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D Sharon Pruitt

D Sharon Pruitt

In trying to come up with meaningful lessons that kids can take off their mats and into their lives, I recently bought a great book called 10 Minute Life Lessons for Kids. The lessons are divided into categories such as Things We Value, Potential and Self-Worth, Love and Kindness and Attitude to name a few. When applying ideas from other sources into my class, I always try to find a yoga slant.

I decided to give my students a lesson on attitude. I strongly believe that what we think about and what we say influences our perspective and the outcome of different situations. This idea was not one that I was taught as a child but really would have helped me growing up.

I first made sure that none of the children had food allergies. I gave each student a Smartie (I chose this type of candy because it dissolves slowly but quickly enough to move onto other things in class when we finished this lesson). The kids were not allowed to eat it until I gave them the go ahead. We all then got into chair pose or a standing squat with backs against the wall. The idea behind this exercise was that while our legs started to burn from our position, we were to suck on the candy and try to keep our thoughts on the sweetness versus the pain.

There will always be difficulties in life but by training ourselves to focus on the sweetness in life even when things are hard we will create a more fulfilling and happier life in the long run.

Photo by Sharon D. Pruitt

My son just returned from an amazing summer experience with Adventure Treks. The camp prides itself on its culture of community and being a place where kids can be in the great outdoors, challenge themselves, have fun and be their best selves. According to director John Dockendorf, although many Adventure Treks trips take place across the country, each group learns similar messages:

That you can accomplish more with the unconditional support of your friends.
That doing more than your share is a good thing.
That happiness comes from being part of something bigger than oneself.
That effort and reward are related.
That you can accomplish more than you think.
That you can have the time of your life without a computer, a cell phone, a video game or facebook.
And that good friends are a lot more important than stuff.

My son came home with new friends, new insights about himself, greater self-confidence and a different perspective about his world and his life’s potential.

It is so easy to think that the young have all the fun, that as adults we have already had our wild and carefree moments. I recently read Jim Rohn’s quote,“The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them”. It made me think about how as we get older, it is so important to continue to set goals, to be challenged and to step into the fear of the unknown. That it is during those moments when we grow and feel alive. It is not just time for our kids to have these experiences. It is what makes life fun and joyous and full. Everyone deserves to be their best selves and live life to its fullest.

So what adventure are you going on? Take on your fears and live a little.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

This week I decided to take out the balls. Balls in yoga? I know… it may not be traditional but it is a fun and helpful way to teach asana!

There are many ways to use balls in class.

Core strengthening:

To start class we pass a ball around with our feet. Sitting in a modified boat pose, we pass the ball around the circle. When you receive the ball, you must hold it up with your feet and answer questions about yourself before passing the ball to your neighbor. I love starting the class with the kids sharing information about themselves. It creates a teacher/student connection that helps maintain classroom management.  Sometimes I introduce smaller balls that involve greater dexterity and concentration.

Another core exercise is to hold boat pose while twisting side to side touching the ball to the ground each side.

Plow practice:

Begin with the kids lying flat on their backs with hands extended above their heads. Place balls between feet and have the children lift the ball over their heads to their hands. Then have the kids sit up holding the ball using their stomach muscles. If you are using one ball, each student can toss you the ball from a reclined position which also activates the core.

Forward and back bends:

Have the class line up in a row. Using one ball, the first in line does a back bend and passes the ball to the person in back of them over their head, that person does a forward bend and passes the ball between their legs. Repeat this sequence down the line.

More back bends:

Students begin standing on their knees. Using a giant exercise ball, place the ball between their legs and have them lean back opening their chest in a modified camel pose.

Students turn onto their stomachs with arms extended toward their legs. Place the ball on their lower backs and have them reach up to hold the ball while lifting their legs off the ground in a modified bow pose. I find that kids don’t always understand the process of lifting their chests off the ground in a locust or bow pose. Reaching up for the ball helps create a connection of lifting and opening the chest.

Full back bend:

Starting in mountain pose. The kids sit on the large exercise ball and begin to walk their legs forward until the ball is resting on their lower back. The kids can then open their chest and reach toward the floor. Not all children like to be suspended in this vulnerable way. Ask if they would like you to support them floating on the ball if their feet start to lift before their hands touch the floor.

