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I love using Yoga, especially Grounded Kids Yoga poses in my role as a certified Peace Circle Trainer with educators. It such a natural fit as the philosophies of both are about tapping into that ever present true or best self. Creating a sacred and safe space for participants to practice using their deep and rich reservoirs of wisdom and compassion for self and others is the foundation of both Peace Circle (P.C.) practices and Grounded Kids Yoga.

Let me back up and explain as a semi retired school Counselor of 38 years who has used circles in classrooms and groups for the last 20 years, I now have the privilege and the skills to train any community group in Restorative Practices, especially Peace Circles. Many schools here in western N.Y. and more specifically the Rochester City School District are embracing these trainings and incorporating them into their school environments in an effort to uplift the school cultures for both students and staff. More and more evidence is now available to show that these experiences build relationships, reduce violence, harm and conflict and when wrong doing does happen using Restorative Practices is a humane way to hold those accountable. Harm can be repaired with this process with support instead of punishing and alienating people, most often students. Its an honor to be a part of this cause and using Grounded Kids Yoga in these trainings is extremely helpful and a wonderful tool to use and to teach others to use for themselves and their students.

BettyI am happy to say I when I began working as a trainer 3 years ago I started using the Grounded Kids Yoga in most of my workshops and now many of the other trainers are incorporating some of the poses as well. I always begin first by briefly explaining the philosophy behind Grounded Kids Yoga as we all know there are many different types of yoga. Since doing openings and closing for every P.C. session is an integral part, I teach participants Just Breathe, “I am”, Lotus Breath and Namaste’. (I also add my own success stories using this yoga with kids.) I explain the mind jar when we do JB and have one available to demonstrate. Many educators have since adopted this for their classrooms and counseling groups. Tree Friends is a favorite to use as a closing (as in the picture above with educators from July 2015). If time allows we do Mountain, Tall Mountain, Breath of Joy and Half Lift. I use a chime for some added mindfulness and talk about ways to use this in the classroom. Dark Seed Light might be hard to do in the classroom but having the kids do a quieting, centering breathing pose with the chime is what I teach educators to use as great substitute and a positive way to facilitate kids managing their own behavior.

The list is growing and I find teachers have become more open to all of these practices as they recognize the value of connecting more with their kids, co-workers and themselves. Its exciting that many of our city schools are actually building in time for teachers to this. By the end of a training they all seem so appreciative for the experiential learning process, feel more connected to each other and are encouraged to have practical and new ways to create a more positive atmosphere in their own groups and classrooms. I walk away so grateful that two of my loves have come together to give me such purpose as well as hope for many of our struggling schools.

 

For more information on Restorative Practices and Peace Circles:

http://www.pirirochester.org/

http://www.iirp.edu/

 

Thank you, India

for teaching me how to feel in my bones

the truth of my purpose

and my presence

here and now…

DSC02936 - Copy…How to build on my prana, on my vitality behind my communication….

 

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…How to refine my

communication

so it is effective and precise…

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…That I don’t necessarily need to speak the language,

{or even use words}

to share steadiness, compassion and connection..

 

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…I do need to do the {yoga} work beforehand to intuitively tap into the  children’s NEEDS…..

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and collaborate more and more and more with other like-minded individuals. Through what Yogi Bhajan has called the collective pool of intelligence……

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Because wherever passion and inspiration flows, connecting with  others creates an even  greater flow…

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and breathing

and chanting

and laughing

and moving together

is Universal…

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…And moving through the pairs of opposites without struggle or being affected by them is the universal teaching…

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… We need to receive in order to hold space…

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Love is a creative force within us that makes the impossible, possible.

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May we love deeply both which feels like hurt,

and that which feels like nourishment.

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 I bow to the subtle and not so subtle, {more like intense}, teachers inside and outside…

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…especially this one….

IMG_8836…who taught us

NOT to feel sorry for someone,

it’s diminishing and never helps.

Turn that energy into prayer.

Think, “How can I serve them?”

Instead of feeling sorry for yourself feeling sorry for them.

Serve them.

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May we  remember that LOVE is a creative force in EVERY human being.

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Thank you, Somer, Katia, and Kasia for teaching with me.

 Thank you, Somer for capturing the beautiful experience with your camera.

Thank you, India for your Grace.

Sat Nam

Katie Bashor, Humanitarian, Director of Central Night Shelter (CNS), PE Teacher at Fernbank Elementary, and a Yogi recently told our yoga club all about the yoga program at the shelter. She told the children that the men are so much fun~they laugh and moan and sweat and laugh and LOVE partner poses. We explained that our dream is to make the yoga class (every Sunday from 5-6) a community event where everyone can practice together.

{Read more  about yoga at the shelter here: https://bashorkatie.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/namaste/}

 

So, Isabelle, Certified Grounded Kid, (pictured here with Katie Bashor) told her family about shelter yoga and here’s how it went down…

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“My Experience at the CNS by Isabelle

Last Sunday, I went to the CNS and took part in their Yoga night. It takes place every Sunday from 5:00pm to 6:00pm. It was started by Katie Bashor and Cheryl Crawford and is open to everyone. It is a nice way to start off your week and is a fun and challenging alternatative to sitting on your couch and watching TV.  It brings homeless men and women together and also pulls in members of the community. When I simply walked into the room, I could feel an aura of serenity between people. Our place in the community didn’t matter, we were all there for one reason: to do yoga. To me that was just so great, just a couple of handfuls of people there to do yoga. I think that this is an amazing thing, I hope you share my opinion. ” Isabelle

 

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Atlanta! Come practice yoga with this amazing, supportive, fun-loving community.The teachers are stellar.  http://www.cnsatlanta.org/

 

Let us know how it goes!

