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Embrace the Teachings of Indigenous Peoples through Movement and Affirmations

Please welcome our guest writer today, Deirdre Drombolis, who works in Northern Canada in several First Nations schools. I had the pleasure of meeting Deirdre in our School Yoga Program. Together, we created Seven Grandfather Teachings Yoga Cards for Kids so that she can share the Indigenous Teachings and traditions of the Indigenous Peoples through movement and affirmations.

“My breath is your breath, and your breath is my breath.”

With the simple reminder of the inhale and the exhale, we can remember the connection we have to ourselves, to one another and to this earth. That feeling of connection helps remind us that we are never alone, and at the end of the day, we are more alike than we are different. That thread of connection, of similarities can also be found when we sit with open hearts and open minds and truly hear the teachings shares with us by other cultures. 

As a pediatric physiotherapist working for ten of the First Nation Communities of Agency 1/Treaty 3, I have been honoured to have the opportunity to share in many Anishinaabe teachings. As a yoga teacher, I have witnessed how these teachings from two Indigenous cultures from opposite ends of the world intertwine and hold so much truth and wisdom. These teachings have taught me more about stewardship, respect, and connection to myself, to others, and to this earth than anything else. I believe I am a better person for it.  

Indigenous Teachings

As I share the story of the Seven Grandfather Teachings as it was shared to me by the elders of Agency 1/Treaty 3 land, I do so in order to show how these teachings have impacted me and to hopefully spark your interest to learn more.   

In the story that has been passed down from generation to generation, the Creator gave spirits known as the Seven Grandfathers the responsibility to watch over the Anishinaabe people. The Grandfathers sent a Messenger down to earth to find someone to share the Anishinaabe values. After searching all the directions, the Messenger found a baby boy. 

The Seven Grandfathers instructed the Messenger to take the baby around the Earth for seven years to learn the Anishinaabe way of life. After the Messenger and the boy return, the Grandfathers gave the boy seven teachings to share with the people: honesty, respect, bravery, love, truth, wisdom, and humility. Each of these teachings are embodied by one of our animal relations to help us better understand how to bring these ideals to life.


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7 Grandfather Teachings

First Teaching – Honesty

To live true to oneself and with virtue.

Ojibwe – Giwekwaadiziwin

Animal – Sabe

The Sabe understands who they are and how to walk in their own life.

Mountain Pose | Kids Yoga Stories
Mountain Pose

Second Teaching – Respect

To go easy on one another and all creation in a reciprocal way.

Ojibwe – Manaaji’idiwin

Animal – Buffalo – Bizhiki

Bizhiki gives every part of his being to sustain the human way of living. The buffalo respect the balance of their needs and the needs of others.

Warrior 2 Pose | Kids Yoga Stories
Warrior 2 Pose

Third Teaching – Bravery

To live with a solid strong heart.

Ojibwe – Zoongide’ewin

Animal – Bear – Makwa

Makwa has the courage and strength to face their fears and challenges while protecting their young. To face life with courage is bravery.

Downward Facing Dog | Kids Yoga Stories
Downward-Facing Dog

Fourth Teaching – Love

Unconditional love that flows reciprocally between one another including all of creation.

Ojibwe – Zaagi’idiwin

Animal – Eagle – Migizi

Migizi has the strength to carry all the teachings—all the teachings are needed to love in this unconditional way. This teaching is where all the teachings come together.

Eagle pose – I love and am loved

Fifth Teaching – Truth

To speak only to the extent that we have lived or experienced.

Ojibwe – Debwewin

Animal – Turtle – Miskawaadesi

Miskawaadesi plays an important part in the Anishinaabe Creation story and carries the teachings of life on their back.

Child's Pose | Kids Yoga Stories
Child’s Pose

Sixth Teaching – Wisdom

To live with vision.

Ojibwe – Nibwaakaawin

Animal – Beaver – Amik

Amik uses their natural gift by altering the environment for their family’s survival.

Happy baby Pose | Kids Yoga Stories
Happy Baby Pose

Seventh Teaching – Humility

To see ourselves in relation to all that sustains us, not greater than.

Ojibwe – Dabasendiziwin

Animal – Wolf – Ma’iingan

Ma’iingan lives for their pack.

Wolf – I am Connected

These teachings link beautifully with the Chakras we see in yogic philosophy, and we can learn these teachings in many ways through:

  • stories using our minds 
  • affirmations using our emotions
  • connection with all our relations and this Earth, using our spirit 
  • our movement and breath, using our body 

With each of these concepts, we learn about both the rights and the responsibilities we have. We learn that rights and responsibilities are really the opposite sides of the same coin, and that coin is reciprocity and connection.

We are important. Others are important.

We deserve respect. Others are deserving of respect.

We are brave. We encourage the bravery of others.

We are loved. We love others.

We seek the truth. We acknowledge the truth of others.

We seek knowledge. We share knowledge.

We are all connected.

At Kids Yoga Stories, we are committed to sharing the teachings of peoples from around the world. If you have a story to share or a way that you are applying the teachings of yoga into your culture or community, please don’t hesitate to reach out. As Deirdre says, we are all connected, and I believe that global education is an extremely important part of every child’s curriculum. 🙂


Dee has been a physiotherapist for over twenty years, and she has spent the last four of those specializing in pediatrics at Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services Child’s First Initiative Program serving ten First Nation Communities in Agency 1/Treaty 3, also known as North Western Ontario Canada. Dee completed her 500 YTT with a focus on trauma-informed yoga two years ago and now seeks to incorporate the anatomy and physiology from her physiotherapy training and the holistic view on health from her yoga training to offer up ways to make movement practices better, bodies stronger, and days full of life. We are meant to thrive not just survive. Off the mat, Dee is mom to Aela and Graeme, a lover of running, books, the outdoors, and all things coffee.



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