The other day in one of my kids yoga classes I was teaching a yoga exercise similar to a Martial Arts punch. For this exercise you hold your body in place and then punch each arm with a powerful “HAAA” breath. Joining in, the daycare teacher joked that this is the only time kids will get to do a punch move at school!
The teacher was joking, but there was more than a grain of truth to it. Many schools and homes have adopted a Zero Tolerance policy to quell violence and level the playing field between boys and girls. But have we gone too far? Have we developed a negative attitude toward boy culture?
After discovering our Yoga Man – Yoga for Boys product, marketing expert Tia Dobi forwarded me a TED Talk that examines boy culture and the growing problems boys are facing in school.
Re-Engage Boys in Learning
The talk by Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to Re-Engage Boys in Learning emphasizes the problems for boys these days. Boys are tuning out of school and tuning into what gives them what they like, things like video games. But as Carr-Chellman says, “video games are not the cause they are the symptom.” Consider watching this talk if you’ve got boys:
In the TED Talk Carr-Chellman cites a study that shows the negative implications for boys in school:
- for every 100 girls that are suspended from school, there are 250 boys suspended
- for every 100 girls in special education, there are 217 boys in special education
- for every 100 girls with emotional disturbances, there are 324 boys with emotional disturbances
These are disturbing numbers. One solution that may help is to ease up on Zero Tolerance toward the kinds of play that boys like. Of course that doesn’t mean allowing bullying or violence, but it does mean letting boys be boys.
Do You Understand Boy Culture?
Consider what it means to be proactive with boys. If you’ve never had brothers, sons, or taught boys, you may not know what typical play is like for boys. If two boys are wrestling on the ground, it doesn’t mean they are violent prone or need to see a psychologist. It means that many boys like to wrestle. If a teacher tells them they are wrong or “NOT OKAY” for wrestling at recess, they are insulting boy culture, perhaps without realizing it. Schools support the way girls play and punish the way boys play.
Similarly, if we don’t acknowledge the female dominated culture of yoga, we may be alienating boys without even realizing it. Boys may walk away thinking what they like is wrong. They may walk away thinking yoga is for girls.
Tools to Get Boys Involved
Here are some ideas to help boys fall in love with yoga:
- incorporate tools like partner yoga without micro-managing the poses,
- use props like the Yoga Man – Yoga for Boys pictures, games, and coloring,
- invite male teachers to assist you or guest teach,
- promote Father/Son yoga classes or retreats.
A proactive approach to boys in yoga may help us hear the happy voices of boys exclaiming, “Is that guy doing yoga? Yoga is for boys!”
What do you do in your classes to encourage boys?
“Yoga Man vs The Stressor is so much more than just a yoga guide. The impressive fun filled games teach the children important life tools while learning fun yoga poses. These fun games will help your kids/students get in touch with what stresses them out and how to keep their stress under control.”
Intentional Conscious Parenting.com
Yoga Man product review February 21, 2011
Upcoming Kids Yoga Teacher Training
The Inclusive Yoga Weekend Certificate includes tools that help boys love yoga. You’ll also get lots of information on Yoga for Children with Special Needs. Get more information here.
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Thanks for the comments everyone. Feel free to share your opinion.
Tia – its amazing how much influence Michael Jackson still has on kids today!
Tia Dobi says
Dear Aruna Kathy,
This is such an important post . . . I’m delighted the TED video provided a source of inspiration for you to share your wisdome and teaching.
More proof that Yoga Man is so needed–and welcomed–in today’s world of fast-paced transformation.
Peace and profits,
P.S. I luv Michael Jackson’s heartfelt version of the “Martial arts HAAA punch” shown here at the very end of this terrific music video http://bit.ly/7YZhC7. Again, thanks for the share, appreciate you!
Stopping by from the SITS roll call!
