This YogaKids lesson plan teaches about ahimsa, one of the yamas of yoga philosophy. Ahimsa is the first of the 10 yamas and is often translated as “non-violence” but also stands for living a life of kindness and compassion – for yourself, others, and the world around you. Explore this ahimsa with your students using this engaging and delightful lesson plan.
- Ahimsa wheel*
*Cut cardboard into a large circle and cut the circle into even pieces of a pie. Each student will need one pie slice. So, if you have 8 students, cut into 8 equal slices. Number the backs so you know how to arrange the pieces back into the circle.) .
Students will explore one of the yamas, ahimsa, which means compassion or non-violence. Lesson will include teachings on being compassionate to oneself, fellow students, fellow humans, animals and the earth.
In yoga, we recognize 8 limbs, or tools. We all think of yoga as yoga poses, but the poses (asana) are only one limb of yoga. The 8 limbs are:
- Yamas – moral restraints
- Niyamas – moral observances
- Asana – yoga postures
- Pranayama – mindful breathing
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana – concentration
- Dhyana – meditation
- Samadhi – bliss
The very first limb is the yamas, of which there are 5. The very first yama is ahimsa which means compassion or non-violence. Nonviolence is so valued it stands at the very core and foundation of yoga. Please share ideas for living life with compassion, with. acts of kindness, kind words, or kind thoughts.
Name Game – Come up with a yoga pose that starts with the first letter of each student and practice that pose. Example: Marsha Moo and Meow, Don Down Diggity Doggie Down. Laughing Language
POSES AS PATHEWAYS
Sunrise/Sunset – We are happier when the sun is out.
Sit on your heels. Open and close your wings several times. Then open your wings and interlace
your fingers above your head. Stretch your arms up as you lift your buttocks off your heels with
an inhalation. Exhale and drop your hips to the right as the arms drop left like the setting sun.
Inhale and arch your arms overhead like the rising sun. Then, drop your arms to the right as the
hips drop left. Repeat.
Reach for the Sun – The sun is a symbol of power, growth, health, passion.
Begin in Open Mountain pose. Breathe in and reach up high with an outstretched hand. Grab
a piece of sunshine and pull the power into your solar plexus, your inner sun. Exhale with a
“HAH” breath. Repeat with the other arm. Alternately reach with the left and right arms. As you
practice, increase the force of your breath.
Group Tree – How can we be kind to trees?
Stand in a circle. Begin in Mountain Pose. Lift one foot and press your foot against the inside of your other leg. You can use your hand to place your foot anywhere between your ankle and inner thigh. Avoid the knee joint. As your balance gets stronger, you’ll be able to raise your foot higher up your leg. Bring your hands to your chest, palms together in Namaste position. Then raise your arms
up above your head. Touch hands with around the circle. Balance and breathe. Now repeat on the other side.
Elephant – Elephants re compassionate; they have even been seen using their tusks to pick up a fellow elephant that is injured.
Make a trunk with your arms and interlaced fingers. Swing your trunk. Dip your trunk into
the river and throw it back over your head. Spray the other elephants with your trunk.
Dolphin – Dolphins have practiced random acts of kindness by rescuing swimmers from hammerhead sharks. A few generous dolphins have even guided stranded whales back to sea.
Begin in All Fours pose. Lower your elbows to the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips. Grasp your elbows with the opposite fingers to keep proper spacing. Move your lower arms forward, interlacing your fingers, and make a triangle. Breathe in and out, letting your spine lengthen and your tailbone lift up and back. Work your legs as you press your heels towards the floor. Breathe in and out. Move your body forward so your chin touches down in front of your fingers. Then breathe out and lift out of the water.
Moo and Meow – When cows have their best friend with them, their stress levels are reduced compared to when they are with random cows.
Begin in All Fours Pose. Line up your wrists under your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and arch your spine to the sky. Loosen your neck and drop your head down. Breathe out long as you meow. Now lift your chest forward and look up with big cow eyes. Dip your belly down and tilt your sitting bones up. Your back will sink down like a cow’s. Make cow lips and moo deeply from the back of your throat. Go back and forth, meowing and mooing.
Sun Salutation (any variety) – Play a few fun songs. We thank the sun, and the earth and promise to be compassionate to all living things. (Suggested songs include Havana by Camila and Brighter than the Sun by Colby Caillat)
There are numerous styles of Sun Salutations. This is one example. Start in Namaste, raising
your arms overhead and stretching upward. Fold forward into Ragdoll pose. Step back with one
leg into a lunge. Step back with the other leg into Lizard pose. Slowly come down to the floor
with your knees, chest and chin. Bring your hips down to the floor, and lift up into S is for Snake
pose. Curl your toes under and stretch into Down Doggity Doggy Down pose. Repeat, beginning
with the opposite leg and finishing in Namaste.
