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As a woman we travel through a raft of emotional and physical phases in our lives from childhood to teenage years, from early adulthood and for some to motherhood, then to middle age to menopause, senior to older years. In the past we were encouraged to make the most of our young years as they “don’t last forever” so we try and fail and try again and succeed or at least we think we do. I am not so sure that our early years can be enjoyed as much as we think. Yes we are young, have more stamina, can wake up the next day and shake of a hangover way quicker than with 40 years or more under our belts. We are apprentices, doers, unsure of who the hell we are –ers….
In my forties with two children I am in a “phase” of confidence. I certainly don’t have the body I would have always craved for but nor do I have the chibby body of twenties. I have a healthy body I can be confident in. Super active – as most women in their forties seem to be – I am proud to see the fruits of my labour coming to fruition, super proud to see my children growing into beautiful people, confident in my knowledge and experience, eager to continue and progress with new projects. I am on the outside, and to all extents and purposes a purposeful, successful and fulfilled woman but…. And there is always a “but”….
One of my yogini friends Elena Brower once said the best yoga teachers are the ones who have struggled, bummed out, sunk low, done some sh***y things in their life and I am no exception. I don’t profess to be the best yoga teacher but the confidence and dynamic positive energy has come from the embers of hard graft and some deep struggle.
Always the joker when younger and a large baby, child, teenager, my body issues blocked a lot of my body confidence. Arriving in my twenties not knowing who I was, what I wanted, needed I tried to me a version of me that I thought was expected of me, that my parents would love to see, that my boos wanted, that my boyfriend thought he wanted ….
My thirties, marriage and children changed my perspective on life but filled my days with needs, routine, school runs, things that “need doing”. Little time for self-reflection which was actually exactly what was needed. Having said that those early years of motherhood and married life help shape the character add the colours and flavours of our characters.
And so my forties ….. Mid-Life crisis? Time Out? Well here’s the thing! Suddenly the confidence I lacked in myself in my twenties and had little time for in my thirties knocked on my door and screamed out “now is the time”!
A combination of events maybe nudged me in that direction – a difficult birth with my second child and emergency surgery, the loss of a close friend to cancer, starting up a business…. The fact that I had had my children, had passed through that ticking biological clock, had turned a corner in my life as a woman…. All of this opened a huge door and offered me the courage to move forwards and leave the insecurities behind.
Yoga and my spiritual path has taught me to be kind to myself, to always respect emotions that rise up, to observe from behind my eyes and not judge, to allow space in between the cracks that appear, the ups and downs of life. I had not always listened to this sound advice but it was there, nudging me, pushing me in the right direction. As such I breathed deeply and took some big life decisions – separation from my husband, selling a beloved home, setting up a new one, being honest with my children and spending more quality time with them, with myself and my friends too. In the words of John Legend I started to love “all my curves and all my edges, all my perfect imperfections”. Well I tried, am trying….
To be a little more precise about where I live and my home …. I live in France and in quite a particular part of it, the mountains of Savoie. I find myself surrounded by dynamic, sporty, strong women in their forties, fifties and sixties…. It’s a celebration of mature female strength of character. A beautiful, purposeful vision. An amazing tonic for ourselves, for our children, for each other.
Years ago – in fact not that many years ago - women would not have been able to do half of what we do now. I remember my grandmother saying that after the age of 35 you shouldn’t wear a swimming- costume as it was vulgar and inappropriate. Women had to give up their jobs when they got married and/or certainly when they had children. As if we could do no more than keep home and bring up our kids.
Now-a-days we often, in the West at least, take it for granted that we can do pretty much anything and everything at any age. And so it should be! Life is an amazing patchwork of experiences, colours, paths and stepping-stones. Lets embrace the phases of life as they teach us well to be who we are, need to be, want to be at that time without looking back or forwards too much. Let the twenties be a marvellous discovery of youth and experiences, let our child bearing years be an wonderful rainbow of fullness, let our forties and fifties be fabulously dynamic and fulfilling as women, and let our sixties and beyond be exactly what we want them to be without the need to add “for her age” at the end of our physical and mental exploits.
