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Being a parent, I have often felt the desire to step in to do something that my children are capable of doing themselves. It is tough teaching children to be responsible. Helicopter parenting is the norm these days. In the past our grandparents walked miles to school by themselves and our parents walked blocks to school by themselves but we are of a generation that believes that danger lurks two doors down from the home. It is hard to raise independent kids if we teach them not to trust anyone but us. I am a huge fan of the blog FreeRangeKids.wordpress.com written by Lenore Skenazy. She also wrote a book called Free-Range Kids:Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry that debunks most of the fears we parents have allowed to permeate our psyche. She explains how and why this generation of parents has fallen for the idea that nothing is safe anymore.
I must admit that as a child I was not given many household responsibilities. Being hounded to clean up my room is not a memory that I have though I remember happily keeping my private space clean while spending hours in my room as a teenager with the door closed listening to music, talking on the phone and rearranging my possessions. I was, however, given tremendous amounts freedom. My siblings and I were outside all day until we heard my mother calling us in—not knowing where we were each and every moment and not worrying about us. It wasn’t until those teenage years that the leash seemed to tighten.
How to teach our children to be responsible begins early. Allowing them to have more control of their personal hygiene—teeth brushing, bathing and dressing—gives them pride. It is not always easy to let your child walk out the door in their outfit of choice but it teaches them to trust their own instincts and provides a sense of self (even if it means plaid with stripes).
Giving your children jobs around the house that are not part of an allowance exemplifies that they are part of a family which needs everyone working together to work. My children take turns setting and clearing the table at dinner (each one does one part for the whole week and then switches to avoid the fighting over whose turn it is to do what). This really makes a huge difference to my evening—as meal planner, food shopper and chef it is a joy not to have to be stuck in the kitchen for another hour after dinner cleaning and it allows me to enjoy more time with my children at night as everything gets done much more quickly.
Teaching that work (responsibilities) comes before play by creating a rule of homework before TV also teaches that not all responsibilities are going to be fun but they still need to be done.
In my yoga classes, I try to find ways to encourage independence. I set my mats up before class in a circle to ease the beginning of class but everyone must roll up the studio mats and put them away after class. Even the little guys try —their rolls are lopsided and don’t look too tidy— but they leave feeling pride and I fix them when they have gone. Are there other ways that you help teach responsibility to your children or students? I’d love to hear about them!
I’m gearing up for a week of yoga camp. Camp is from 9:30-12 and will include a yoga class that focuses on a different aspect of yoga each day. Yoga games will be played. Yoga art will be made and healthy snacks will be enjoyed. It has been really fun working out the details and I am excited to teach. It seems that three weeks is all that I needed to recharge my teaching batteries. I feel excited and renewed and ready.
You may be wondering what yoga art entails. Well I have come up with some projects that are fun and that connect with yoga in different ways. We will be making pinwheels to practice breathing and yoga journals to keep track of all we learn during camp with printouts of poses and affirmations to attach. We will make self-portraits and sand art mandalas for self-reflection and meditation. We will create a group mural where each person only has one color and must work together to finish the piece.
For snacks there will be fruit smoothies, fruit kabobs, homemade gorp and fruit mosaic pizzas to make and eat. Kids here I come!
I was lucky this week to teach some bigger kids. I have been fortunate to join a great group called Moms In Motion. This all womens fitness group has changed my life. I have become an endurance runner, a racer and a triathlete because of the inspiring and motivating women that I have met through MIM. I decided to teach a yoga class on Canandaigua Lake to my MIM friends. It was bliss. We were outdoors doing yoga with the lake lapping against the shore. I am so grateful to have these women (who may not be as young as my regular students but are certainly as young at heart) by my side. I promised them that I would not make them bark in down dog and they happily made starfish hands and got into dead bug! They have encouraged me and supported me on so many endevors and I can’t thank them enough.
I just happened to be at Target today with my family and found packs of animal flash cards in the dollar section. I bought two decks—Animals of the World and U.S. Animals. Each deck has 36 cards that are color illustrated on one side and has facts on the other side. What a great tool for teaching yoga to kids.
Ideas for how to use the cards in class:
- Let each child pick a card and act out that animal in a yoga pose. If there isn’t a pose for the animal, have the child make it up!
- One child acts out his pose. Then the class does the pose. You can go around the room with each child acting it out individually (as the classic stadium wave) or all together as a class.
- One child acts out their animal pose. Then the class acts out the animal pose. Then the next child acts out his pose and the class follows, but this time the class also acts out the previous pose or poses. This creates a very dynamic, flowing class. Fun and energy releasing!
