I am Part of All I See (a spiritual story and meditation)

Children Sitting Together Outside

YogaKids Momma Marsha has a quote: “I am you, you are me, I am part of all I see.” This concept is such an important one to teach to today’s children because we are getting more and more disconnected due to social media, devices and video games. Yet scientists teach us that it is connection that will provide us with lasting happiness.

Dr. Emma Seppala from Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) says that when connection with others is present, it can boost mental and physical health, and even increase immunity and longevity. Connection to our family, communities and nature is vitally important for today’s children. This meditation uses story and visualization to teach kids about being connected to their peers, family, community and the world and asks them to step outside of themselves to realize the vastness of their own beauty.

A Saltwater Story

An unhappy student came to a yoga master and told her she had a very sad life and asked for a solution.The master instructed the unhappy young girl to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and drink it. The student took a big gulp and made a grimace as the salt water stung her throat.

“That is awful,” said the student.

“Right,” said the master.

The master and student took a short walk and sat down in front of a nearby lake. The master put a pinch of salt in the lake and asked the student to take a sip. The student scooped up some water and took a drink.

“How was that?” asked the master.

“Delicious,” said the student.

“You are seeing yourself as the glass of water, and are being greatly affected by everything that happens to you. You must think of yourself as the large lake” said the master. “You are expansive, you are pure light, pure love, and you are connected to everything you see.”

“I am Part of All I See” Meditation

Lie down and let your eyelids gently close. Feel the soft sensation of our own breath as your belly floats up and down… up and down. (long pause) Now bring your awareness to your heart center… imagine a beautiful emerald green color swirling around your heart. This green become brighter and more vibrant with every inhale. (long pause) Now imagine the beautiful swirling green moving out away from your heart to the edges of your body… moving in to your heart, and away from you. (pause) Now imagine that beautiful swirling moving away from you into the room… moving in and out all the way to the town. (pause) Imagine this beautiful green energy moving in to your heart and out to the entire state, growing larger and more vibrant as it travels. Now imagine this green energy that started in your little heart moving out and encompassing the entire world… moving in and out, pulsating in all directions. (pause) Feel yourself connected to all living things… Feel yourself embrace the entire world, and feel the world holding you warmly in return. (long pause) Now imagine that energy slowly coming back into your heart… swirling, and coming to a soft peaceful flow right in the center of your heart. (pause) Now again, feel the soft sensation of your own breath… feel your belly float up and down… up and down. (pause) Slowly bring your awareness back to the room… wiggle your fingers and your toes. (pause) Slowly stretch your arms overhead as you inhale, exhale through an open mouth. Leave one arm extended, bend your knees and gently roll onto one side and rest. Slowly push yourself up to sitting. Gently float your eyes open.

“I am the Light and the Light is Me”

Woman Meditating on Beach

Words of Wisdom from Momma Marsha.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one afternoon when I stumbled on an article by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield about negative talk. Jack said, “If you have regular thoughts of self-judgment, criticism, shame, or unworthiness, create a true antidote, a phrase or two or three, that transforms the falsehood of these unhealthy thoughts.” This idea really resonated with me and I began to think about what my “antidote” phrase might be.

I started to reflect on negative talk and the many ways small and large that it often shapes our lives. “I’m not good enough!”  “Why did I say that?”  “Why am I always rushing and running late?”  “Everyone is so far ahead of me; I don’t even have the energy to try!” All day long, we often have this dialog of not being enough. Negative self-talk is one of the many ways we are unkind to ourselves. 

I Am the Light and the Light is Me

In a wonderful song called Namaste, written by Marsha Wenig (creator of the YogaKids program), the main verse of the song is sung over and over and it is, “I am the light, and the light is me.” This has become my antidote to negative talk. This phrase perfectly describes the truth about me — and you! At our core; we are pure light, pure love, and pure consciousness. If I know this to be the truth, than not being good enough, smart enough, fast enough or kind enough just isn’t possible because I am the light, and the light is perfect just as it is.


Many of us think of yoga as simply a physical practice, but yoga recognizes eight separate “limbs.” Yoga’s 5 moral restraints, the Yamas, are the first limb. There are five main Yamas that we practice to help us reduce suffering, and achieve peace in our lives and they are: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation and generosity.  The very first of these Yamas is Ahimsa (or non-violence) and it is often referred to as the most important Yama. Ahimsa really addresses kindness — and negative self-talk is being unkind to ourselves.  Not only is negative self-talk unkind, it just simply is untrue. When you truly understand Marsha’s words, you understand your own truth, and the magnitude of just how special you are.