Enjoy and revel in each phase of your lives as each one is a precious gift often only realised in hindsight. Most of all enjoy exactly where you are right now…. It is exactly where you are supposed to be.
Charlotte Saint Jean
Jessica Medros, our Roman Ambassador is currently doing her doctorate in physical therapy in California has sent us this interesting Blog entry. If you enjoy hiking then please do read this interesting article to learn which muscles are crucial to hiking so that you can become more mindful of your body while enjoying the outdoors pain-free.
For those, like me, who love to explore nature, there are important biomechanical principles to be aware of while hiking. Biomechanics is the science concerned with effects of forces acting on objects. Kinematics give the description of motion and kinetics are the forces that cause change in motion. Both kinematics and kinetics are relevant to the task of hiking.
When hiking, there is an internal force — a force that acts within an object or system. This internal force is both passive and active. The active component is generated by muscle. The passive component is tensile (the internal pulling force of tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules) and compressive (internal pushing forces). External forces are those that come from the interaction with the environment. Non-contact external forces include objects not in contact with such as gravity, electrical and magnetic forces. Contact external forces are those one touches, like air, water, and ground.
While hiking, the 3 basic dimensions in mechanics acting on and in the body are: the length-space in which the movement occurs, the time-duration of the movement, and the inertia/mass property of an object to resist changes in motion. There are also stresses that occur during the hiking movement. If we consider hiking a series of gait cycles then, there is a compressive stress during heel strike, a tensile stress during stance, and another compressive stress during push-off.
Longevity in hiking is essential. The seasoned hiker must become aware of the direction in which he/she is loading his/her muscles. The direction of load is when the contraction of muscles (compressive force) counteracts the tensile forces. Exercise with improper loading can increase muscle fatigue reduces the protective capability of muscles. The hiker can use the techniques learned in Yoga, Pilates and GYROTONIC to ameliorate his/her skeletal alignment. Using these kinesthetic experiences, the practitioner can transfer his/her skills to alter his/her hiking technique, which results in normal loading and places bone at a decreased risk for failure.
Below is a list of muscles that are crucial to the hiking task. I recommend the practitioner/hiker to become better aware of this list of muscles. Overtime, you will see that understanding the biomechanics behind hiking makes it much easier to learn how to adjust your technique to keep hiking fun and pain-free.
|Tibialis anterior (anterior compartment)||Dorsiflex, inverts subtalar joint, adducts and inverts the talonavicular joint, and supports medial longitudinal arch.|
|Extensor Hallucis Longus||Dorsiflexes and extends 1st toe|
|Extensor digitorum longus||Evert|
|Fibularis longus (lateral compartment)||Pronator of forefoot, primary evertor of foot, slight plantar flex, abduct the subtalar and transverse tarsal joints.Uses lateral malleolus as pulleyLarge moment arm
Help decelerate supination of foot during mid to late stance
Opposes tibialis posterior
|Fibularis Brevis||primary evertor of foot, slight plantar flex, abduct the subtalar and transverse tarsal joints.Large moment armHelp decelerate supination of foot during mid to late stance
Opposes tibialis posterior
|Gastrocnemius||Platar flex and supinateProduce 80% of total plantar flexion due to X sectional area and moment arm.|
|Solous||Plantar flex and supinateProduce 80% of total plantar flexion due to X sectional area and moment arm.|
|Tibialis Posterior||Plantar flex and supinateCreates greatest supinator torque|
|Flexor Digitorum Longus||Plantar flex and supinateHold toes flat on surface in late stance|
|Flexor Hallucis Longus||Plantar flex and supinateHold toes flat on surface in late stance|
|Intrinsics||Active in stance to increase WB surfaces of toes|
|Layer 1: FDB, ABD H, ABD dig min||Flex and abduct 1st and 5th digit|
|Layer 2: Quadratus Plantae and lumbricals||QP keeps alignment of FDL, lumbricals originate from FDL-flex at MTP and extend at IP|
|Layer 3: Add Hall, Flx hal Brev (two sesamoid bones to increase flexion torque), Flx Dig Min||intrinsics|
|Layer 4: Plantar (add)/ Dorsal (aBd) interossei||intrinsics|
Our retail customer Catrin Rudling, a certified teamaster, loves matcha tea and sent us this superhealthy and supersimple recipe.