- Teach 5-8 poses to the class using the cards as visual references. Then teach the card’s poses in the opposite direction. Then mix the poses up so the class feels how the transitions between the poses change when the cards are placed in a different sequence. Ask them whether it flowed better or worse each time you change the sequence. See if the kids can sequence the poses in as many different ways as possible.
- Lay out mats in circle configuration. Teach 5-12 poses. Lay one pose on each childs’ mat. Turn on energetic music and play yoga freeze. When the music stops, the children get into the pose on the mat. When the music resumes, the children walk or run around the mat circle.
Both of my children are in all day camps this week. This is the first time in over a year that I have had a week of whole days to myself. That is a lot of time. I have in the past spent my limited free time on yoga and other athletic pursuits which after the hour or so of activity has left me little time to do much else. Now the day looms ahead of me each morning—what should I do with this time? I am used to training for an athletic goal. This means finding a training schedule and sticking to it to accomplish the triathlon or endurance run without injury and hopefully faster than before. I sit here trying to find some summer goals to put into my schedule. The first step in attaining any goal is to find one that you really want to accomplish. I have been wanting to paint my brown kitchen table base and chairs black to match my kitchen better. I really want them painted but I keep hesitating knowing that I will need a lot of patience to sand each piece. Do I want this goal badly enough to suffer through the endless sanding?
How we learn to make and achieve goals:
• Decide on a goal.
• Think about all of the steps required to achieve the goal.
• Think about possible setbacks and how to overcome those setbacks.
• Take small steps everyday to achieve the goal.
In yoga we are continuously achieving goals. We allow our body to dictate how far we should take a pose while letting our mind ease our body into those poses further and further. Our mind and body work together taking us slowly but surely to places that we never thought possible to go. We focus our breath on places in our bodies to allow them to relax—and they do. We put our feet up in crow and balance — taking a risk and believing that we can.
When I teach my classes, I begin by setting an intention (goal) for the class. For example: “Today we will work on balance poses or back bends”. Next I provide the steps that lead up to the more challenging poses. We start small and work our way up–warming our bodies and minds up to taking that risk which comes with the possibility of success. I always tell my classes that falling out of a pose is one of the best ways a teacher can tell that a student is on that thin line between hard work and success.
A fun yoga class project would be to construct a yoga asana book. Provide each student with a paper folder that holds papers with hole punches and for each class give your students a new page to add to their book. By the end of the session each student will have a book of their accomplishments. You can also provide pages with affirmations to go between the poses to unite the mind with the body.
And, yes, my chairs are almost complete. I have given new life to my old furniture by painting them black. The man at the paint store told me that with the oil based paint I was using I only needed to rough up the shiny surface of my old furniture. My initial fears of this project were only in my mind and my goal being (nearly) accomplished has left me eager to add another to my summer list.
Yesterday the mood at my house was not light and summery. After a long day of various outdoor activities, the kids came home hot and tired… and cranky. My kids are not video game enthusiasts. We have a Gameboy, a Leapster and wii but they are only sporadically used. TV is the big draw. The black hole. I put limits on the TV. Chores, homework, drum practice must be done before getting to veg out in front of the TV just as I do what is required of me before being able to finally sit down and relax at the end of the night. Truthfully, when my husband isn’t around, I rarely even watch at night preferring books and hitting the pillows early.
Back to yesterday. Without my full awareness of what was transpiring, the television was turned on (prior to responsibilities being met) and quickly voices began to rise and fighting ensued. It was the perfect opportunity to have the punishment reflect the crime and, after three warnings, the TV was turned off for the rest of the day which soon (after much to do about nothing) became the rest of the week.
I find TV to put my kids in a time stopping trance until it is turned off which then sends moods to the ugly and negative side—fighting, whining, cries of boredom. This dark mood ran between all of us for quite a while. My son and daughter went out to pick wild raspberries in our yard. Hooray! An activity for the two of them to share! Screams again ensued and the peace shattered once again. What to do to get all of us working/playing TOGETHER. Nicely.
I remembered a yoga game which I first played years ago (I mean YEARS ago) back at day camp called “Ha!”. One person lies down, the next person lies down and puts their head on the first person’s stomach and then another person lies down with their head on the second person’s stomach. This can be done with a large or small group. The first person shouts “Ha!”. The next person shouts “Ha, Ha!” with each person the Ha! shout is increased. This usually begins to create some real laughter. I tried it with my surly gang at home last night. We all were upstairs feeling angry and alone. I gathered the troops and got into position on the floor. Everyone joined me and we began our round of “Ha!”. It worked. The giggles started and the mood lifted and from there we all were able to start our evening over again feeling more lighthearted and connected.