Breathing fun:

Ending class with fun breathing exercises using pom poms. Have the kids count how many breathes it takes to blow their pom pom from one end of the room to the next and then see if they can reduce the number of breaths on the way back.

Kids love balls. What better way to engage and have fun while teaching valuable asana form.

Photo by Gustavo Veissimo

My daughter’s second grade teacher pointed out to me recently how truly amazing school aged children are to be able to harness all of their energy into listening, paying attention, walking in straight lines and staying quiet for almost 8 hours every day in school. It is no wonder that during recess on the playground and on the bus ride home from school chaos seems to rule. All of that bottled up energy is ready to explode by the time our children have a moment of “free” time.

As a yoga instructor teaching my classes after a full day of school, I have often struggled with how to rein in some of that energy that naturally needs to come out. I often wonder where that balance is between needed energy releasing and a calm class environment. I have found a few ideas that help to bring the energy level back down. These ideas can easily be tailored to work in your own home.

I often have excited kids running into my class eager to get moving. I hate to begin class with a negative comment but also am not fond of starting my class with kids running around the studio.

  • To get the kids ready for yoga as they walk into the room, I meet each child before they enter the studio holding a few objects in hand. Explain to the kids that the twins of these objects are hidden in plain sight around the studio. The kids must stand at a designated wall quietly and use their eagle eyes to search for each object. When they have found all three objects, they must find a mat and sit quietly until everyone else is sitting.
  • The game “Yoga Toes” always seems to quiet the room down. Scatter small pom poms around the room and have the kids collect the pom poms with their toes by crunching them around the pom poms and walking them to a designated area with a cup or bucket for dumping. In class, I tend to avoid games that create competition with each other and instead play the game twice having the kids remember their first number of collected pom poms and try to best their own score. This game takes a lot of concentration.
  • Coloring is an activity that any child can do and using some quiet background music sets the tone. I print out mandalas and use the time coloring to help foster calmness. If done without a lot of speaking, mandala coloring is very meditative.
  • This idea gets the kids working hard on their own. I have many types of cards depicting yoga poses. Hand each child 5 cards. Go over all of the poses with the children as a group and then have them come up with their own sequences—trying to find the one that flows the best. When they have worked out which sequence moves best from one pose to the next, have them teach the rest of the class.
  • Lately I have started my classes with a little mediation. I light a candle and have the kids sit quietly looking at the light. We started with one minute and will be working ourselves up to 3 minutes. It is amazing how hard being still and being quiet is for some kids. I know many adults that to this day cannot sit still with themselves. What an amazing skill to foster.

I hope these ideas help when needed. I’d love to hear some ideas that you have to create a peaceful and calm environment in your studios and homes.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” — William Arthur Ward

My new session of classes begins tomorrow. I have been giving my teaching style and class planning a lot of thought lately. My last session had two classes that were challenging. I have been evaluating what I did and what I can do this time to make class time more positive for all, including me.

My desire to teach was inspired by my own yoga journey. Through yoga I found out a lot about myself in ways nothing else was able to do. I was always athletic and involved in sports but it was yoga that lead me down a mental and physical path that has allowed me to navigate my life more positively. That is why I teach. I want to give to my students—at their very young ages—tools that will help them live life knowing themselves well and show them how to work with life’s inevitable discomforts.

I did not feel as though I was effectively teaching those skills last session. There were multiple reasons. Some of the kids did not want to be in class. They were sent to yoga because a sibling was going or because a parent was interested in working out for those 45 minutes. I found that the negative attitudes that came through the door each week from a few students turned the whole class around.

Another reason my class dynamic shifted was that I found myself catering to the high energy needs of a few instead of creating an environment where these kids were challenged to meet my higher expectations. I relied more on yoga games and movement without balancing the class with the hows or whys of the poses and how yoga can be applied to their lives.

My plan this session is to teach and connect and if there is time for a game at the end we will play. I realize that my classes still consist of children and children learn by playing. However this time class will begin quietly with discussion and reflection before moving on to movement. We will concentrate on fewer poses but will really learn the hows and whys behind them and how they apply to life. I have created a checklist that has a number of poses, divided into groups of pose benefits, that I will teach and check off for the kids once they have demonstrated their understanding of the pose.