Super simple shot with matcha, one shot:
- 1 tsk matcha (mix with a spoon, a little water or juice, to form a paste)
- Use a whisk or a blender and add 1 dl freshly pressed orange juice.
- Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Matcha is used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony "Cha No Yu". It is a very special and elegant tea in powder form, which is the original way to drink tea, both in China and Japan. Nice and early harvested matcha (the matcha in Aichi harvested from the end of May and during the summer) has as our a bright green color and can both be enjoyed as a tea or as a flavoring and utility-enhancing ingredient in ice cream, smoothies, lattes, chocolate and pastries.
An authentic Japanese tea ceremony is a meditative journey, and Cha-No-Yu is the most comprehensive tea ceremony and a very sophisticated and fully developed way to manage, present and consume tea. A tea ceremony in Japan can take several hours and the tea master will guide the guests through the ceremony of various, carefully planned steps that are influenced by Zen Buddhism and its philosophy. Becoming a tea master require years of philosophical and spiritual work and covers many areas such as art, literature, calligraphy and more. During the tea ceremony two types of matcha are prepared that’s severed to the guests, the thick tea (koicha) and thin tea (usucha). Small dishes and pastries of soybeans are served and depending of the season and guests preferences. The tea is served from a special, flat-bottomed ceramic bowl (called chawan) and stirred with a whisk of bamboo into a frothy drink.
There are many different recipes, where matcha is used in desserts and beverages, sauces, ice cream, smoothies, lattes. So this is a tea with a lot of interesting possibilities. Important when you prepare matcha is that the water temperature does not exceed 70 degrees C.
On Catrin Rudling's website www.mightyleaf.se at the page “pairing tea and food” you will - at the bottom of the page - find several recipes with matcha.
With an offset spatula, spread the mixture across as many dehydrator teflex sheets as necessary to get your desired cracker thickness and dehydrate until the top is completely dry. Flip over onto the mesh sheet only and dehydrate again until crunchy.
Mahashivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of Lord Shiva on the new moon night of February. It is a festival which celebrates the convergence of Shiva and Shakti. And it is also said that this day is Lord Shiva's favourite day, celebrated with worshipping, chanting, fasting and meditating. As this is an auspicious day, devotees would fast all day and night long, some would not even drink a single drop of water. The meaning behind the fasting is that only with a light stomach and a clean body the mind can tune into a state of peace and through this grace of stillness, bliss and enlightenment can be reached.
All through the day the devotees chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra "Om Namah Shivaya" which is dedicated to Shiva. In accordance with scriptural and discipleship traditions, penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation, in order to reach life's highest God steadily and swiftly.
As I am still in India, I was able to experience this auspicious day myself, I was there to feel the energy and to be part of these devotional traditions. On the streets people would greet each other with “Happy Mahashivaratri” and in their homes and temples, the simple celebration of Shivalingam pujas would go on every three hours, all through the day and night.
In the late afternoon I decided to visit Annamalaiyar temple in Town. Arriving there at 6pm I took the side entrance at the West Gate to avoid the long queue at the main entrance where already hundreds of Hindus were queuing up, eager to enter through the South gate, the main gate.
The temple was filled with colours, chants, the smell of incense sticks, saddhus in their orange robes and many devotees arranging ghee lamps on the floor in beautifully organised patterns. Every large space in the temple was filled with Shiva related ornaments in form of large pictures drawn and crafted with raw salt which was coloured before. At first sight they looked like huge carpets and only by closer observation I noticed that it was salt they used to create these arts pieces.