I’m a high school teacher and your post really got me thinking about how boys are treated. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for this post. I love the idea of having a male assist or guest teach, as well as offering Father/Son classes. I am going to try that! I am a second year kids yoga teacher and taught yoga at Summer Camp last year to over 80 children (3rd – 8th grades) – and sadly only had one boy in all of my classes. However, I am currently teaching 3 – 5 year olds in a daycare center and I think the boys are enjoying it as much or more than the girls. We use our imagination a lot during yoga class and the boys like to express their “boy qualities” during their poses or guided meditation. For example, if we do bird pose, some boys pretend they are soaring like birds and are chasing other birds, but then crash into a tree. Or if we are doing a guided meditation, some boys imagine that they are traveling to Legoland or outerspace in a rocketship. While the girls imagine they are princesses. I also hand out coloring books pages of boys and girls doing yoga poses for them to color at home…to emphasize that both boys and girls can enjoy yoga. Peace…
Wow – of 80 children, only one boy!
I get what you are saying about the guided meditation. Sometimes the boys will ask if they can play video games in their relaxation garden.
It’s helped me to understand that to try to redirect them all the time may actually be insulting and alienating them.
Thanks for the comment.
Hemani Pandya says
Hi. I have a highly energetic 4 year old son. I am a single mom and he is the only male in my house. I now understand his love for his toy gun, and why some of his toys become imaginary guns/arrows; why he loves to play wrestling and other physical games with me; why he needs to punch that stuffed snake/teddy bear/dog; why he does a lot of things that he does… :)) It was hard to understand his behavior. He is a gentle, playful, kind little boy. I watch him play with boys as well as girls. There is a large difference in the way he plays with girls and how he plays with boys. He likes to play thieves and robbers with boys where they shoot the bad guys and either maim them or kill them. I teach yoga and I did not know how to get him involved or interested in learning yoga. I now understand how it is important to let him be!!! He is after all – a boy :)) Thank you for this article and the links…
Thanks for telling what its like for your 4 year old son, he sounds like the four year olds that I teach yoga too.
a big part of this post is to just let the boy perspective be represented. I learned to ease up a bit because of it.
One mom of four boys told me she showed her sons the YouTube video of Yoga Man. Just seeing images of boys doing yoga will help them think that yoga is for them too.
Here’s the link in case you haven’t seen it:
Heather Molina says
Thanks for this post, article and resources.
I am interested in this topic, and will explore this more within my own teaching and yoga studio.
I tend to agree with the no tolerance policy when it comes to physical violence- even play violence- in schools from boys or girls, but there must be another outlet! Such as increased physical activity. Yoga is an excellent option!
Thanks for your comment Heather. I understand about the no tolerance in schools, it is hard to draw the line so I understand drawing it at Zero. Things can go quickly from wrestling to someone getting angry and losing their temper.
I remember hearing something about these little incidents in childhood actually helping kids learn empathy towards others. When they hurt someone they feel bad that they did it and they grow from it. I’ll have to find that and write a blog post about it : )
I agree that yoga is a great option to give kids a physical outlet. Glad to see your kids yoga in Kentucky.
prairie mother says
I’m the mother of 6 year old twin boys and I was a middle school teacher before I had children. Boy culture is definitely something I’ve been confronted with. As a woman I find myself instictively trying to quell their wrestling and ‘boyness’. We encourage a lot of artwork in our house and, unlike most schools, I don’t censor their violent themes in their work. I’ve been trying to keep my mouth shut more often and let them get wild in the house, just not on the couch. Luckily we’ve been able to get the boys into 4-H Archery and Shooting Sports activities which they love! I’m happy with it because these are led by educated, caring male instructors who are fantastic role models as what a responsible man should be.
I’ve done yoga for a few years and it has helped me emotionally calm down and really take inventory of the world around me. I think yoga would be wonderful for my boys but honestly, I don’t know how to approach them with it. Maybe I’ll get lucky and win this giveaway!
Hi Prairie Mother, Thanks for the comment. The positive male role models are so important. Thanks for entering the contest on the Intentional Conscious Parenting website. Good luck! I think Yoga Man could help keep those boys off the couch. : )