Partner Poses – Explore ahimsa with partner poses.
- Standing Partner Stretch
With a partner, stand back-to-back in Mountain pose. Both partners take one “baby step”
forward. Reach back and take hold of each other’s hands or wrists. Keep your feet rooted to the
floor. Lean gently away from each other, as you stretch your chests and shoulders. Come back
to center and release your hands.
- Partner Boat
Begin in L-Sitting pose and across from a partner. Place both hands, palms down, alongside your hips. Lengthen your arms and spine. Lean back and lift your legs up. Balance. Stretch your arms forward, palms up. Breathe in and out. Row your arms forward. Reverse, and row your arms backward.
- See Saw
Face your partner with your legs open in straddle splits. Keep your sitting bones planted in the
earth. Reach your arms straight across to your partner and take hold of each other’s wrists or
hands. As one person bends forward at the hip hinge, the other leans back and gently guides
their partner’s upper body forward. After a few breaths, switch the person being pulled forward
and the person leaning back. Gently rock each other back and forth, like a seesaw.
- Sit and Twist
Sit cross-legged in front of your partner with your four knees touching. Put your right arm
behind your back, reach out with your left hand, and grab your partner’s right hand. Breathe in
and sit up tall. Breathe out as you turn away from your partner, twisting your spine, and looking
over your shoulder. When you twist, rotate your spine gradually from the tip of your tailbone to
the top of your head. Inhale as you lengthen your spine and exhale as you twist. Continue to sit
and twist. Then change sides.
- Rib-Splitting Seated Triangle
Face your partner with your legs open in straddle splits. Firmly plant your sit bones into the
earth. Reach across and take hold of your partner’s hand or wrists. Lift your other arm up
above your head and over to the side as you stretch all the way through the fingertips. Feel
the spaces created between the ribs. Come back to center and change sides.
- Electric Circle
This pose is done with at least three people. Sit cross-legged with your hands on your knees.
The left hand rests palm up, and the right hand rests palm-down. Breathe deeply into your heart
space at the center of your chest. Feel the breath move across your chest, flow down your arms
and into the hands that you are holding. You might feel or hear tingling. Whenever you feel this
electricity, gently squeeze the hands you are holding. That is the signal to let each other know
that the circuit has been made and the current is flowing. With your lips closed and your tongue
curled upward to touch the roof of your mouth, start humming or buzzing to imitate the sound
of electricity. Get louder and louder, then break the circuit by letting go of each other’s hands.
Sit quiet and listen to the silence.
- Circle of Friendship Flowers
Kneel in a circle, holding hands. As you inhale, reach your arms up, lift your buttocks off your heels, and stretch back arching your back and neck. As you exhale, continue to hold hands and fold down into Child’s Pose. Repeat a few times imagining all the different flowers that you could be.
Visual Vignette – Create an ahimsa wheel. Have each student draw their expression of ahimsa on one piece of the circle, then tape the circle together and rejoice in the finished product.
Quiet Quests – Guided Meditation with Bhavana
Lie comfortably and notice your breath. Think of a place of beauty in nature. It can be a place you have visited or a place you have only dreamed about. Can be your own back yard, a lush green forest or a soft sand beach with aqua blue waves moving slowly in and out. Imagine yourself in this place feeling completely safe and content. Feel you belly gently rise and fall. Bring your attention to your feet and imagine bathing your feet in the Divine love and notice how that feels. Move your attention up to your lower legs and bathe them in love. Then the upper legs, bathe them in Divine love. Bathe the pelvis and hips in love and notice how that feels. Bring your attention to the belly and again feel it gently rise and fall in a soft nurturing way.
Bathe the belly in love. Bring awareness to the heart and feel a softening, a gentle grace, wrap the heart in love. Feel the throat, and cultivate a spaciousness at the throat, feel the throat washed in love. Move up to the third eye and notice how that feels Feel a soft caressing at the third eye of the Divine’s loving attention. Bring your awareness to the crown and feel a sense of radiant warmth. Feel love moving in on each inhale and growing in intensity with each exhale, filling every space of your being. <long pause 5-10 minutes)
To forgive, we need to feel that we are loved, we don’t want a feeling of lack. This meditation will cultivate self-love and the practitioner won’t need to seek love from other people, Divine love — which we feel when we practice ahimsa — is enough.