Sunday, March 17, 2013

Updated Teaching Schedule


9am  Highland Yoga, Butler, NJ


6am  Parisi Sports Club, Midland Park, NJ

1pm  Naturally Yoga, Glen Rock, NJ

7:30pm  Ananta Yoga, Wayne, NJ


10am  Highland Yoga, Butler, NJ

This week I will be completing a series of yoga classes for first to fifth graders I taught on Friday afternoons at my daughter's school.  It has been such a wonderful and inspiring experience.  Below is my closing letter to their parents and teachers about it: 

Dear Parents and Teachers,

I have been so inspired by sharing the practice of yoga with your children.  I have been delighted by their bright smiles, innate wisdom, and eagerness to learn and soak up the teachings.  They have shared many awesome insights about the stories and themes which were highlighted over our time together with books, songs, asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing practices), and mudras (hand positions).  Yoga is a wonderful practice that includes not only strengthening and stretching the muscles but also tools to deal with life’s challenges and to more fully appreciate the joys in this life.

We used the following books to deepen our learning of certain practices:  Each Breath a Smile based on teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh which invited us to become fully aware of our breathing and how all of life is breathing with us; Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean which ignited a discussion on how we deal with a really bad day and calm our angry feelings; The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss that reminded us to stay true to what we believe in; When Sophie Gets Angry by Molly Bang which illustrated how the wide world can comfort us if we allow ourselves to take in the beauty and expansiveness of nature; and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle where we had fun acting out the story and learning how to tune into ourselves and wait for the right time to do or say something (to come out of the cocoon and be transformed).

We used the following songs from Thich Nhat Hanhn’s Mindfulness Meditation Practice to outline the themes of identifying with and being calmed by nature: 
Breathing In, Breathing Out
Breathing In, Breathing Out
I am Blooming as a Flower
I am Fresh as the Dew
I am Solid as a Mountain
I am Firm as the Earth
I am Free

Breathing In, Breathing Out
Breathing In, Breathing Out
I am water reflecting what is real, what is true
And I feel there is space deep inside of me
I am Free, I am Free, I am Free

Breathing in, I go back to the island within myself
There are beautiful trees within the island
There are clear streams of water
There are birds, sunshine, and fresh air
Breathing out, I feel safe
I enjoy going back to my island

The children were very interested in the mudras (hand positions) we learned and continued to ask about them each week.  We would begin each class by playing a game.  Each child chooses a mudra:  connecting thumb and first finger is for knowledge, thumb and middle finger is for patience, thumb and ring finger is for creativity, and thumb and pinky is for communication or deep listening.  (We used this last one when in the cocoon and listening for the right time to come out -The Very Hungry Catepillar.)  To begin class, I invite the bell and model sitting with eyes closed, hands in a mudra, listening to the bell and aware of my breathing.  The game is to listen very closely until you can’t hear the bell anymore and then quietly change your hands to Anjali mudra where you connect the palms of the hands together over the heart.  We do this three times to quiet our minds, become aware of our body and breath.  They do this so beautifully to begin class.

They learned the importance of warming up the six directions of the spine.  Ask them to show you:  cat and cow (they like to do the sound effects – meow and moo), side stretches, and twisting.  Some of their favorite activities included hopping around the circle like frogs in squat pose, walking in and out of the center of the circle like crabs, and for some of them doing a backbend.  They like to make requests for the postures (asanas) we do.  This shows me how much they enjoy it.  Each class included sun salutations, standing poses and balancing poses as well as a closing relaxation called svasana where they lie still with their eyes closed to relax and I get to sing them a beautiful song (like the ones listed above).

Thank you for the opportunity to share this time with your children, to learn so much from them, and to share the practice of yoga.  We close each class by chanting the universal sound of OM to send out wishes of peace and joy, love and light to our classmates, our teachers, our friends, family, and all beings.  Then we bring our hands in front of our hearts in Anjali mudra and say “Namaste” to each other.  I tell them (and now you): “ Inside each one of you there is a spark, a light, that shines through your eyes, through your smile, through all the wonderful things you do everyday.  The light in me honors the light in you.  Namaste.”


Angela Cays, MS, LPC, RYT-500
Kripalu Certified Yoga Teacher

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