In teaching this way, I am hoping that by the time the kids enter my 8-11 year old classes they will have enough of an understanding of yoga to begin more work on vinyasa, more discussion on alignment and deeper reflection on how to apply the lessons learned on their mats.

Most studios allow teens to take adult classes. My classes will be building blocks toward taking classes in their teens and onward.

I fear that this all sounds so obvious. However, my training emphasized a lot of play and storytelling and fun. I believe that those elements can be used within a tighter curriculum of expected learning.

I am excited to begin to teach more and continue to learn more from my kids this session. I’ll be keeping you all posted with my trials and tribulations.

Photo by Shaun Dunmall

I have been keeping my eyes open as opportunities are out there waiting to be found. I am a believer in doors opening when others close.

In work, I have spent the year experimenting with different classes and places to teach them. I almost ventured in one direction (starting my own business) before a door opened and I ventured through to see what would happen (teaching for a nice studio). That path didn’t lead me to where I envisioned so now I am rethinking and reviewing while waiting for new opportunities or ideas to reveal themselves.

I am allowing myself the chance to reevaluate what I have done, what has made me happy, what my true intentions are and whether I am achieving those goals in my work. I realize that not everyone has the luxury to stop and reformat their jobs but wouldn’t we be happier working if we all could shift and find what makes us most energized and excited.

Some of the insights that I’ve had are:

To teach skills that help kids navigate their real life experiences and help them become the best that they can be is what inspires me. To teach in environments where kids are dropped off to class because it gives the parent an hour of freedom instead of the child coming with a desire to learn is frustrating and draining. Everyone can benefit from yoga, but being receptive to either the physical or both the mental and physical aspects of the practice must happen before learning occurs. Kids who are forced to come to class against their true desire will not benefit from class and they often take away another child’s right to learn. A child forced into therapy will not benefit from therapy. There needs to be an internal motivation.

With my kid’s after school activities and the need to be available to them, I have a limited amount of afternoon time to dedicate to teaching. I need to find ways to teach and grow my business during the school day.

Yoga has been a part of my life for more than 20 years, however, yoga isn’t my whole universe. I get pulled between being in the studio taking class and being active outdoors. My body is always vacillating between muscle tightness and fatigue from running and soreness from practicing yoga. I am happiest when I can get both studio time and outdoor time into my life regularly. I would love to find ways to combine my two loves into a class.

It is time to replenish my well with a new certification or additional classes to keep me fresh and my creative juices flowing. There is nothing like getting together with a group of people excited to grow and learn. Investing in personal development can only lead to more doors opening.

During this time of year it is easy to get bogged down with the holiday chaos of shopping and baking and parties. It’s important to take some time to reflect upon the year and change course if need be. Take the opportunity to create a plan for the new year and keep looking for those doors to open with possibilities unknown.

Childhood obesity and school nutrition are hot topics these days. I have been a proponent of changing cafeteria food being offered in schools ever since I began my own awareness of its shortcomings after viewing the movies Food Inc. and Two Angry Moms. The first movie exposed the sorry state of our national food industry and the second inspired in me the desire to make some changes at a local level.

What can YOU do to help the cause? I’m glad that you asked!

1. Get educated! Watch the movies listed above, really look at the menus being offered to your kids in school cafeterias and restaurants, read the book Free for All: Fixing School Food in America.

2. Eat lunch with your child in the fall in the school cafeteria. Actually buy the lunch. Decide whether the food served was nutritious, fresh and enticing to eat. Notice the waste. What is being thrown away? What are the kids drinking? Are whole fruits being tossed out? Does your school’s kitchen have actual pots, pans, cooking utensils or ovens? Does your child’s school offer knives? Do kids have access to lunch food extras such as ice-cream, cookies and chips ?