The Namaste song goes on to sing about our connection to nature and each other –“I am you and you are me, I am part of all I see.” This dispels another self-sabotaging habit –criticizing others. If I know this to be true, than criticizing you would be just as destructive as criticizing myself.  This is addressed by the second Yama, Satya which means truthfulness. To be truthful, I must recognize that you are the light, and therefore ,you are also perfect just as you are — and any criticism of you would be false. 

I use this one all the time while driving. If someone cuts me off in traffic, my initial reaction is to judge them harshly. Then I remind myself that they are the light, and I can actually feel myself soften to the situation. Possibly this driver just got bad news about a loved one’s health, or got passed over for a much-deserved promotion. We don’t need to speculate as to why people are sometimes rude. It really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they are the light, and your own sweet light recognizes it.    

I find myself saying often “oh, she is the light” or “that is ok, because he is the light.”  It is a very peaceful healing practice that allows me to take nothing personally, and not pass any judgement on others’ behaviors weather they affect me directly or not. With this practice, I will no longer be a slave to the behavior of others. People will always disappoint, neglect, cheat, etc.… but we have a choice as to how we respond to other people’s behaviors. We can be a slave to it, or accept it and constantly be reminded of the magic of life by seeing their light.

I invite you to notice your own negative self-talk and judgement of others — and adopt a new dialog in your head about your own innate goodness, and the goodness of others.  As Gandhi said, 

“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”


Changing the World… One YogaKid at a Time!

Girl in Lotus Pose

It is mid-summer and I am reminded of a story about a boy walking along the ocean. As he walked along, he would stoop down, pick up a starfish, and toss it back to the sea.

Another beach visitor, upon seeing this, stopped the boy and asked why he was doing this. There were many, many starfish past the water’s edge. The visitor figured the boy could never return all of them; why would the boy take time to do what appeared to be an impossible task? Why bother? What difference would it make?

The boy straightened up, smiled, pointed to the starfish in his hand, and said, “It makes a difference to him”.

Last summer, one of my evening teen classes had only one attendee. Having a single student in a yoga class can challenge your teaching skills when you have prepared for a larger class. My ideas of group and partner poses went right out the proverbial window with the realization that this student was the only one showing up. But the needs of that student ended up being better served by our one to one lesson. It had a lasting effect on me as an instructor and as a person.

Abandoning most of what was planned became my strategy. I followed her lead and allowed her to take me on her journey. She opened up about how life was affecting her, some unique challenges she was facing, and emotions she was dealing with. We focused on what she wanted to achieve during our time together. She wanted movement and time to talk. She wanted to do her favorite poses. She wanted to talk some more. And at the end of the class, she created a flow sequence from all of the poses we worked on that session, naming it “Water Serenity Flow.” I was so inspired by this that I created a picture representation of the vinyasa to give to her and to share with my other classes.

I learned so much in that hour lesson that its teachings still resonate with me today. Meet the student where they are, not where you want them to be. Listen, be present, be flexible. And make a difference in the life of that one starfish.

Water Serenity Flow

  1. Talking Turtle
  2. Bridge
  3. Bubble Fish
  4. Lord of the Fishes (right)
  5. Wave
  6. Lord of the Fishes (left)
  7. Table Top
  8. Spouting Dolphin
  9. Waterman (Superman swim)
  10. Ragdoll
  11. Frog
  12. Repeat!


Using the YogaKids Elements for Children with Depression

sad child

Depression is the most common mental health problem in the United States today. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, depression affects 17 million people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds. Rates of depression among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. An estimated 2.8 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 11.4% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17. As many as 1 in every 33 children may have depression; in teens, that number may be as high as 1 in 8.


