June 11, 2011

Bringing Play Back

When I was a kid I ran around barefoot and had dirt under my nails. I ate snow and I never wore a bike helmet. I drank whole milk and ate Oreos. If I didn’t like dinner, well, I wouldn’t eat. Organized sports meant a few neighborhood kids playing tag and the only foreign language we spoke was Pig Latin. After school activities were whatever my friends and I could come up with.  We spun till we were dizzy, and rolled down hills. We danced and we sang and we camped out in the back yard. We referred to our friends parents as Mr. and Mrs. We played board games–not computer games–and we always ate dinner at home, as a family. We had to wait to use the phone and text messaging meant leaving hand written notes. We had one TV and we watched shows together. Science fair projects were made using tape and construction paper and we always made our halloween costumes. If mom needed me she would stand at the front door and yell my name until I came running.

Those were the good old days. Back then, my job was to play. And man, did I work hard. I put in a few solid hours of play every day after school and on weekends, I would pull 12 hour shifts.  Sometimes it was exhausting–but mom said if I “played” hard enough, I could be anything I wanted.

These days, kids have it rough.

They have Adderal and hand sanitizer. They drink goats milk and eat the whole foods brand of Oreos–minus the trans fats. They eat dinner on the go–in the car–or maybe they just have a cheese sandwich because they don’t like mom’s free- range, organic roasted chicken with brussel sprouts and jicima slaw.  They started learning Mandarin and spanish in pre-school. They play travel soccer, have private voice lessons, piano lessons, and tutors–because it’s never too early to get into college. Their rooms are furnished with computers and video games, smart phones and ipods, TVs and digital cameras. Facebook updates have replaced play dates. If mom needs to reach them, she just calls their cell.

Nowadays, kids are constantly plugged-in, amped up and stressed out–making it nearly impossible for them to turn off, tune out and wind down. Sadly, for them, play seems to have become a thing of the past.

But I refuse to accept that. If Justin Timberlake could bring sexy back, I most definitely can bring back play.

There is no reason why yoga has to join the ranks of the “mom-I-don’t-wanna-go-activities,” becoming another one of their over-scheduled after-school exploits.

In a kids’ yoga class, children are invited into a world of fun where breath work is taught using bubbles and pinwheels, and traveling into the jungle, surfing the waves, or flying through the sky like a superhero is as common as bending over and touching their toes.  The focus should be less on the particulars of alignment and more on the experience of trying something different, stretching to new limits, and having fun in the process. Playing Yoga is fun!

As a kids yoga teacher, one of the best ways to make sure you’re tipping the scales with tons of yogic play, is to remember this:  if you aren’t having fun, neither are the kids!

So tap into your inner 8 year old and remember what it was like to play without consequence.  Not only will your classes be better for it, but both you and your students will have blast in the process!

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Heather Grimes Jul 1, 2011 1:32pm

This article is fabulous and so fun to read!

Bob Weisenberg Jun 14, 2011 8:29am

Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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Laurie Jordan

Laurie Jordan is the author of YAWNING YOGA: A GOODNIGHT BOOK FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP based on her successful bedtime yoga series, Yawning Yoga and the creator of Little Sprouts Yoga for kids. She has a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work and is a certified yoga instructor for children and adults. Find her yoga practice here.

Laurie took her first yoga class when she was 15 but the experience left a nasty taste in her mouth. She was kicked out for laughing at the instructors mantra, “feel the honey golden light in your…unmentionables” Eeww.

Who would have thought that all these years later, that “honey golden” moment would be the one that influences her teaching the most? (Or at the very least, that it serves as a reminder to never say anything as hippy- dippy and dorky as that–and to always, always keep it real.)