While I walked around the temple I received blessings from the temple elephant who put its trunk on my head after I dropped a coin into its trunk – a beautiful and widely spread practice in temples around India. At sunset all the ghee lamps were lit and the whole temple appeared in an eternal light. I then took the chance and made my way to the inner sanctum where I received Darshan at the Shiva sanctum and later also at the Parvati sanctum. The energy inside was so intense that it touched me deeply and brought clarity to my mind which was quiet busy all day long. Filled with this energy and love, I lit some ghee lamps myself outside the Parvati temple, circled the temple with the “9 planets” a few times and found a spot to sit down to contemplate. While I was sitting there I could hear traditional chanting which was performed just next to me. Diving into the moment I embraced everything happening around me, the smell of fresh jasmine filled my nostrils and my skin tingled. I don't know how long I sat there but when I opened my eyes I felt pure love around and deep within me.
After a few more moments I got up bowed to the sacred mountain Arunachala – which is clearly visible from the inner part of the temple – and left the heart of the temple. To the side of the East Gate, a special stage was arranged and people gathered in groups to listen to the traditional music and to tune in and chant along. Children were running around in a playful way and some devotees would lay down in a corner to rest for a moment. Me too, I took a little rest there, enjoyed the sound and being surrounded by all those people, before I left the temple.
Although the temple was packed, it was such a peaceful harmony that made this festival just an unforgettable experience.
At 10pm, when I left the temple I went straight to the Sri Ramana Ashram to attend one of the Shivalingam pujas. As Lord Shiva appeared on the Earth in the form of Lingam, this is the day when in all Shiva temples, the most auspicious Shivalingam puja is performed. It means that the Ligam is bathed with six different dravyas (substances) including milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water while the monks chant the most beautiful Shiva songs.
According to the mythology, each of these dravya used in the Shivalingam puja blesses a unique quality:
• Milk is for the blessing of purity and piousness
• Yogurt is for prosperity and progeny
• Honey is for sweet speech
• Ghee is for victory
• Sugar is for happiness
• Water is for purity
Having experienced that I was transferred into a different state of peace. Warmth and love filled my heart and tears rolled down my cheeks – I was so beautifully touched once again that same evening. I sat down for a while, meditating and offering my prayers to Shiva and Sri Ramana before I left to go home.
And although the End of Shivratri is only at about 5am, when devotees would go home, take a bath and offer simple prayers while breaking their fast, I felt much earlier that I received so much beautiful energy from Shiva, Arunachala and my prayers, that I fell asleep still being in bliss.
Om Namah Shivaya!
Okay, I have to admit I heard so much about the Law of Attraction, again and again and that at one point I just couldn't listen to it anymore. I thought that it was all crystal clear to me and that for sure I knew all about it.
But then I realised that all that time I just thought I knew about it but that in reality I had no clue how it really affected me and how much I was feeding my negative feelings and thoughts and kept on attracting what I in fact didn't want. And by doing this I got frustrated and sad and was not realising that this was so absolutely contra-productive and bringing me deeper and deeper into the area of discomfort.
Just recently out here in India I had such a day where everything seemed to be against me, when actually all that was against me were my own thoughts and feelings causing certain events to happen. It started in the morning and got worse. With everything that didn't work out well, I had another negative thought arising and I started feeling more and more frustrated and angry and even expressed this frustration verbally. That day I realised that what I needed is peace for myself and this means being on my own and trying to relax, just being in the moment – which I did. I went back to my room and an inner energy made me think of the book “The Secret” and that there is also a movie about it. So I looked it up on YouTube and indeed, the whole movie is on YouTube to watch for free! I started and somehow connected immediately with it. Yes, I know I heard it many times before but this time I realised that it got further in my mind, that maybe for the first time I realised the power and the truth behind the “Law of Attraction”. I listened to the comments and stories that were told in the movie and had it all in front of my own eyes, I could recollect story by story as if they were all my own experiences. In fact, so many things I could identify as my own feelings and my situation I was currently in.
