How Yoga Can Help Children Cope With Bullying
Bullying seems to be out of control within the younger generations. They seem to be getting it harsher than any other generation. Children need to learn the necessary tools that will empower them to feel good about themselves. One of my favorite quotes is ‘When you feel good you act good, when you feel bad you act bad.’
Yoga teaches us to look within and to have a better understanding of the self. Yoga also teaches us the powerful tools of how to tap into the inner source of light a.k.a the heart, which then leads to finding true peace from within.
As a kids yoga instructor, I have seen the positive influence that yoga can have on a child who has been bullied. I’ve seen kids between the ages of 4 & 12 walk into my yoga classes with fear written on their face, which are often the result of the emotional scar that was left after being bullied. Some of these kids have pulled me aside and opened up about being bullied and how it has affected them emotionally.
My heart aches with sadness when they tell me how hurt and uncomfortable they feel within themselves. My own memories and terror of being bullied as a child still stick clearly in my mind. I can still clearly remember getting punched in the nose on the school bus at the age of 7 for laughing at a boys funny joke. I also remember being afraid at a slumber party because a bully showed up with a dictionary planning to hit my sister and I on the head.
It’s not to say that I am perfect or that I haven’t been mean to someone, but yoga has given me the tools to cope better by accessing my heart, which is my safe haven or my inner sanctuary.
When one of my students showed up to yoga class, she was very upset and emotional because she had been bullied on her bus ride home from school. While in savasana, I rubbed her feet with a lavender scented lotion and spoke about finding your inner light. I spoke about the heart and how through the heart we are able to find true peace. As I spoke, I noticed her become more relaxed. A few hours later, her mother emailed me and wrote ‘Emma told me that she almost cried in savasana because your words touched her so much….’
By teaching children about non-violence we are planting the seeds for a more peaceful and loving world. This includes non-violence towards not only other people, but ourselves as well as the plants & animals.
Once I started to see the impact that yoga can have on a child who has been bullied, I decided to plan and theme one of my classes around learning to be kind to yourself so that you can be kind to others. I wanted to teach the children to open to grace by leading them through a whole class that would show them how to access their greatest source of power; the heart.
We practiced the following sequence, which was meant to empower the students to feel good about themselves, but to also feel the connection with others.
Grounded Yoga Class Sequence
*Dark Seed Light
*I am What I am (adding phrases like ‘I am so kind’ and ‘I am so good’ or ‘I am so loved‘)
*Cat scratch fever
*Solid Ground Flow
*Go to your room
*Warrior 2 decide
*Triangle with wisdom
*Solid ground flow
*Root tree rise
*Solid ground flow
*Savasana (with a guided visualization)
*Just breathe (with a singing bowl)
Throughout the class I was able to weave in the teachings of the yamas and the niyamas. I discussed non-violence (no bullying), non-stealing (don’t steal others people love of themselves), saucha (self-care, being kind to yourself), santosha (contentment), and lastly, tapas (self-discipline, showing up on the yoga mat). Having this discussion empowered all of us. I especially remember another student of mine getting really excited that we were talking about being kind. This kindred spirit spoke with excitement about how that very same day the well-known Kind Campaign came to talk to the girls at her school about being kind to each other. The women who lead this campaign travel around the country to various different schools and speak about their personal experiences of being bullied in school. These assemblies are known to empower young children (not just girls). They speak about the importance of being kind to others as well as the power of forgiveness. My student that day opened up to me at the end of class about the struggles she had gone through with her best friend and the ways in which they had treated each other in not so kind ways.
Bullying of any kind is damaging. It violates our self, which is the safest place we have. This is the worst kind of home invasion there is. I believe yoga has the power to change this. I believe that by offering children the gift of yoga we can teach the potential bullies of tomorrow to lead with their hearts instead. The practice of yoga is powerful in how it always leaves a person feeling good about themselves and more at peace. In other words, yoga has the power to make each and every one of us a better person than we were the day before.
Guided Visualization for accessing the light within, which opens the channels of the heart to forgive and to feel safe all at the same time:
As you lay on your back, close your eyes and allow yourself to become completely relaxed. Take a deep breath in through your nose and then open up your mouth and let it go. Ahhhhh….
(repeat 3 times)
As you lay there with your eyes closed, imagine a white light in the center of your heart. Begin to focus in on the light and feel its radiance surrounding your whole being. As you breathe in feel your heart fill up and silently say to yourself ‘I am filled with love’ and as you breathe out feel this light pour out of your heart and silently say to yourself ‘I am safe.’
It is through the heart that we are able to love and forgive others. It is through the heart that we are able to go within and find that safe cocoon that exists inside each of us.
How does it make you feel to know that you can always go inside and breathe into this safe space?