating fairness and equality. Children have a strong attachment to fairness, but this can be hard to manage in a yoga class where you want to give children to opportunity to have a turn, tell their story, demonstrate their yoga pose – but don’t have time to hear everyone. We want to treat everyone equally - yet everyone is different.
Earlier this week I brought an inflatable globe to a class of 5 and 6 year olds and asked a child to choose a country to visit for our yoga story. I then spent most of the class managing every child’s need to have a turn with the globe. Should children always be treated equally? Or should we be equipping children with the skills to manage competitive feelings without arguments, tears and fighting.
Recent experiences with my 9 and 11 yr old daughters led me to re-read the amazing book Sibling Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish which suggests treating children uniquely rather than equally, recognising their feelings of competition and giving them skills to move beyond them.
There is also much to be learnt from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras - written 1600 years ago and still very relevant for children today. Ahimsa (kindness), Tapas (self-dicipline), Santosha (contentment) are all values that we can demonstrate through the games, visualisations and yoga stories we teach in our classes. Teaching children's yoga is much more than enabling them to touch their toes or lie still in relaxation - we are teaching values, boundaries and emotional resilience. Our job as Children's Yoga Teachers is teaching children how how to navigate their place successfully and peacefully in a competitive world.
As a teacher if you hear and accept a child’s feelings of competitiveness or need for fairness but state a value or guideline, such as ‘I can see you are upset that you didn’t get a turn but today I chose Eleanor as a reward for sitting really quietly in meditation, another week you will get a turn too’ - the child knows that their feelings have been heard and that you reward good behaviour. This approach encourages Santosha in the child – something you can reinforce during the class with affirmations and circle time.
Just like adults, competition drives children to try harder and achieve. This is not a bad thing if it means they try to sit quietly in meditation in yoga rather than get distracted by their friends. Over time they may start meditating simply because it feels good. But while they are still learning we need to understand and be compassionate towards children's need to compare and receive unique praise and attention. So instead of seeing competition as a negative in yoga, we accept its existence and harness the opportunity to reveal life lessons. Yoga gives children skills and values for life if we have the patience to teach them.
Emma Charvet and Siobhan Power from Children’s Yoga Tree are running a workshop on teaching Philosophy to Children on Sat July 21st at Effraspace in London.
Yoga teaches children to be fearless
Yoga teaches children confidence
Yoga teaches children concentration
Yoga teaches children discipline
Yoga teaches children to be in the moment
January Inspiration for Teachers & Parents
...borrowed from Albert Einstein
The weather outside is frightful and the delightful fires of Christmas are waning. Welcome to January and all the existential and climatic challenges it brings. I usually approach January with apprehension. It is my least and most favourite month all at the same time - it brings hope of change but as the football quote goes - it is the hope that kills. So where does that leave us yogis, struggling with the duvet/sun salutation dilemma on these dark wet mornings?
As a yoga teacher people expect positivity and serenity at all times. As a children’s yoga teacher and a parent my kids expect me to have a bottomless resource of energy and patience. So, as January dawns to my tired eyes and I feel myself not being able to live up to all these exhausting expectations, it begs the question..where to go for inspiration?
In times of trouble I invariably turn to Einstein quotes, for his simple but cosmic wisdom. However, the words that jump out at me seem to be throwing the question back…
'Creativity is Contagious, pass it on.'
So I get on my mat and create my own inspiration - a January fire sequence that mirrors my energy levels from dead log to dancing flames and back to charred wood. At bedtime I asked my children to rate it. It got an official ‘lemon’ rating - apparently that is good! Then they joined in and made an even better one.
The message I’m getting is that parenting as well as teaching should be less about telling and more about inspiring. My eight year old is happiest cutting up bits of old clothes and sewing them together to create cushions..or slugs..whatever she happens to be into that day. My lazy contribution? Leaving bags of clothes intended for the charity shop lying around the house. The creativity myth is that we need to be good. Creativity is the essence of yoga. Start where you are. Don’t expect results. Enjoy creating. The reason children are naturally creative? It is their fearlessness. Children have not yet set out their expectations of success or failure.
‘If at first the idea is not absurd there is no hope for it.'
If being creative feels as accessible as holidaying on the moon…do more of what you love. If it is sleeping, go to bed earlier and write down your dreams. Creativity comes from indulging your imagination and imagination can be brought to any activity in the world.
'Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world.’
Thanks again Albert.
If setting New Years Resolutions is your thing… do one creative thing every day for a week. If it's not..do what you love anyway. Watch to see what happens. By the way.. my new year's resolution is to watch more TV - evenings are not my creative hour and I am not a fan of guilt-driven and guilt-inducing resolutions - particularly during the coldest, shortest days of the year. As teachers or parents, if we are to really empower children we need to feel empowered, if we are to inspire children we need to feel inspired. If we want children to be creative…create!
So my lesson for January is to do what makes me feel happy and trust the rest will follow. I made flapjacks this morning and I could not be happier now drinking chai, eating flapjacks and writing this blog. Next week I've promised my children it will be brownies. Pass it on….
Co-Founder Children's Yoga Tree, Yoga Teacher, Single Parent, Dog & Cat owner, aspiring ukelele player (in no particular order)
Here's some more grist for the creative mill:
One question that is always asked by new teachers is what is a DBS and how do you get one. I have put together some information on how to acquire one.
It is standard for all schools to ask teachers for their up to date DBS from the UK. This document take s a few weeks to acquire and schools usually wont allow teachers onto their premises without one, so it is advisable that you apply as soon as possible.
DBS stands for Disclosure and Barring service and is a document resulting in merging information from the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority and is basically a background police check.
If you are not from the UK you will need to supply your police check from the country in which you were born so it is advisable to apply for that as soon as possible.
As a children's yoga teacher it is imperative that you apply for the ENHANCED DBS as this police check is specifically for working with children and vulnerable adults. This usually costs around £65 for the first application and then £14 for yearly automatic renewal. It can be tricky to apply for an enhanced DBS unless it is done through a school or agency. It is advisable to speak to the studio or school that you will be teaching for to ask them to assist you with this process.
It is important to note that when initially applying for DBS that you opt in for the yearly automatic renewable service which will ensure that your DBS is automatically renewed every year for £14. If you don't do that you will have to go through the entire process again AND pay £65 to renew instead of £14.
Hope this helps :)
BELOW ARE RUNNERS UP FOR DESIGN A YOGA TREE LOGO COMPETITION
Click on the picture to see the different entries
Click on the picture to see the different entries
Design a Yoga Tree logo
We are inviting children of all ages to enter a competition to design a unique Children's Yoga Tree logo for our new website.
The judging panel will be looking for a small, simple design that that can be printed on a T-shirt and on the Children's Yoga Tree website. The yoga tree picture should represent what yoga means to you. This can be calm, happiness, peace or anything else that you feel when you do yoga. Ideally the logo should be drawn or painted but could also be designed online.
The winning entry, judged by a panel of yoga, photography experts will win a childrens’ T-shirt featuring their own Yoga Tree design. The deadline for entries is 1st April. Entries should be scanned and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to: Children's Yoga Tree, 32 Beechwood Rd, London, N8 7NG