In depression, the sympathetic nervous system is over activated, and the parasympathetic nervous system is under activated. As in adults, depression in children can be caused by any combination of factors that relate to physical health, life events, family history, environment, genetic vulnerability and biochemical disturbance. Depression is not a passing mood, nor is it a condition that children will just grow out of. In her book Yoga for Depression, Registered Yoga Teacher Amy Weintraub says that alienation from life is the root of depression. Children today are overscheduled, overstimulated, and moving at an exhausting rate. From school to activities to long hours of homework at night, there is little time for play, reflection, or connection. Many American children have lost their freedom to play and explore on their own. Often children have structured games, lessons, activities, and aren’t allowed to hop on their bikes and explore the world. They often don’t get the chance to use their own creativity to find fun, make new friends, or learn new skills. The increase in technology use has caused children to become isolated from each other, family and the world. Many children have their faces in a screen, and are missing out on making meaningful connections with loved ones and friends. There is a drive in our society for everyone to be the same, and anyone that differs from that ideal suffers. Children are losing the chance to shine their own unique light on the world, and rejoice in their own magnificence.


Symptoms of depression include: Irritability, anger, sadness, hopelessness, social withdrawal, changes in appetite and sleep, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and low energy. In addition, some children exhibit physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that don’t respond to treatment. Loss of interest in activates that they used to enjoy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, impaired thinking or concentration and thoughts of death or suicide are also cited as symptoms.

“I tell you; deep inside you is a fountain of bliss, a fountain of joy. Deep inside your center core is truth, light, and love, there is no guilt, there is no fear. Psychologists have never looked deep enough.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

How Yoga Helps

Yoga teachers cannot diagnose or treat depression, but can give children and their parents many tools they can use to alleviate the symptoms of depression. Yoga addresses the root cause of depression: the energy drain caused by the overreactions of our mind to the stress of our world and the pressures of our own fears and desires. Yoga strengthens feelings of joy, peace, and connectedness. New Hampshire Hospital study, conducted with 113 psychiatric inpatients, researchers found that those who participated in a yoga program for depression displayed improvement in all five negative emotion factors tested by the Profile of Mood States (POMS). Factors included tension/anxiety, depression/dejection, anger/hostility, fatigue/inertia, and confusion/bewilderment.

How YogaKids Helps

YogaKids creator Marsha Wenig created 14 original Elements which allow yoga teachers to take yoga’s very adult tools and make them child friendly. The Elements also allow teachers to accommodate many different learning styles and conditions in one class. The Elements help teachers create fun, educational and safe yoga classes that kids love.

The Eight Limbed Path

In The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, an eight limbed path is outlined. Patanjali’s threads of wisdom lead us on a path towards living a peaceful life, which still remains relevant today some 1600 years after they were written. Creating a yoga program for children based on this path will give teachers many tools to help students reduce suffering, and learn to live vibrant, happy lives.

Yamas and Niyamas

The first two limbs of Patanjali’s path are yoga’s guidelines to help us make skillful choices in our daily lives and they include the Yamas:  kindness (ahimsa) , truthfulness (satya) , nonstealing (asteya) , moderation (Brahmacharya) , generosity (aparigraha) and the Niyamas: purity (Saucha), contentment (Santosha), self-discipline (tapas), self-study (Svadhyaya) and surrender (ishvara pranidhana). These guidelines can be woven into a group or personal practice for children teaching them practical ways to integrate all of these qualities into their daily lives. When practicing the yamas and niyamas, children will find these guidelines will help them live happy productive lives honoring themselves, others and the environment. These guidelines will also help children deal with difficult situations and give them a blueprint for conflict resolution and help them avoid behaviors that may cause suffering. Below, are a few examples of how to teach the Yamas and Niyamas to children.

Yamas and Niyamas in Action

The YogaKids program uses reading and literature with their unique Element called Reading Comes Alive with Yoga. Using this Element, teachers will find many wonderful books that can be incorporated into a yoga class to teach children about the Yamas and Niyamas. In the book Fill a Bucket by Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin, children learn how our buckets can be filled with happiness and love when other people treat us well, and in turn, we can make other people happy with our actions. They also teach that our buckets get filled when we practice gratitude, help others, and spend time in nature. This is an example of how to weave both kindness (ahimsa) and contentment (santosa) into a children’s yoga class.

Tapas or self-discipline is a wonderful Niyama to bring into a child’s personal or group practice, often children suffering from depression have lost their fire, they have little desire. This Niyama can be practiced in asana by having students practice a challenging pose like Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) for a short period of time, and gradually increase the length time.

Another YogaKids Element is Affirmations. Positive affirmations can be added to many poses to weave in this sense of power that many children are lacking. Having the children repeat, “I am strong, I am bold, my own power, I will hold!” will help children affirm their own strength while practicing a powerful pose. Practicing tapas in many different ways will help depressed children improve their energy level and mood.


