Please meet our guest writer, Erin McDonald, a kids yoga teacher living in British Columbia, Canada. She shares her Heart Yoga Class Plan with us in honor of Valentine’s Day. Erin details each step of her lesson plan to make it easy to bring this nourishing practice to your children. Happy Valentine’s Day!
My six-year-old daughter is having bully trouble at school. There’s nothing more painful than watching your child have her feelings hurt.
Something I’ve learned along the way: I have no control over how she learns her lessons. No matter how much I love her, I cannot save her from her lessons.
And I answer, “Processing it so I don’t hold onto it or make my life a shrine to it or make myself sick with it.”
How does this thirty-one-year-old deal with heart pain (after learning the wrong ways to do it for many years)?
Yoga, meditation, affirmation, stillness and spending time with kind people who make me laugh.
Perhaps I can’t save my daughter from her lessons, but I can share with her every tool in my thirty-something arsenal so that this tough time in her life doesn’t become something that defines her.
This was the train of thought that led to the inspiration for the heart yoga class I taught to a group of eight and nine year olds today.
Heart Nourishing Yoga Class for Kids
We always follow a similar format for each class. I find that the children settle more easily when they know what to expect. If they are in high anticipation the entire time, it can be hard to focus.
We review the rules:
- Guided meditation/breathing
- Asana (physical postures) – we review some of the poses from last week and learn new ones to use in this week‘s games. I usually teach three to five new poses per class, depending on the age and experience of the group.
- Yoga games
- Savasana (resting pose)/visualization
- Namaste – we also go around the circle and tell one another something we’re grateful for or something awesome that happened today.
Heart Yoga Class Plan for Children
We take turns talking
We stay on our mats
Our mats stay on the floor
(Pretty basic but I find it really helps to lay it out at the start and refer back to it if necessary)
2. Guided Meditation/Visualization/Conversation
Let’s all sit criss-cross on our mats, nice and tall, with our eyes closed.
Place one hand over your heart.
If you’re really still, you can feel your heart beating under your hand.
Take some very deep breaths into the palm of your hand.
Open your eyes but keep your hand on your heart.
We all have things that happen to us that hurt our hearts and make us feel sad or angry.
I’d like you to think of one of those times, please. You’re in a safe space here.
Does anybody want to share how this heart-hurt feels in your body?
“I feel angry in my tummy”
“My heart feels heavy”
“I feel light (but not in a good way)”
“I feel it in my arms right away”
Thank you for sharing. You might also feel anger or sadness in your chest or your hips.
Now I’d really like for us to brainstorm some nice things that we might say to one of our friends if he or she is feeling sad or mad.
“Are you okay?”
“Do you want to come and play with me?”
“Can I help you?”
“I would give a hug.”
You are really good at being friends. We can also say things like, “I love you” and “I’m here for you”.
Please close your eyes again.
We’re going to begin massaging our hearts in a nice circle.
While you’re doing that, I’d really like you to say to yourself, either out loud or in your head, all the nice things that you say to your friends when they’re upset. Speak really kindly to yourself. Be the best friend you can be to your sore heart.
(Note: There were many silent tears during this part of the class, which was so moving to me. Boys and girls both. I got some good hugs after class).
“Does anyone remember some of the yoga we learned last week?”
Downward Dog Pose
Scorpion (which is not actual scorpion but one that a little boy made up which requires a lower body twist while on your belly and mostly ends up with a great deal of flopping and giggling.)
Say Hi to the Sun (Sun Salutation)
4. New Asanas this week
5. Games of the Week
We pretended to go to the Pet Shop this week because pets make our hearts feel happy.
We went around the circle and each child got to take home a pet. There was an equal number of kids that remembered the asanas we’d learned and those that made up poses to go along with the animals they chose. We also got to learn fish pose because a little girl wanted to buy one.
This is a great one to do cumulatively if you have a small number of kids or a lot of time. We had neither this week so we just went around the circle and took turns.
We also played a game of Yoga Dance Freeze because it’s a favourite. I often give cues as to the “style“ of dance to use. Today we were dancing like Space Men/Women. When the music stops, we froze in an asana. (We don’t do “out”).
6. Savasana (Resting Pose)
Close your eyes and pretend it’s a dark summer night. You’re warm and safe. As you look up at the sky, you see the stars are coming out. Suddenly, you see the biggest, brightest, and most perfect wishing star. Make a wish on the star and hold it safe in your heart.
I always feel blessed to spend my days sharing yoga but I found this class particularly moving. Yoga is a soft place to land and a way to move the pain of being human through our bodies and our kids need this as much as adults do, if not more.
Erin McDonald is the luckiest woman in the whole world because she gets to teach yoga and be a writer. Her website clumsygrace.com is a place for seekers of the authentic lifestyle to meet up and laugh (or cry) together. She’s been privileged to work with master yoga teachers Karuna, Paul Erickson,Ganga White, Tracey Rich, as well as Mugs McConnell and Dorothy Fizzell of the South Okanagan Yoga Academy with whom she did her yoga teacher training. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from UBC, a six-year old daughter, a really nice husband and a toy Maltese poodle, Sam Spade who is mostly for looks and cuddles. Erin lives in Cranbrook, British Columbia and teaches primarily at Exhale Yoga and Movement Studio.
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