“You’re not going yet!?”
Right after we do yoga breathing at the beginning of my toddler class, on three year old exclaims, “You’re not going yet!?”
Because we do yoga breathing at the end of class too, she sometimes things we’re coming to a close. She doesn’t like to say good-bye and I have to admit, especially as we’re drawing to the end of another school year, I can relate!
I’ve written before about the sadness I experience as a teacher at the end of the school year. I’ve done yoga with kids from their diaper days, to seeing the big gap in their front teeth, to them transforming into adults. If you’ve ever got the privilege to teach in the same school long term, you know what its like. Relationships form, we make connections that light us up when we see the kids in our classes.
A six year old student that I’ve taught since she was two years old was in the hospital with pneumonia this winter, we didn’t know if she would make it, she was very sick. Thank God she returned, much tinier, after missing three weeks of school. Now she’ll be moving on to grade one. Simply put, I love her. But from past experience I’ve seen that for most kids, the last class is no big deal. They’re thinking more about summer holidays, swimming, or learning to ride a bike.
Its me who’s silently saying, “You’re not going yet!?”
Fortunately we have many powerful yoga teachings about attachment to help us let go and move on. The good news is they work equally well for children and teachers.
5 Ideas for End of School Year Yoga
Idea 1: Normalize The Process:
In yoga, the Hindu philosophy explains the cycle of Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Sustainor), Shiva (Destroyer). In Kundalini Yoga we say Sa (Universe) Ta (Life) Na (Death) Ma (Rebirth). In Christianity, Christ died so there could be a resurrection of new life. So many spiritual practices point to teachings on the cycle of life: Endings lead to new beginnings.
In my end of year classes I try to bring this to life with a theme about cycles. Consider using these yoga flows:
- Growth Cycle: start with a seed (child pose), become a sprout (kneeling with upward hands) then grow up to a plant (mountain pose), the plant creates a flower (standing with upward hands), the flower blossoms and dies (downward dog) which plants a new seed (child pose).
- The Seasons (warm-up first): Spring (half-wheel/bridge lifts – inhale up, exhale down), summer (from corpse pose come to legs up to 90 degrees or shoulder stand), fall (plow pose), winter (corpse pose).
- Meditation for Change: If thoughts go to sadness about losing someone, use the “Sa Ta Na Ma” meditation to refocus your mind during these times. Here’s a link to how the Kirtan Kriya Meditation is done. I regularly do this meditation for about six minutes with children.
Idea 2: Take Care of Unfinished Business
This may be the last time you will see some of the kids so if there is anything you want to share, now is the time. Yogi Bhajan said “I did not come to collect students, but to train teachers.” As teachers we want to build students to be ten times as powerful as ourselves. I think about how I can make these children ten times more powerful than I am! That’s how I will know I’ve done a good job. The wheels start turning in their young minds when they hear my last instruction to go and teach what they’ve learned. They sit up a little taller and consider who they can teach yoga to. Now their yoga practice doesn’t have to end when my classes end.
Idea 3: Gratitude Circle
Etch out some circle time for each person to say what they are grateful for about yoga and each other. An attitude of gratitude helps us remember all we have instead of crying about what we don’t have.
Idea 4: Make a Wish and Let It Go
When the three year old I mentioned says “You’re not going yet!?” at the beginning of class, we make a wish and then let it go. Consider giving kids their wish emotionally, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do yoga together all day. That would be so fun, wouldn’t it?” I recommend you DON’T finish it with, “But we can’t do that” or some other negation of the wish. Just make the wish and let go of it.
Then move on to thoughts of all the fun things planned for the class, “Now we’ve got our warm-up song, our yoga poses, downward dog, cobra pose… and our meditation. Wow, we’ve got a lot to do together!”
I’ve done this for three or four weeks with my little friend and she smiles and gets ready for yoga. By the end of the class she’s satisfied that we’ve completed our routine.When I feel sad, I make a silent wish for the children I’m going to miss, a wish for them to have a happy and healthy future.
Idea 5: Choose Your Favorite Yoga Poses for Yoga at Home
Since the kids have done yoga all year, they know a lot. For the last class try invite each child to name their favorite place to do yoga at home. Then go on to have them teach each other their favorite yoga pose.
Children will get a mental picture of their home practice, bringing them one step closer to actually doing yoga at home. Plus it’s fun to hear poses like – upside down on the couch pose or TV watching cobra pose.
You probably won’t be able to do all these in your last class. But you may pick and choose a few of these ideas to make a smooth transition at the end of the school year.
Am I the only sentimental yoga teacher out there?
I doubt it. I’ve met enough yoga teachers to know how open-hearted most of us are. Have you ever grown attached to your students? What are you going to miss about them? Feel free to share your memories, your wishes, or your own tips in the comments because sharing is a great way of processing our feelings and letting go of attachments.
I wish for all of you a smooth transition and a wonderful summer!