Asana or physical postures that are performed in a mindful way to help strengthen, and stretch the body to alleviate physical discomfort and pain will be an important tool for children suffering from depression. A well-thought-out asana practice can help student’s develop a healthy relationship with their bodies, improve energy levels and mood, and increase both strength and flexibility. Asana poses that have a warming (Brahmana) effect would be excellent for children suffering from depression because they tend to be sluggish, can’t get off the couch, with little motivation. The YogaKids program has many energizing poses such as Volcano where students can explode all their tension out while lifting their arms up over and over again just like a volcano exploding. Yoga Teacher BKS Iyengar said “we will never get depressed if we keep our armpits open”. Heart opening poses such as S is for Snake or Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) will help students feel uplifted. Twists such as Twist and Blow will help students wring tension from their spine.


“When we restrict the breath, we are diminishing the spirt. When we relearn to breathe fully and deeply, we are enlarging the spirit and reconnecting with the Self. “– Amy Weintraub

Pranayama on a very basic level is simply conscious breathing, and even very young children can expand and become aware of their own breath. Breath work can give children a special tool they can use when they feel afraid, stressed, or nervous. It can be practiced in the classroom, car or on the soccer field.  Our breath and nervous system are linked, so if we slow down and strengthen the breath, we are also strengthening the parasympathetic (peaceful) nervous system. Our breath is very individual to us; it is similar to our thumb print. Children suffering from depression tend to have a shallow breath, so if we can strengthen the breath, suffering may be reduced. YogaKids Bunny Breath is similar to Kapalabhati Pranayama and is a fun child-friendly way to teach children an energizing breath.


This limb translates as “to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses”, it is about turning inward. Children today are bombarded with sense stimulation, from sweet candy and drinks, to loud cartoons, to fast carnival rides; they become slaves of the senses. This limb encourages a turning inward which offers students a quiet calm that can have long-lasting positive effects. The YogaKids Element Visual Vignette allows children to use markers, crayons, glitter, and other craft supplies to express their creativity. A popular Visual Vignette activity is “The Mind in a Jar”. Sinking glitter is put in a jar with water and a bit of glycerin, children shake the bottle and sit quietly and watch as the glitter sinks slowly to the bottom. As the glitter sinks, so do the thoughts, and by the time the glitter sinks to the bottom, students feel calm and peaceful.


The sixth limb of yoga is concentration, as Yoga Teacher TKV Desikachar described in his book The Heart of Yoga, Dhr means to hold. The essential idea in the concept of dharana is holding the concentration or focus of attention in one direction.” Even very young children can enjoy the benefits of dharana with a simpleYogaKids technique using a Hoberman Sphere.   Children gaze at the ball and watch as it slowly opens and closes. Even very young YogaKids will be totally focused using this method.


The seventh limb takes dharana one step further, and the concentration is held and a link is established between the object and the subject. In the example above, students keep their focus on the Hoberman Sphere for an extended period of time, and create a deep connection with the sphere.


The eighth limb means “to bring together, to merge” and our identity melts away, and nothing separates us from the object, we become one with it. As BKS Iyengar states in his book Light on Life “In the speed of modern life, there is an unavoidable undertone of stress. This stress on the mind builds up mental disturbances, such as anger and desire, which in turn build up emotional stress. Meditation will not remove stress. Meditation is only possible when one has already achieved a certain ‘stressless’ state. To be stressless, the brain must already be calm and cool. By learning how to relax the brain, one can begin to remove stress”. In Dharana and Dhyana students reduce stress and allow for deeper states of peace to occur. In Patanjali’s final 3 limbs, students have the opportunity to connect to the sweetness of their own essence which is pure light, pure love. The YogaKids Element Quiet Quest incorporates all three of Patanjali’s last limbs with activities such as Swim Ducky Swim, Guided Visualizations and Lemon Toes. All of these activates will help children calm down, and slow down the “monkey mind”.


The world our children live in today is growing evermore stressful. YogaKids has many tools to offer children suffering from either depressive disorders, or random bouts of depression. As Yoga Teachers, we do not diagnose or treat depressive disorders, but we can offer reduction of suffering. Yoga’s many tools also offer relief without a long list of side effects, and children will learn tools that will help them their whole lives. Yoga at a young age can teach the ability to create balance in kid’s lives. YogaKids provides an effective approach along with helpful tools to make it simple for parents and teachers to connect, contribute and lay the ground work for healthy, happy lives.



