Every week I teach yoga to my son’s classroom.
They are young and vibrant and have tons of energy because they are sweet 2nd graders. They don’t hold poses for very long before wanting to move and make noises. They have trouble sitting still or lying in Savasana without blinking an eye or slyly tapping their friends.
I have realized after doing this for a while that they aren’t meant to go inward like we adults are. They are meant to go out an be in the world, to move and shake and play with their friends. Their bodies and minds are growing so fast and it would be a burden on them to sit still for too long.
Is mindful movement bad for them? No. Is sitting quietly useless? No. They love it, they try hard to get it right. They learn that breathing calms them down and that yoga stretches their muscles and feels good, well most of the time. They learn that Savasana makes them sleepy. They are learning valuable tools at a young age for their teen and adult lives.
But the thing I find most useful for them is what we do at the beginning of our yoga time together.
I first choose three children to tell me something, anything. This is by far their favorite thing to do. Their hands eagerly rise up and wait patiently for me to call on them. They tell me stories about camping last summer or falling off their bikes when they were 4 or about a crazy experience they had last weekend. Their friends listen in hopes they will be next. And when the 3 chosen children have told their stories, the others slowly let down their hands and I hear a big arghhh, darn it.
They want to be heard. They love to be heard, they love to tell a story, any story about themselves because it makes them feel important and validated.
What happens next is MY favorite part.
I ask them a deeper question, one that breeds a deeper conversation about life and love and compassion and their connection to one another. And each child has a chance to answer.
Last week the question was “What do you love about yourself?”, this week it is “What do you love about the person next to you?”, next week “What do you have in common with the person next to you?” and so on…
Some of them are very uncomfortable with the questions which I totally understand but most are open, honest and totally willing. And the ones who are uncomfortable or cannot come up with anything are eagerly saved by their friends.
I want for them to learn love and compassion and connection at a young age.
They want to be heard and validated and understood.
We all do.
So today, I invite you to ask your children a different set of questions:
What do you love about yourself? What do you love about each other? What do you love about your brothers and your sisters and your mom and your dad?
And I invite you to listen closely and then ask yourself these same questions.
They are important, they are real, and they are what we all need right now.