When I started to really pay attention to what my kids were eating at school and how they were eating at school, it really opened my eyes. Why do my kids use their fingers to push food onto their forks? Maybe because at school they don’t have knives to reinforce proper knife use. I began to notice that much of the lunch time food options were all “side of the highway” finger junk food. The cafeteria claims not to fry anything, but the processed food often already comes pre-fried so the schools just need to reheat. Often whole fruit is tossed away as kids don’t have the time to eat a big piece of fruit. Research has shown that cutting up FRESH fruit and making it finger and mouth friendly makes a huge difference in consumption.

3. Check to see if the school’s health program has a nutrition segment. If so, does it carry over into the cafeteria? Who teaches the curriculum and can you work with them to make changes in the cafeteria? Can you implement the same program ideas at home?

Our school district uses a program called GO, SLOW, WHOA! The nurses teach this nutrition curriculum stressing what types of food you can eat anytime like fruit and vegetables, what food you can eat but with less frequency and what food is a special treat and should not be eaten more than once or twice a week. We are trying to link the program to what the kids eat and see in the cafeteria. Children can see the dual messages and it is confusing. Creating an awareness is the first step. Once a parent or child is aware of the system, then they can decide what should be bought that week. The world is full of choices. We need to teach our kids how to live in this world of choices.

4. Say no to corn syrup and trans fats. Start to read labels and have your kids read them too. There are many great substitutes for regularly eaten food that are healthier. You do not need to eliminate chips, cookies and ketchup from your child’s diet but switch to a brand that has natural ingredients and no corn syrup or trans fats.

The government’s new focus on childhood obesity and nutrition makes it the perfect time as parents to make our voices heard. Take a step to help kids stay healthy. Now is the time.

Links of interest:

Nourishing Thoughts

Farm to School Program Changes Kids’ Views on Food

Healthy Schools Campaign

Action For Healthy Kids

Photo by Pierrette Wiseman

I am in the middle of teaching a 4 week long family yoga class. I love teaching these classes. There is something very special about parents sharing the yoga experience with their children.

The benefits of family yoga:

1. Increased Connection—Through yoga games and poses families connect in a way that is very different from when pursuing other family activities. There is no out doing the other person. Each family member sees each others strengths and weaknesses which brings everyone to a common ground and a mutual appreciation. Each family member connects with their own breath and body while feeling the powerful connection of the group breath and the support you get in group poses.

2. Finding Joy—Family yoga involves taking yoga less seriously. Yoga games and partner poses encourage correct alignment but don’t focus on it. The focus is in finding the fun and joy in moving one’s body and sharing with your loved ones. Partner poses, in particular, tend to lead to many laughs as bodies of different sizes try to join together in one pose.

3. Finding Peace—There is a lot of movement in my classes. The vinyasa is not standard. The class may pick animal cards one day creating a flow unlike no other. It may start with moose pose than flow to ostrich to the more traditional eagle and then down to whale pose and then back up to flying squirrel (my favorite). You will not learn the majority of these in your heated power classes, but you will move and sweat and laugh and share and finally come into savasana. It is this last moment of silence and joined breathing that brings a calm into the room and hearts of parents and kids alike.

4. Learning Tools For Life—Family yoga teaches breathing techniques that both kids and parents can bring into their lives to head off anxiety, hot tempers or tired minds. Poses are taught that will release energy and help kids ready themselves for bed and rest. Parents can take the partner poses into their living rooms for moments of deeper connection when video games, sibling fighting or one’s typical frenzied day becomes too much.

It doesn’t matter what reason you try a family yoga class. Just do it!

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

I have often walked into a library or bookstore looking for a specific book and instead encountered a book that answers a question or need that I didn’t fully realize that I had. It can’t be explained. It’s destiny. Ever since I was in art school, I loved to peruse library isles for these chance encounters and serendipitous surprises. Little that I knew, I was in for a book awakening this past weekend. I had to travel 6 hours to a place I had never been, but a book was waiting for me when I arrived.

We left to visit our relatives in northern Connecticut Friday morning. Arriving in the mid-afternoon heat to a decadently modern, double-lofted house with acreage, barns, woods and a beautiful natural stone pool. The kids headed straight to the water while I investigated the abode. The decorator had grouped books of like color throughout the house. There were a lot of books. In the “honeymoon suite” reserved for my husband and me the books were all in shades of blue. It really was a peaceful room. Though the titles were hard to distinguish within this monotone color scheme, one book found me. The book 3 Steps To A Strong Family was waiting patiently to be discovered.