Adele, Deborah. (2009) The Yamas and Niyamas. Duluth, Minnesota. On-Wood Bound Books

Desikachar, T.K.V. (1995).   The Heart of Yoga. Vermont: Inner Traditions International.

Gray, Peter. (2013) Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. New York, NY. Basic Books

Iyengar, B.K.S. (2005). Light on Life. Rodale Inc.

Iyengar, B.K.S. (1981). Light on Pranayama. Harper Thorsons

Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993). Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Thorsons


Weintraub, Amy. (2004). Yoga for Depression. Broadway Books

Wenig, Marsha. (2003) YogaKids: Educating The Whole Child Through Yoga. New York, NY. Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

GHelp children with depression as a Certified YogaKids Teacher!

Questions for Your Words

Students Gossiping in Class

Another Saturday of cleaning found me working to remove paper that somehow became stuck to the kitchen counter top. Actually more like glued. Irritating. I could scrub it off with lots of elbow grease, energy and sweat. Using lots of rigorous and repetitious effort. Or I could spray cleanser on the area and let it soak for a bit. Returning later, it would easily wipe clean. Less energy but still get the job done.

How our words are used can be thought of in a similar way. In wanting to get my point across, I sometimes use the first approach (lots of elbow grease) for discussing a sticky situation. Constantly repeating my same words, like relentlessly scouring a spot over and over. The conversation becomes less give and take and more my unbending position being expressed. I (foolishly) think it is effective (at the time) but eventually find that it falls on deaf ears and just totally wears me out.

The second method where stuff just “sits” for a bit? I compare it to a brief chat with thoughtful listening. Then allow time for meaning and relevance to sink in. Expectation for an immediate response and subsequent action can wait (the spot is annoying but not harming my counter top)! We have time to evaluate our discussion points. When the source of irritation is revisited we can probably come up with a workable solution.

We talk with our teens at many points during a YogaKids class. It is not only our choice of words that matter but how we choose to verbalize our instruction, directions, and feedback. A guideline that has been helpful is Satya (truth), choosing words that will do the least harm and the most good. I have had many occasions to hear “teen drama” accounts of what happened in school, at sports, etc. that the kids arrive all abuzz about. It is a great opportunity to use Satya. Three questions can be considered when discussing any criticism, reaction, or response:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. Is it necessary?

Challenge teens to explore each of these questions on any topic that begins to trend in your class! It can be a wonderful springboard promoting compassion, empathy, and understanding. Establish boundaries that include parameters of acceptable conditions to speak freely but without harshness to others. Practice active listening. Acknowledge feelings. Be present. Observe. No judgment. No hasty solutions. Just listen.

Isn’t it amazing how the most mundane tasks can reveal a different way of thinking? It can enhance our approach with how we interact with teens. And maybe we can be more effective without all that scrubbing.

Learn how YogaKids can help you teach children of all ages and abilities!

The Yin and Yang of a Child’s Life

Smiling Girl

“If every eight year old is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

–Dalai Lama

Just think about that for a moment. My first yoga teacher training was for children. It was an extensive year-long program with almost three hundred hours in credit. Time invested in our youth is something worth giving. Yoga provides an outlet for children to practice mindfulness, peace education and look deeper within ones’ self.

Mindfulness practices allow the child to be alert and aware. Benefits of mindfulness include decreased depression and anxiety and increased happiness. Peace education helps the child become an advocate in an environment where there is also hate and misunderstanding. And as a stronger, confident individual at a young age, this develops with maturity and redefines the future. Being thoughtful and mindful of ones’ self and others brings well-being and worldly acceptance into the picture.

Being able to share all of this with children through yoga is such a blessing. In my yoga classes for children, I incorporate these topics in a variety of ways. We touch on the basics of anatomy and meditation. Meditation permits the child to calm their mind and body. It helps them to be okay with turning inward to discover their own answers and acceptance. Yoga coming alive through reading allows the body to move to interpret stories being read aloud. Visual vignettes help children feel the rhythm and flow of music and use different parts of their bodies to create art. Active yoga-inspired games let the children forget who is watching and just be themselves.