Through my yoga practice and especially pranayama and meditation, I learnt a lot about the mind, the way I think and how it is all influencing my body, soul and more importantly my happiness. The more I think the more restless my body becomes and once the thoughts are negative it all takes a bad turn. How can I have a negative thought and then expect that something beautiful will arise from it? Seriously, if I wake up in the morning feeling not good because I have to get up, how should my day start? With happiness and some great news? Of course not, what an illusion. If I put my sour face on and get up already feeling grumpy then this will all come back to me in the same way. I leave the house being late, get angry when I miss the bus, spill hot tea over my dress and think that the whole world is against me. Great!
What about a nice, beautiful and relaxing song instead of an already aggressive alarm? A song that will make me smile only by hearing it. Just this little detail will change my day completely as by waking up with a smile on my face, my heart will be smiling too and so will my eyes be filled with sparkle when I leave the house and jump on the bus. With that sparkle in my eyes I will find that everybody is giving me back some sparkle and my day starts in a positive and harmonious way. Isn't that what we all want? It actually is very easy. I don't say that I am now 100% positive and always fully aware of my thoughts and emotions, no, that would be a lie. But I try to be more aware of my thoughts and accept my emotions, observe them but don't attach to them. I try to live with more awareness in the present moment, take things slowly and try to not rush into situations, so that I can always choose a positive thought over a negative one, should there arise any thoughts. In fact, I even try to avoid thinking at all and just be. I am finding my way in feeling love while being in the “now” and spreading this love which is called unconditional love. Love and kindness is what makes a difference, what will lead us to the answer: “who am I”...
We are often told to follow our heart in the direction of our dreams, but what if we’ve lost the connection to our source? It’s so easy to look outside of ourselves to external sources and compare, envy, or, day-dream of another life. But, with practice, we will discover that everything we need is already within. It’s just a case of learning how to open into the essence of, ‘I am.’ In yoga, there is a mantra that we use to do this, the So Hum mantra. It translates as, ‘I am all that is.’ What this means to me is that when I truly look, I can find a part of myself in everyone and everything that I come into contact with. The good, the bad and the ugly. There is no divide. Each time I choose to judge or criticize anothr, it is at that time that I am finding fault within my own self. This practice of realizing that I am connected to and create everything around me becomes quite exhilarating and sobering. When I am repeatedly come into contact with people who I see as offensive, stubborn or selfish, it’s time to look in the mirror and find in what areas of my life am I that way? As humbling as this is, the purpose is not to chastise one-self but to find space within oneself for a deeper level of empathy and compassion for oneself.
This is where Anahata Chakra, our Heart Chakra, comes into play. Many of us are aware of our heart chakra, but did you know that the heart chakra is the one chakra that has two layers? Imagine one, the front gate, so to speak, is an English Spring garden green; this layer is the love and compassion we have for others. We are often fairly good at opening this area. We have songs which depict, ‘Hopelessly devoted to you. ‘ Movies that are made about falling in love, madly in love. And, usually we find it easier to love others and give to others. It’s how we are taught. From an early age, we are taught not to be selfish, but to share. But, are we ever taught to be kind to ourselves? To not judge ourselves?
This is where you walk right through that front gate. As you open the gate, you see, there is more that lies within the gate, the actual garden. This garden is filled with Valentine’s Day pink flowers, (or ‘Barbie pink’, if you have an eight-year-old girl!) that grow on a tree filled with fruit and enchanted birds. It is known as, ‘The Wishing Tree’ for It is said that when we truly accept and connect to ‘I am’ that all our innermost hopes, wishes and desires come true. The irony is, of course, that when we are completely accepting and loving of ourselves we wish for nothing as we are free from the binds that tie us.
It is from this Wishing Tree, that we begin to grow roots of confidence, self-worth and from a sincere place of loving one’s self. As our roots deepen, as do our ability to see more clearly each time we lose sight of the essence of ‘I am.’ We extend from a place of compassion and feel connected to and part of our community, our tribe. It is from here that our other chakras, or wheels of energy, begin to balance. As we become grounded in who we are and our place on the earth, we begin to sprout branches and rise up to meet other’s in likeminded ways. So, our heart literally begins to extend up, out, down and around.
