Little Yogis Know Big Love
The ideal purpose of your life is that you are grateful—great and full—that you are alive, and you enjoy it. (1996). Yogi Bhajan
Sometimes when yoga teacher colleagues hear that I teach kids classes, they are quick to ask why I bother "since you can't REALLY practice yoga. It's more like herding cats." While I agree that working with the little people, who are still learning to navigate their body minds are at times unruly, I feel that they are closer to the source than the average adult practitioner. The gaiety and lightness with which they approach each element of class is at once refreshing and trying. The muffled chatter, infectious giggles, and flailing limbs can be distracting as an instructor but they are strong indicators of active students enjoying themselves; but it's the posturing at the beginning of class when we share "the news" that reaffirms my purpose with the kids.
To help students transition from the structured school day to a more independent enrichment activity, I ask students to take turns sharing their news as the opening activity. By answering the same three questions, [What is your name? How are your feeling today? For what are you grateful?], invariably the backstory to why they are feeling as they do is also revealed, snowballing anecdotes that frequently need sheparded along. The other component that happens regularly with this opening exercise, is that the kids think of more things for which they are grateful. They ask to go around the circle a second time to share again or concur "oh yeah me too" or "that was mine" if a student beats them to an answer. When I catch myself suspecting if they are one upping each other, I tune back into the elements they are listing: my parents, food, water, no homework, tacos at Tinga, outerspace, sunshine, nature, my dog, my friends, yoga, and their friends. Not only does the opener give each student an opportunity to have the floor, but it frequently creates a gratitude consensus. The first person to mention "grateful for no homework today," is immediately hailed as a hero as they cheer and clap in unison. As the intentions become more heart-focused, like when a student mentions being grateful for his/her parents, the rest nod in silent appreciative agreement. The exercise allows for an organic progression from the silliness of the school day to an introspective quiet moment in gratitude. So according to Yogi Bhajan's declaration in 1974, "the attitude of gratitude is yoga" these young students are yogis before they move a muscle.