There is something to be said of the yin and yang of life in general. I truly believe that yoga and the skills it provides can be the yin to the yang of children’s lifestyles. So many children are overly stimulated with not only all sorts of electronics but so many extracurricular activities including an assortment of different sports as well. Yoga helps children listen with a caring heart. As a lifelong learner, I enjoy sharing my passion of yoga with others because it can bring smiles and a new sense of consciousness to ones’ life. With yoga, children can stretch, relax and breathe in a way they’re not normally accustomed. Yoga is such a great compliment to everyday life.

Reaching Teens with Written Words

Group of Teens

Ever since I can remember, my “down” time has been spent reading. Nothing beats curling up in a warm, comfy chair with a great book. And secretly, yes, I did enjoy the summer reading assignments for school! It is no wonder why Reading Comes Alive With Yoga (RCAWY) is the Element that ultimately encouraged me to learn the YogaKids way.

One of my favorite places to go is the local library. I hunt through the children’s section in search of colorful picture books where the artwork can really inspire great visuals for younger readers. But while I find reading material quite readily for the 10 and under crowd, I have to get a little creative for my older students. I can’t read a lengthly novel to them and they’re not so interested in picture books anymore! Fortunately, the value of the written word comes in many forms…

In my Teens classes, I use poetry to encourage introspection — an activity that teens really gravitate toward. The poem “Breath” by Thich Nhat Hanh connects meaning to the breath. I read each line with a pause afterwards so that we can take several quiet breaths together. This is a great way to both bring attention to the breath and begin a class with quiet mindfulness.

Song lyrics are a perfect way to connect with teens. “Clocks” by Coldplay focuses on how time keeps slipping away and how we feel about our choices in life. Chris Martin’s lament about “missed opportunities” is a perfect kind of teen-friendly melancholy. Playing “Clocks” during Sun Salutations, we do a number of rounds while the urgent beat keeping us moving forward. We end in Child’s Pose for the final chorus of “Home, home where I wanted to go, home.” On our mats we find our home, our quiet center.

Parables and short stories about philosophy are a great tool as well. In my class, we’ve read, Life is Like a Cup of Coffee — a parable about living a fully engaged, caring and happy life. The theme gets reenforced with an art project — as my students create pictures illustrating the good in their cups (lives).

I love teaching teens  — and I love sharing what I know about teaching teens. Join me in the YogaKids We All Win online course as we talk about this topic– and so much more!




Teen Yogis Become Team Leaders

Children in Roller Coaster Pose

Encouraging teens to “teach” your class can be a lot of fun! Handing over portions of the class to these willing yogis can build confidence and expand their knowledge of a yoga practice. Permitting greater control to these older students creates more give and take in the learning process. And selectively portioning out lesson segments allows you to manage the process without losing focus and direction. Engaging teens in this way can lead to some surprising results!

Leading a familiar vinyasa flow (sun salutations) can be a good start. Each teen can have a chance to add a special modification to the series while leading the class (from the teacher’s mat of course!) through the asanas. Or the teens can be challenged to create an original vinyasa flow. This can be a singular, pairing up, or small group activity. Poses can be assigned or chosen and then sequenced by the teens. The result is taught to the rest of the class.

Another activity involves an introduction to the YogaKids Elements for older teens. Use simple words to guide the students as to what the Element is and ideas on how to use it with their pose. Give them time to work on their own. Whenever possible let them collaborate on ideas. For example, have the students create a repeating pattern (Math Medley) using Tree pose by varying their arm and leg positions. Another idea would be to have the teens decide on poses that would be used to tell a story (RCAWY). Have them share a story about a day they walked through snowy woods and what they saw, heard, and felt. Enhance the story by using all of the senses (even the sixth sense)!

Another favorite student-led activity in my classes is Quiet Quests/Savasana. Talking the class through progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and then relaxing areas of the body) allows the teen leader to gain a sense of timing, allowing for these responses without rushing through the sequence. There is also the opportunity to observe tension and relaxation in fellow classmates. And who doesn’t like ringing the chimes to “awaken” everyone at the end?

Another component of final relaxation can be a guided visualization. A teen leader tells a story during the silent reflective time. This is great practice using a voice that helps the listeners “paint a picture” in their minds. At closing circle, ask your group what music they would like to hear next time they meet. Write down the requests that would be acceptable for your lesson. When meeting again, ask the teens to determine where and how the music would be incorporated into the lesson plan.

These suggestions can help yoga to resonate with your teens. Allowing them ownership in the process can be very empowering!

