Kindergarten Yogis

In 2005 I began teaching yoga to children at Desert Song Healing Arts Center, a studio in central Phoenix.  Over the years I expanded the kids yoga program, created and taught a certified children’s yoga teacher training program, and taught a weekly Gentle class for grownups on Saturday mornings.  Last Saturday was my final class.  

When the pandemic hit over a year ago, the studio had to close all in-person classes and quickly assembled an on-line schedule.  While the on-line classes continue to be successful, the business suffered, and the building was eventually sold.  On May 31 the Desert Song business will officially end.  For many of us who were a part of the community, it’s the end of an era.  When I wake up tomorrow morning, it will be the first Saturday in nearly fifteen years that I won’t have a commitment to teach a yoga class.

Recently I was looking through my collection of lesson plan books I’ve filled over the past sixteen years.  I was reflecting on all I’ve taught and learned during that time.  It seemed strange to have it come to an end.  Then I remembered that there’s actually a small thread of my yoga teaching still alive—the Seed kindergarteners.

A few weeks ago in a conversation with a parent and teacher, the idea of yoga being a beneficial practice came up.  I had the time and offered to teach a weekly yoga class to the kindergarteners.  They were an instant success, and our weekly class on Thursdays has become one of my favorite activities.  In a short time we have covered many aspects of yoga, including work with breath, relaxation, poses, stretching, and self-calming.  The kindergarten students have responded enthusiastically to everything I’ve taught them.  One of our favorite activities is called Sit Like A Frog.  It begins by first reminding ourselves of the parts of the body that have to keep moving (breath, heart pumping blood, and eyes blinking) and why.  The point of the exercise is to sit as still as a frog waiting to catch a fly, and the practice begins with a small chime sounding, followed by stillness and silence.  I am always amazed when a group of lively five-year-olds embrace this practice with such dedication.  

Yesterday we added a new component to our sitting practice.  After emptying the lungs of breath, students were invited to count to 4 as they inhaled, retain the breath to the count of 2, then exhale to the count of 8.  They were instructed to notice any thoughts that arose, let them go, and return to counting with the breath.  What followed was nothing short of miraculous.  For several minutes the entire group sat together silently.  When it was over I explained that this was something they could do on their own when they felt scared, anxious, or unsettled.  I told them that many adults don’t even know how to do this, so learning this at their age is really helpful.  At a time when my years of yoga teaching seem to be winding down, I’m glad I have this sweet opportunity to pass along some of the tools I’ve learned to our kindergarten yogis.