Yoga and Mindfulness in Primary Education
Education is far more than just building knowledge and skills; it is about building character and attitude, but it is also about understanding health and wellbeing.
The world is an enormous entity and is a busy and often confusing place for young minds. What once felt ‘out of reach’ has now become very much ‘in reach’ due to technological advances. Previously, we could push things to the backs of our minds if we couldn’t really understand them, or felt that they didn’t impact us. Now we are presented with these things directly and regularly to our conscious mind and sometimes those minds do not have the capacity, or maturity, to digest and manage how to react and what to feel.
This is why building health and wellbeing in greater measures, into the curriculum, is invaluable and practising yoga is a very accessible and effective instrument for this. Children of any age are able to embrace the breathing and meditative techniques and many are able to adopt the positions too (often more capably than some adults!).
Interview with Teresa Power
Tim from LitFilmFest spoke to Teresa Power, author of ‘Mindfulness at the Park’ and ‘Yoga at the Zoo’ about the importance of mindfulness and yoga for young learners in the current climate (interview abridged).
LitFilmFest Tim: Hi Teresa, how are you doing?
Teresa Power: Good Tim, how are you?
LT: I’m very well thank you! Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself?
TP: Sure, I have practiced yoga for over 30 years. When I had my kids I became a certified yoga teacher and eventually I started teaching yoga to kids. After my first book about yoga, I decided that I wanted to do something different – I wanted to bring fiction into yoga, which no one had done before.
LT: So today we’re going to be talking about ‘Yoga at the Zoo’ which is a fiction story which incorporates yoga in it. Why did you decide to combine yoga with fiction?
TP: Well, yoga is more than just the postures – yes, that’s one aspect of it, but there’s a lot more to it. It’s about your mindset, your behaviour, your breathing, your calm, you’re just a better person, you have good manners… I mean there’s so many aspects of yoga, and so I’m trying to inspire kids about that in a fiction way so that I’m not preaching to them, they’re learning it on their own.
LT: Why did you aim it at younger children, was that something you had experience of, or do you think this message is taught more readily at a younger age?
TP: I love working with kids as they’re very open and eager and receptive to new ideas and concepts, and to them, they don’t even think about yoga, they’re just having fun doing these moves!
One little boy I’ll never forget – he just never wanted to participate so I said “Okay, if you don’t want to participate just please don’t disrupt everyone else, but you can just sit quietly”. He did, and literally two weeks later the mom called me and said, “Oh my goodness, my son is practicing all these poses at home!”
So he was paying attention in the class but he just didn’t want to participate! Yoga can feel quite vulnerable, as being in a calm quiet place can make you think about how you’re feeling. It’s important to tackle these thoughts and feelings head-on in order to create a more balanced adult growing up who understands themselves.
LT: I feel like the book is written and illustrated to be relaxing, was that something that you had in mind?
TP: Yes, and Emma Allen, the illustrator, has amazingly calming, but also whimsical illustrations! There’s some humour in the book a little bit so kids can laugh at the same time.
In this day and age we need to get back to our roots. There’s so much technology, there’s so much going on in the world, that we really need to just find our centres and to find books and and rediscover that literature reading and enjoying story and learning lessons from it because modern media is so in your face action-packed not a minute’s rest.
Quick-Fire Write challenge!
If you’d like to think more about yoga with your class, check out this Quick-Fire Write activity!
LT: What is a highlight of the book that you think children will really enjoy?
TP: Yoga for kids is not meant to be really serious. In an adult class you’re going to be very quiet, it’s a little more somber. But with kids they can act out, they can make noises, they can have fun! There’s a lion pose – you roar really loud, and in the cat pose I have kids meow like cats!
Kids learn through play. They have a lot of energy so let them roar like a lion or meow like a cat or bark like a dog and then center them again into their breathing so you’re going to let them dispel the energy but then bring it back to their breath and calm them down again.
LT: What do you hope that children will take away from reading your book?
TP: One important point that i want kids to realize is that you can be friends with all kinds of people and the second thing is i want them to get excited about doing some simple yoga poses and learn how to calm their minds and bodies just in really simple way not anything too complicated but just to try some of these poses on their own.
LT: Why do you see your book, and yoga, as important for children at this time?
TP: Oh, I think it’s so vitally important right now for kids to be exposed to, first of all friendships. There’s a lot of division in our country right now, and so the fact that you can be friends with all kinds of people and be caring empathetic people, that’s very important.
Also, to learn how to use yoga and mindfulness to calm their minds and bodies. With the coronavirus going on, and all these things, the world is just changing a lot.There’s a lot of technology, it’s very fast-paced for kids to learn to breathe and slow down.
Young kids are also the leaders of tomorrow, so if we can get our youth on board, taking care of themselves mentally, to be able to learn how to self regulate. They’re going to be better leaders in the future. They’re going to be better students. We can’t control the world but we can control ourselves and our views of things.
LT: That’s a lovely message – we can’t control the world but we can control ourselves. Thank you so very much for joining us today!
Check out the Quick-Fire Fiction activity based on Teresa’s book here (coming soon).