April 19, 2012

Yamas, Yous & Yoga for Youth. ~ Elizabeth Reese

Photo credit: David Perrone

Sometimes, when I share with people that I weave Pantajali’s Eight Limbs or paths of yoga into Yogiños: Yoga for Youth classes, I get “the brow.”

You know “the brow.” And you know the variation accompanied with a strained ardha lipasana: the half-lip smirk.

My response is that while I may not read to kids excerpts from the Yoga Sutra’s, I do nurture opportunities for us to discuss ways to make mindful—or OHMazing—choices for the self, others and the earth. Here is one way I present Yamas to youth.

First, I reveal that Yamas are ways we can take care of the you’s and others in the world.

I purposefully selected this connection of Yama and you. Even for kids as young as three years old, I further explain that sometimes “even I” have a hard time remembering new information, and Yamas and “you” both begin with “Y”. This mnemonic tool assists learning acquisition. Moreover, for young readers it provides opportunities to play with language and alliteration.

There are numerous ways we can embrace the Yamas. One way is to to show compassion and kindness to all living things, including the “you’s” in our lives, ourselves and the earth. Pantajali calls this constant employment of empathy and care—or nonviolence—Ahimsa.

In a recent class with Elena Brower, she invited us to bring the “you” in our lives who offers us the most contraction. She asked us to see that person, as well as ourselves, with compassion. Elena mindfully threaded this theme throughout the class occasionally highlighting—or knotting, if you will—that when we see all others with kindness, we allow ourselves to live and grow more fully into a place of constant grace.

For example, in an extended pose like utkatasana or chair, and of course while we felt that fantastic contraction in our whole bodies, Elena asked us to breathe through the sensation of tightness and strain. Here she skillfully connected this physical sensation to ones we feel when we are confronted with someone for whom we have ill feelings.

While Elena’s eloquent language may be high-level for a kindergartner, the message that we can have Ahimsa for the you’s or others in our lives—and simultaneously invite grace into our own lives—is worth attending to at every age.

To provide a physical embodiment of the Yama Ahimsa to kids and families, one of the many asanas I offer is what Yogiños: Yoga for Youth calls in its trilingual approach, Tierra/Dwi Apanasana/Earth.


1. Lie on back in Savasana (Zzzzzzz)

2. Pull knees into chest and wrap hands or arms around knees for a full squeeze.

3. Rock back and forth if it is comfortable.

Opportunities for Discussion:

Invite your yogis to do this asana thinking about how much they love the earth for giving us so much.

“As you hug and love yourself that is an important step to love and honor others and the earth.”

Or “Remember that loving yourself is one of the best ways you can love others and the environment.”

Next, ask your participants to think of someone with whom they struggle. Encourage them to hug, rock, and love this person as they want to be loved and held.

If we can show compassion for others, it often enables us to treat ourselves with more kindness or Ahimsa. Afterwards, discuss how they felt in the pose showing kindness to the earth, others, and themselves.

Read more: Yoga in Schools Aligns Body, Mind & HeartI am OHMazing; and Every Breath You Take.

Photo credit: David Perrone

Elizabeth “Beth” Reese, Ph.D., E-RYT, RCYT, is the founder and executive director of Yogiños: Yoga for Youth®. A yoga practitioner for over 13 years, Beth is the mother of three OHMazing yogis under the age of 13. Her oldest daughter, Jordan, is part of the inspiration for Yogiños: Yoga for Youth® as she learned to navigate challenges associated with Sensory-Integration “Disorder” through practicing all 8 Limbs of yoga.Yogiños: Yoga for Youth offers classes for children and families as well as trainings for classroom teachers, yoga instructors, parents, and others interested in bringing yoga and healthy choices to all ages.[email protected] and here.





Editor Tanya L. Markul

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