 

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DSC 0146It seems obvious that teaching yoga requires flexibility, right? You have to be physically able to do most poses to teach them and to have credibility as a teacher. You need to have flexibility in your lesson plans to be able to teach to the level of the students in your class. And, in my experience teaching children’s yoga, you need an additional level of flexibility. You need to help the parents feel comfortable.
I teach in several different locations, and most parents are thrilled to send their children to yoga. However, living in the South on a very conservative side of town, I run into parents who are concerned about the practice of yoga. On several occasions I have had to answer the common question, “is yoga a religion?” No joke, I have even been told that I practice yoga; therefore, I am going straight to Hell. Years ago, I had a lengthy phone discussion with DeAnna Smothers, co-founder of Yaweh Yoga, a Christian yoga studio and teaching academy.

She helped me to come up with a really great explanation of yoga for Christians. She pointed out that archaeological finds show a history of people doing yoga postures all the way back to 5000 BC. This means that yoga predates the development of today’s world religions. It is stated over and over in yogic texts that yoga is not a religion. It is a discipline. It is a system of postures, meditation, and self-awareness that isn’t practiced in the context of any faith. I share this thought with concerned parents and then invite them to come and take a class and judge it for themselves. Usually the ones who are afraid of it won’t participate, but I have had a few to come and change their minds.

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I have been teaching at a Christian preschool for six years. When my director and I started talking about adding yoga as a special in the school, we decided to incorporate it in the weekly curriculum. All of the children in the school come to my class for 20 minutes each week. For a few years I had no complaints because all the parents knew me well. My own children were still in the school so I interacted with them in and out of school. They trusted my judgment, and thought the idea was unique and fun. As a few years went by, new parents came into the school and I started getting complaints. I stuck to my definition of yoga never backing away from the basics of it. One thing that helps is that I have always offered an alternative to my class. If the parents don’t like yoga, their children can go to another class or have extra time on the playground. I don’t think that anyone should be forced to do yoga. It should be something done with love and a joyous heart. I have noticed that a respectful attitude made parents less suspicious of me and more comfortable with yoga itself even if they still refused to have their children do it. Often it boils down to a simple matter of the words we use. I omit chanting, and some years I say “Peace Be with You” instead of “Namaste”.

I have even experienced an anxious attitude towards yoga while teaching in a yoga studio. Parents who seek out the DSC 0150studio and pay money for their children to learn yoga will come in and say, “I want her to learn how to stretch, but can you leave out the yoga philosophy?” I always wonder if they mean not to talk about the Chakras for instance, or leave out spirituality all together. Teaching themes of opening your heart to new people or new experiences coupled with heart opening sequences is teaching yoga philosophy. I usually point out in Grounded Kids yoga we incorporate the themes taught in Dr. Seuss books, or books like the Wizard of Oz to teach universal truths while the kids flow through their poses. Once again, I invite those who question to come in and take the class along with their children so they will see what I do and feel comfortable with my themes and life lessons.

One time I took the Christian book, the Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and developed a class around it for one of my private students. I loved the theme that we all show and like to receive love in different ways. Chapman defines the Five Love Languages as Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. The student and I discussed what he thought his love language was, and what the love language of each member of his family was. We talked about how he could show them how he loved them in ways they needed to feel loved. We worked on all sorts of poses like Do Your Chores, Take out The Trash, Lean on Me and I’ve Got Your Back so he could work on these poses with his parents and sister. He recognized that Acts of Service and Quality Time were their love languages. Once again, a little flexibility helped me to combine stretching with a type of spirituality his parents could feel comfortable with. It was a hit because he keeps coming back to class.

My goal in teaching yoga to kids is always to reach out to my students in positive ways, and make them think deeply about their relationships with themselves and others. If I have to be creative to find ways to touch their hearts, I will do it without hesitation. Usually I end up learning something new in the process. When I hear stories from parents about how their 3 year olds tell them to take deep breaths when they get angry, or how they do sun salutations while warming up for their little soccer games, I realize how a little flexibility goes a long way.

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Kids Say The Deepest Things

Last week President Obama visited College Heights Early Childhood Education Center where I teach yoga to 1 year olds and up since last year. When I asked my students several questions regarding the time they spent with President Obama, my passion for the importance of teaching yoga to preschoolers was completely validated. Read on and I’m sure you will appreciate the brilliance of these kids as much as I did. obama in classroom

My first question was to my Toddler class. I simply asked “how was seeing the President?” They are 2 years old and these are some of their answers. “ He is as big as a mountain.” “He is strong.”  “He has big ears.” “He smiles”.

I probed a little deeper with the older kids. I inquired, “How is meeting President Obama related to what you have been learning in Yoga? “ These kids are 3 and 4 years old and their answers blew my mind, put a smile on my face and no doubt melted my heart. These are some of their responses. 

 “He is tall and strong like a mountain.”

 “He stops and breathes when he talks.”

 “He stands strong.”

 “His heart is open.”  Then I said “please tell me what makes you think that?” The little boy who is 4 said, “Because Ms. S. (that’s me J), his shoulders are back and that keeps the heart open.”

A few other amazing answers from these children are “His words are clear.”

“He is nice to every body because his heart is open.”

“His heart is open so he shares his light with everybody.”

“He is happy when he sits because he sits up straight and lifts his heart.”

“He has power in his belly.”

We all have moments in our lives when we say to ourselves; wow I have done my job well.  Kids listen. They are hungry for information. They remember. It’s very important for us teachers to teach them well. With answers like that, I know I have done my share. Let your light shine. Namaste’.

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