Friday, September 14, 2012

Enchanted Yogis Tibetan Buddhist-Style

MY TASK:  teach a yoga class to young kids that introduces them to yoga and the culture and fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism.

The tricky part, aside from striving to be authentic to the teachings while simplifying, was to create a class that was fun, inspiring, yet was able speak to kids on their level. I ended up teaching two classes, ages 3-5 and 6-12.

It wasn't easy. But I did it.

The calls of "can we do it again", egged me on. The echos of laughter made my spirit shine even more. Looking out around the floor seeing the 10 kids sitting on their mats, eyes bright, ready and waiting for more (even after 45 minutes) made me realize: yes, kids are open and ready for this.    

Balloon breath warm up: start in a crouch then inhale pretending
to blow up a balloon. Raise arms overhead and hold  for 5 counts.
POP goes the balloon deflating to the ground.

Balloon breath game: same as above, only the teacher goes around
 to point at the kids to blow up and then to  pop.

Snippet from the Balloon Breath game

Finding our centers again after all our breathing warm ups.

Mountain pose with Tibetan Buddhist-style lotus hands (holding a precious
jewel in our palms).

Three-legged-doggies as part of the sun salutations.

Donkey Kicks as part of the sun salutations.

A little game of mindful walking

Teaching on Wisdom and Compassion

To teach the kids about what the Buddhist and yoga path is about, we looked at WISDOM and COMPASSION. We create yoga poses to represent each, and talked about what they mean. Then we put the concepts into play with the flip slide: DESIRE & IGNORANCE.

Playing out desire vs wisdom with yoga

The above video is a great example of listening to your students ideas, empowering them with acting on their suggestion. We had done two scenarios prior to this video clip, and one of the students wanted to do it again with his suggestion. I was happy to oblige!

Story Time!

Story time! I suggested they get comfortable and rest on their bellies while
they listen to a story from Tibet.

To give the students a little rest, work on their imagination, and to help illustrate the culture of Tibetan Buddhism, I transported them to a time long in a place where the tallest mountains in our world live - the Himalayas. In the mountains was a lake where a very old Tibetan Buddhist teacher riding in a boat. The teacher saw a small island up ahead that looked untouched by man except for a little hut. Read the full story here. After we did the yoga poses associated with the story (also here).

Beyond introducing Tibetan Buddhist culture, including the mantra om mani padme hung, this story helps to illustrate how strong you can become if you commit yourself to something with your full concentration and put your heart into it.

Relaxation and Integration

Get Your Craft On!

A little art project is just the thing to help the kids process the class and have something tangible to remember the good times.

Today we created our own prayer flags. I had five blank rectangles cut out and placed on a string. They were told to draw images of things they want more of in their life, or that make them happy. There were lots of flowers, hearts, but my favorite was a birthday cake!

One of the participants flags.
From left to right – a puppy, a flower, Mommy, the letter “A”, and a happy face.

At the end of the day, I was pleased to see everyone walk out of class with a smile, and even more buzzing with life. Plus, the class lit my spirit in a way it hasn't been since I last practiced with my sangha and teacher back at  Riwoche Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Toronto.

I dedicate all the merit from my class to all beings in all directions.

Namaste & tashi delak 

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