This summer I decided to put away my phone, take a social media hiatus, and go on some self-paced retreats. These have really helped me enter relaxation mode and it feels amazing.
Last month, we were lucky enough to book an Ontario Provincial Park campsite. The fire pit on this site faced a grove of trees that felt like a magical forest.
I set up my camp chair to face this forest and it became my spot to sit, watch, listen, breathe, meditate. I watched trees transformed by sunlight, observed mist weave through trunks and ground cover, and followed birds hunting and pecking for food.
I spotted 3 kinds of woodpeckers (pileated, red bellied, flicker) and a grossbeak too! Some of these birds stayed amongst the low branches, while others lived in the treetops, making only brief appearances.
Every time I looked into this magical forest, I felt tension draining out of my entire being.
A few friends visited us and I watched them sit in my meditation spot looking at their phones. I tried joking about the world wide web made by the Daddy Long-leg spiders, and encouraged them to look for rare forest birds. But for some, the pull of the phone was just too strong.
We struck up a lot of good conversations in front of that forest, getting to hear how everyone managed during the pandemic. Each person had a unique story.
One dear friend expressed a difficulty reconnecting with others because it seemed as if people had lost their conversation skills and their curiosity about others. She felt this made it hard to keep a conversation going.
Maybe people became accustomed to isolation? The instant gratification of scrolling, doesn’t require much curiosity. Maybe the lack of questions comes from a fear of crossing a line and asking something too personal?
I contemplated my own curiosity on my retreat. What did I want to find out next? What did I want to explore?
Encourage Self-Awareness and Confidence with Your Questions
Right now, there are places in the world where children are not allowed to question. Their curiosity is discouraged. I remembered my trip to the Himalayas where I saw young Tibetan monks debating each other on philosophy. Debating was part of the learning process.
I thought of my own experiences as a child and as a seeker, when questions were shrugged off with memorized answers, they weren’t really explored.
As I looked into the forest at a bird flitting from tree to tree, I thought about the value of curiosity for survival.
How I hope children will question what I teach them. I want them to learn through their own experience and understanding. I want their questions to mean I’m doing my job well!!!
And I want to be able to question freely too, without fear of being shut out of the yoga community or any community for that matter.
I also contemplated how questions help me teach a kids yoga class.
3 Questions to ask In Every Kids’ Yoga Class
There are 3 questions I ask in every single class in some form or another. Not only do I ask these questions in every class, I probably ask them multiple times, in different ways.
They are meant to help kids develop self-awareness, the habit of checking in with themselves and understanding themselves.
Here are my 3 questions.
Question 1: Is there anything you want to do to feel more comfort?
This question is the result of moving away from alignment-based teaching and towards functional and accessible movement. When I first started teaching, we were taught that the placement of the feet, knees, and arms was paramount.
Fortunately, I learned to shift and consider that each person has their own unique way to feel comfortable. This question helps children take ownership of their practice. It seems to help, one parents discovered her son practicing meditation in his bedroom because he was sad and wanted to feel better. Another child was found doing a yoga pose to help them concentrate while studying. The children learned to choose tools to feel better.
What about you? Is there anything you want to do to feel more comfort? Try taking a deep breath and asking yourself if there anything you can do to tend to your needs in this moment. Then make any adjustment you want.
Question 2: What is your breath like?
I also ask different questions about the breath in class as well. Are you breathing or holding your breath? Is your breath relaxed? Can you keep breathing smoothly? Can you hear your breath? What temperature is your breath? When children bring awareness to the breath, we are doing yoga, no matter what the pose looks like.
3. Do you want a rest?
I ask this one after we’ve done a few yoga poses to help me pace the class.
As you may know from your own yoga practice, sometimes you string a few yoga poses together, then there are times when you rest in easy pose or child’s pose before doing the next pose. That’s what this question is about.
Kids often have a lot of energy and they don’t want to rest at first, so we’ll put a few poses together. Then after a while I’ll see their breath becoming more laboured, their arms hanging lower, or they come out of pose faster. That’s when I ask, “Do you want a rest?”
Sometimes everyone says no, sometimes yes, and sometimes there’s a mix. If they want a rest, they’ll watch for a bit, those that don’t, can join in right away.
The children learn that they can push themselves, knowing they can take a rest when they want to. Near the end of class, as I hear more yes answers, I start to wrap up the class with a, “Two more poses to the big rest.” The children know I never skip the big rest, so they put what energy they have into the last part and then we’ll rest for a short or long song, again giving children the choice to rest or do a meditation to the music.
I’ve found these 3 questions extremely useful as a kids’ yoga teacher and I’m curious if you’ve tried them and how they work for you.
Please leave a comment or questions here.
Ask Me Anything Check-In
In the spirit of curiosity, our Monthly Check-In for new and experienced Kids Yoga Teachers for July 2021 will be an Ask Me Anything session.
Some good questions came into my inbox while I was away, questions about insurance, waivers, and finding new business after moving. I’ll answer as many questions as I can and open up questions for your input, maybe even some debate.
In the small group breakout rooms, think of a question you’d like the other teachers you meet to answer. What would you like to find out about them in terms of kids’ yoga?
What will people want to know about you?
And a big shout out to all the teachers in these images from our Kids Yoga Teacher Training practicum classes. I hope to see you at the monthly check-in!!!
Next month, I’ll be heading out for another self-paced retreat and hope to have more time to look into the forest and wonder.