For this season of love, take a moment to love oneself as well as loving others. Find out what makes your heart sing, fills your spirit with joy and what connects you to your fullest expression of ‘I am.’
Wellicious Brand Ambassador
Visit my website to find out more about me and my retreats.
Have you ever been angry and someone told you to "relax"? Or perhaps been upset, anxious or stressed and been advised to "just relax"? Maybe suffered with insomnia due to too many thoughts? Unfortunately finding relaxation is not so simple. In fact, when we are told to relax we very often tense up or get more stressed because of the pressure to relax.
The yogis have the perfect solution: the practise of Yoga Nidra. A technique comprised of various meditation, breathing and awareness techniques to create calm, release and ease in body and mind.
Translated as Yogic Sleep, Yoga Nidra, is a guided relaxation where we remain awake and aware. It takes us into a state of complete rest without the pressure of being told to relax. In fact, you are never told to relax but given specific techniques that occupy mind and body and relaxation occurs all on its own. It is said that 45 minutes of Yoga Nidra compares to 4 hours of sleep. Most practises last from 25-40 minutes.
The practise can be immensely healing. A proper Yoga Nidra is much deeper than a "relaxation" or short guided Shavasana. It is a Tantric practise which which includes Nyasa (bringing attention to different body part/body scan), guided imagery and breath awareness. Some teachers may include powerful symbols, chakras or mantras.
You will start resting in Shavasana making sure you are warm and comfortable. The teacher will guide you to settle body, breath and mind. Perhaps you have a Sankalpa, a resolution or intention, for your practise. From here you will be guided into a space of complete "letting go", healing and rest.
On spiritual level we awaken our consciousness and Yoga Nidra becomes a meditation. It offers us a break from external impressions. Here we can find our Truth, Centre and Self. When we reach such a state of consciousness there is potential for immense growth and peace.
In a world where we are in constant stimulation and glorify busyness Yoga Nidra is a tool for complete relaxation for our nervous system. An escape from an outward chaotic life towards a peaceful and content inner life.
There are many Yoga Nidra recordings for download. You can find few FREE recordings on my website.
Enjoy your Yoga Nidra Practise any time (after yoga, as a morning meditation or afternoon refresher) - and let me know how you get on by connecting on facebook, twitter or instagram.
Anja Brierley Lange
Founder of Yoga Embodied
Nearly 15 years ago I arrived in Val d’Isère from a frantic London base to a complete change of lifestyle. Sales manager in an IT firm I had fallen in love with a ski instructor and was following a shift in destiny that was about as dramatic as you could imagine. From BMW driving sales exec to ski bum – well not quite. I juggled for another couple of years between the world of commerce & Southern European sales & life in a ski resort getting married to said ski instructor in the process before eventually leaving and taking a different route.
Fully installed in the mountains of Savoie I decided to dig even deeper into the realms of following ones dreams and passions. I became a yoga teacher. Yoga had been my safety net to stress and tension during my years in sales, travelling and living an all too stressful life saving me from terrible digestion issues so it seemed only natural to choose the path of yoga to continue my way towards happiness and freedom.
There were no teachers in the mountains, internet sessions were not all the rage at that time so I was alone with DVDs, books and the teacher training retreats and sessions I travelled to. I started teaching in small classes in Val d’Isère, Tignes and Ste Foy and as seems often the case in my life leading the way in these skis resorts as they knew little of yoga and doors needed knocking down. Now 12 years on not only do I continue to teach in my beloved mountains harmonising ski and yoga but have encouraged others to practice and indeed to teach, I have launched the first online yoga web site in French to help those in a similar situation to me and am in the process of welcoming yogis to Val d’Isère for the second edition of the Yoga Festival in this beautiful ski resort – and with the full support of the Tourist Office, a thing I thought I would never see.