We ended our night playing a great game that my daughter got for her birthday called Scaventure Kids. It is a game that gets teams of all different ages (both kids and adults) working together. Each team picks 8 cards which have four instructions on them. The teams have 30 minutes to collect each item and accomplish all tasks.
An example of one card is:
1. Write a new tongue twister. Say it at the rendezvous.
2. Make a maze out of dirt.
3. Find a pencil that is not yellow on the outside.
4. Find a flag.
We had a fun time first as individuals competing and then working as one team trying to finish in a much shorter time. The night ended with reading out loud together and then reading quietly together—feeling connected and at peace—a family united.
A blogger’s dilemma. I had been blogging daily and was amazed at all I had to say and then the blank page started to scare me. I decided to hold off writing until the holiday weekend passed. Procrastination in its finest. Here I am. I hope it’s pretty.
As I’ve said in a past posting, I love the idea that how we are on the mat is how we live off of the mat. Lately, that cannot be more true. Since the end of the school year I have been on vacation from teaching my regular classes. I have had some wonderful yoga sessions on my own and in the studio. This idea of a vacation from my regular schedule is appearing in my yoga. I don’t want to hit the hot yoga classes. I have gravitated more to anusara based classes which place more of an emphasis on alignment and holding poses and slowly working toward a place the teacher has thought to go to versus the flowing vinyasa style that leaves me drenched and sometimes drained. I have also found more connection with doing yoga outdoors. My parents have a place on one of the Finger Lakes in New York where all of my siblings with their families in tow converge most weekends. One windy day I decided to do a flow vinyasa at the end of their pier surrounded by the water. The yoga did flow as the wind blew around me and I felt a part of my scenery and so at peace. I have continued to do yoga on the lawn looking out at the water, on my deck and out by the pool at the club where I teach during the year. I have also encountered some yoga setbacks to practicing outdoors when my puppy took my child’s pose as a sign of deference and play and proceeded to jump onto and over me. Seeing that my practice would require far more patience and concentration than I had at the moment, I decided to put on my running shoes and head out to the road for another kind of meditation.
This vacation from my regular schedule (schedules demand a constant motivation to plan and act) has reared its ugly head in the form of a lack of motivation this summer. I had great plans to put all of my class plans onto the computer so that I could print them out and put them into a binder to improve and use as a stepping stone for next year. I designed my layout and haven’t been able to sit down to transcribe my year’s worth of yoga classes. Laundry baskets have lined themselves up to be dealt with later—that book I have put off reading seems so much more necessary!
I believe that everyone needs time to replenish. Children need a break from their regular sports and school to come back to them invigorated and with renewed excitement. I have decided to take this summer vacation and go with the idea of a break. I’ll take yoga, make yoga and play yoga but I’ll try not to push yoga. I’ll read and find time with family and friends and put my yoga into my life by enjoying the moments of summer vacation—to be present for all that this unscheduled time has to offer.
It’s summer and the living is easy. Unless the kids are bored and the complaining, whining and fighting begin. Before you let the negative atmosphere ruin the moment, stop and take a deep yoga breath and introduce some simple games to bring everyone back to what summer is all about—family time and fun.
Here is a game that all of my yoga kids love that I call Rhino. Rhino’s have very sharp hearing. Their ears swivel around to hear from all directions. In this game all of the kids sit in child’s pose with thier hands cupped around their ears to help amplify the sound. I go around and pick one person who quietly leaves the group and walks soundlessly to someplace around the room or yard. This person then makes any kind of sound as quietly as possible. The rhinos must listen attentively and point to where they think the sound is coming from. I usually count to three and then everyone opens their eyes to see if there were correct. This game can turn the loudest of groups quiet in just minutes. It helps promote awareness and being present in the moment.
Another great game that quickly turns the screams to silence is called Keys. Sitting in a circle, everyone takes turns passing a set of jangly keys trying not to make a sound. Create a consequence for the key jinglers such as standing in tree pose for three breaths or doing frog hops around the circle. This game helps promote awareness of body movement.
My children have always loved games in which they have to act out a scenario. This game helps children develop self-confidence. Write a list of ideas for your group to act out or just use facial expressions to show different emotions.
Some scenario ideas are:
You just won a million dollars.
You are walking in the woods alone and think you hear someone or something following you.
You have to give a speech in front of your whole class and the pages got mixed up.
For a greater challenge start with one emotion and then switch to another.
You went to buy something in a store that you had saved your money for and discover that you are short 25 cents. When you walk out the store, you find a quarter in the water drain on the sidewalk.