Chanting With Kids
After a summer of bribing children with popsicles to do yoga with me, I was thrilled when I finally got a call back from a local private school regarding a new yoga afterschool enrichment club. With all the details finalized and a list of 7 children registered, I started in planning class themes and sequences. I was so excited and eager to start teaching!
Fifteen minutes into the first class, kids were throwing socks at each other, rolling up in their mats, talking and laughing. With the cutest little 5 year old girl wrapped around my leg, I hobbled around the room trying my best to remain calm and to regain control of the room. After a few minutes of asking myself why exactly I was doing this, I took a deep breath and I sat down with little miss still attached to my leg. Another little girl climbed into my lap as I started to chant. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.
At first I was more concerned with regaining my own clarity. But after a few repetitions, I noticed the class was settling down. I could hear them whispering… “Is she ok?”… “Are we in trouble?”… “What is she doing?”… “What is she saying?” To my surprise, the other 5 children were soon sitting in easy pose facing me, lips moving as they tried to join in. Several minutes later most of the kids had learned the mantra and were chanting with me. When I stopped they remained quiet and listened.
I told them that words have power. Negative, harsh words can wound (if we let them) but positive words can heal. When we chant positive words over time they become a part of us, empower us and resonate in our thoughts, words, and actions. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu …may all beings be happy and free. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we all acted and spoke in a way that made everyone feel happy and free? I think so and it starts with each of us.
As a new teacher, classroom management was a challenge. And I quickly learned that what might work for one class might not work for another. Kids keep you on your toes … which is why I love teaching kids. I am continually surprised at how much I learn from each class I teach. And with the help of a wonderful network of Grounded teachers, I have equipped myself with a variety of classroom management tools and enter class confident and ready for anything.
Today with over 70 classes under my belt, chanting is still my favorite centering tool. Chanting is part of my opening and closing rituals. I often use a mantra as a theme for a class or have kids chant while holding poses. I recently did a series of six classes based on the Tibetan translation of the six syllable mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum.” This mantra is often translated as simply “Jewel in the Lotus” but each of the six syllables is thought to represent the purification of one of the six realms of existence. Om purifies bliss and pride. Ma purifies jealousy and need for entertainment. Ni purifies passion and desire. Pad purifies ignorance and prejudice. Me purifies greed and possessiveness. Hum purifies aggression and hatred.
In the video, my students are chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum” in the class focused on the third syllable “ni” to cultivate patience. We formed a circle for energy circuit, and took turns passing a feather for feather breath, then we chanted for 6 minutes.
Whether chanting in English or Sanskrit; aloud, silently or just listening, the mantra will still work its magic. I usually choose short mantras that are fairly easy to pronounce and teach the mantra with a rhythm to make it easier for the kids to learn. I always send them home with the mantra and translation printed on a note card. Many of my students have said that they still have their mantra cards and I often hear a few of them softly chant on their own as they are rolling up their mats. I have even had requests to chant their favorites.
Kids need to talk and be heard, especially after a long school day of sitting quietly. So rather than shushing them; I chant with them.
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