Teaching Techniques: A Safe Haven


A new addition has arrived in our family. He is a bundle of nervous energy, in search of acceptance, stability, and routine. We are his temporary family, helping to prepare him for a new start in life, which happens to also coincide with the beginning of the New Year. We are fostering a 10-year-old rescue dog named Chicory.

We have provided Chicory with a place of warmth and coziness with his own bed and blankets in a sunny room. He is learning that this is his space, his safe haven. Security and comfort can be found here. He is settling in, making our house his home. His sense of self is emerging with his growing calmness and acceptance of our family and surroundings. In much the same way, yoga can create this safe space in our lives. And it can begin with a simple yoga mat.

I have accumulated many yoga mats over the years. Mats can come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. They are fun for kids and with a little imagination can encourage creativity. One of my favorite mats was a gift. Two very dedicated and enthusiastic 6-year-old yogis presented it to me. This was not just an ordinary mat. It was bright green with a beautiful rainbow and flowers painted across the length of it!

Savasana can be individualized on each mat. Spreading out the mats in the room allows for fewer distractions by fellow students. Props such as bolsters and pillows can be used in this defined space, facilitating greater relaxation. Knowing we “stay on our mats” encourages the opportunity to “let go”, sinking into calmness with security.

Mats can be a safe-zone. Kids can be in their own space, a place of solitude and contemplation, even in a class of thirty students! Initially students associate finding their “happy place” on the mat. Their body, mind and spirit feel the quietness and peacefulness. Eventually being grounded and calm accompanies them once they step off the mat. These feelings are carried within.

And Chicory? He has become more accustomed to the rhythm of life here with us. And our house has become his home.

The Magic of Guided Visualizations

Feet in Field

Guided visualizations or guided imagery is a highly effective technique taught in the YogaKids program to help students achieve a relaxed state. Typically at the end of a yoga class, the teacher guides students on a journey, letting them travel to far off lands, or stay very close to home; to experience joy, serenity, and peace without ever leaving their yoga mat.

A simple recipe for peace

I recently attended YogaKids Transformations training, the culmination of a 95-hour training. After a year of study, this group is comprised of extremely qualified children’s yoga teachers. One of the attendees, Mary, shared a guided visualization in which we were allowed to travel to anywhere we wanted to go. Since I was 1000 miles from home at the time, I chose to travel to my son’s room at bedtime. The way in which Mary set up the exercise made it extremely real for me; the words she chose and the perfectly timed pauses led me to an experience that seemed very real. At the end of the relaxation, I felt peaceful, relaxed, and — honestly — just happy! This is the desired effect for our students as well.

The brain lights up the same nerve bundles for events real or imagined…

Guided imagery is based on the concept that the body and mind are connected. The brain lights up the same nerve bundles for events that we actually experience and events we just imagine experiencing. As far as the brain is concerned, thinking about walking on a sunny beach during a cold Chicago winter is just as good as actually doing it. Helping young students reach a relaxed state may aid healing, learning, creativity, and performance. It may also help students feel more in control of their emotions and thought processes, which may improve attitude, health, and sense of well-being.

Why traditional Savasana is challenging for kids

Most traditional yoga classes end with Savasana, or relaxation. Students are asked to lie down and simply enjoy the experience of their own breath. Savasana leads us away from the never-ending parade of thoughts. Our younger students will find this experience to be exceedingly difficult. When young children are asked to lie quietly, often they will fidget, misbehave, open their eyes and look around. Some might even simply refuse to lie down. Children, from toddlers to tween, will do much better given something to “do”. A well written and taught guided visualization will help young students transport themselves to a playground, their own backyard, or even Disney World.

A Magic Capet Ride

The YogaKids program is extremely creative, fun and engaging. Usually after 50 minutes of movement, games, laughing, barking and meowing, most kids are ready to lie down and relax a bit. We instruct students to imagine their yoga mat is a Magic Carpet, and it will transport them to anywhere they want to go. Once they’re given a brief instruction, kids are able to chill, and experience the creativity of their own imagination long enough to benefit on a cellular level.

Combat Stress and Anxiety

There are a growing number of guided imagery resources (refer to our resource below) to assist the teacher with an effective setup and script. You can also learn how to best come out of a guided visualization. Today’s kids are overstimulated and overscheduled; the use of guided visualizations can help your kids experience a much needed break.

Suggested resources:

Imaginations: Fun Relaxation Stories and Meditations for Kids