BKS Iyengar says that in order for seeds to flourish you have to first tend to the soil, prepare the ground then nurture the seed first with a little water and food, with sunshine and love… I like to think that’s what I have been doing up here all these years – nurturing the soil, tending to the seeds and waiting patiently watching in wonder and awe as the seeds grow, spread their branches and sprout leaves.
The Yoga festival in Val d’Isère (28th February – 2nd March 2014) is in many ways a fabulous testimony to BKS Iyengar’s teachings and I am proud and thrilled to see what has happened from humble beginnings to the present day. Three days of yoga, music, dance, gratitude, healthy living, precious moments that I am so pleased to share with friends new and old, teachers and my children who are now 5 and 10 and are flourishing in the incredible place.
Do I regret leaving London and its bustle and hustle, no. I miss friends and the fabulous culture you enjoy there. I miss the UK for family and the just so British sense of humour that I love but I have found a land to nurture where seeds I have planted have started to flourish. The mountains of Savoie have become home and I am marvelling at this gift that God has given me…
For more information on the festival: www.yoga-festival-valdisere.com
Wellicious will be joining the Om Market with their gorgeous clothes – Namaste.
Charlotte Saint Jean
I am currently based in Tiruvannamalai, South India where I teach yoga and meditation to children at the Sita Devi Yogamaya Charity Nursery & Primary School. At the moment we have the nursery running which consists of up to 30 children, all aged four and our plan is to take more children on board by July 2014.
Yoga for children is very important and it has to be taught in a different way then you would do a class for adults. The age groups are divided carefully depending on their motoric skills and their overall mental state. For very young children it would be too difficult to add meditation as staying still is almost impossible for them. However on the other hand, those younger ones like movement and stories, so it is important that we not only have a class plan but a full story behind. And then, all you have to do is taking the children on that journey by letting them be part of the story, letting them live and feel the story. It's also okay if they like to take over and add their ideas to the story, as long as it doesn't disturb the class but helps them to grow and understand the principles of yoga.
These kids are only four years old, so I try to include a lot of movement, a game, songs and some laughter. The two teachers are my assistants who sit in the back and help me when I need them to say something in Tamil which is mainly before meditation to make them aware to close their eyes and not to talk, to sit straight and be still.
I teach the class daily and change the sequence monthly to give them a bit of routine and repetition. We usually tune it with the Om chanting while having our hands in namaste (prayer) position. Then we use the balloon breath which is really a great tool to do a basic pranayama and also to calm them down. They love it and I add it at the beginning and end and inbetween whenever I feel the children are getting fidgety.
They do love the story about going to the forest and seeing all the animals. And even though at the beginning they were a bit reluctant in joining in, they now know what to do when I call out the name of the animal, some even remembered the sequence in which the animals follow after only a few days of the same session. I do let them make the sound of the animals and let them carry out the asanas in a playful way. They also started to take over when whe do the train; they would say “slower” and then “faster” and so we would go moving slowly and then moving faster (same with the bycicle). I like that at the beginning it was one boy who started it and now even the girls join in and call out “slower” and “faster”. I love to observe them and to see that even the very shy girl who for almost one week did not move and only looked at me with big open eyes, is now enjoying the yoga. I am happy I gave her the time and didn't force her. I felt that she just needed to figure out what we are all doing. She is a very awake and observant girl and now she feels confident and comfortable enough to join in.
In general I am very surprised how well they follow and how quiet they are. They only disturb the class sometimes during meditation but then I open my eyes and give them the sign to be quiet by putting my finger on my lips. Usually this works. And there are only a few of the 30 who are a bit disturbing. Many sit still but wouldn't close their eyes and then there are a few who really go deep during meditation. When I bring them slowly back to balloon breath, I can observe how they get out of a deep relaxation/meditation.
It makes me happy that they enjoy yoga and see it as fun and still it is doing something more subtle to them which I can already feel. The teachers are also enjoying it and support me fully.
For me it is one of the most beautiful gifts, to share my passion of yoga with these beautiful souls and being reminded that yoga is a connection, unity and we all benefit from it in a spiritual but also physical way.