The book has three parts and I will post on each. Today I am skipping to the second step—Paying Your Dues: A Family Economy

My husband and I have been trying to figure out an allowance system for years and have broached the topic a few times without coming to any conclusions. This gem of a book by Linda and Richard Eyre had some very useful ideas.

Each child is given a pegboard with four pegs. Each peg represents various tasks. Peg one combines morning routines (getting dressed, making beds, brushing hair and teeth). Peg two represents homework and musical instrument practice. Peg three represents household chores (a designated room or zone that the child is responsible for keeping tidy, keeping bedrooms neat and a chosen dinner related job such as washing dishes, setting table, sweeping the floor).  These zones or kitchen jobs are held for a few months in order to develop competency and skills. The last peg is for bedtime routines and getting to bed on time.

What is nice about the peg system is that it eliminates nagging. A parent reminding a child to make sure pegs one, two and three are taken care of before watching tv is less annoying than a parent listing all of the tasks that the child must remember to accomplish. It puts most of the responsibility onto the child.

Adding to the responsibility, the child must write his name on a piece of paper with the number of pegs he pegged at the end of the day and have a parent sign it in order to get credit for the work done. The parent keeps these records and on the designated “pay-day” tallies up the pegs. Each peg pays 25 cents. $1 a day. If the child has all 5 days worth of pegs pegged and noted, the parent doubles the pay to $10.

This is only the beginning of the system.

On payday, the child can ask for cash or he can save his money in the “family bank”. Parents keep track of the money being earned and saved in a book. To add incentive to saving, parents provide a 10% interest on money saved every month. The saved money may be removed to make purchases. The Eyers had their children buy their own clothing with the money earned. I like the idea of having the money go toward something that the child needs. I was thinking of having my children pay for school lunches and certain items of clothes that are trendy versus practical. I am not a big fan of cafeteria lunches and hope to discourage them by having the kids use their own money. Pretty sneaky… I know!

In addition to the money saved, the child can also put some of his money in an investment book which cannot be touched. That money also would receive interest.

I really liked the way this system taught children about money and uses incentives to help teach the value of saving.

Have you found an allowance system that works for your family? Do you make your kids pay for things themselves?

Photo by Werner Moser

I have just returned from a weekend Fundamentals In Action training with Baron Baptiste. A few years ago, a full day immersion class with Baron sparked in me a yoga fire that has led me to teaching kids and living my yoga. I saw that Baron was doing this training in Toronto which is just across the big pond from Rochester. I sent the yoga information to my husband and was pleasantly surprised when he decided to join me on this journey. I knew that this time I would be getting something totally different and was open to the possibilities.

This training pushed each of us to explore ways our yoga practice (through asana and meditation) can be brought into our lives by looking at intention, removing blocks by letting go of ideas or perceptions that are not working and then adding direction by saying yes to a new way of thinking and living. Through the physical work of asana we learned that we need to be firm but flexible, and similarly, in our lives we need to have vision but be malleable.

Though I can’t speak for my husband, I believe that he gained empowerment by pushing through resistance to accomplish new and challenging poses. I found that I had the opposite experience in that I found myself pushing less trying to gain more. Through my own work, I saw that my competitive nature which I throw into my running was also showing up with me on my mat. I was not competing against those around me, but pushing myself as I do in running. This tendency of pushing hard ended up depleting my reserves this year and resulted in a long illness. I decided to grab onto one of Baptiste’s 8 Universal Principles of Stepping Up To the Edge. Number 8. Don’t try hard: try easy

By trying easy, I listened more to my body’s cues. I reminded myself to “let go” when I felt myself giving in to my competitive instinct. I still went farther on my mat but the journey was different. I stopped self-judging. I listened to my internal voice but thought less about the words and just “let go”.

I gained a lot from this weekend both on and off the mat. Sharing this time with my husband made the weekend incredibly powerful and special.

Thank you Baron. I have a feeling we will be seeing you again in the future…

Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

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