Consistently expressing gratitude helps children learn how to cultivate positivity and happiness from within. The following sequence is a great go-to for Thanksgiving-themed yoga classes, however, I use it all year round!
OPENING: Read several definitions of the word “contentment”. Discuss the difference between contentment and happiness. “What if we made the choice to be content all the time, no matter what is happening to us? What would that look like in your mood and in the way you interact with others throughout the day?” If time allows, invite students to journal or draw about their responses.
CENTERING: Connect as a group saying “I am thankful,” while simultaneously warming up the hands, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the brain / body, and connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain
Say “I,” touching the thumb and pointer finger.
Say “Am,” touching the thumb and middle finger.
Say “Thank,” touching the thumb and ring finger.
Say “Ful,” touching the thumb and pinky finger.
Repeat this mantra 8-10 time.
BREATHWORK: Talk to your students about the acts of giving and receiving. “How does it feel when we give to others? And how does it feel when we receive from others?” Depending on the age of the students, you may need to pass an actual object to clarify verbal understanding, using kinesthetic intelligence. Once that has been established, remove the object and ask your students to breathe in with the thought, “I am receiving,” and as they breathe out, “I am giving.” Need a great tie-in? We receive oxygen from trees and give carbon dioxide back to trees. Consider sharing part of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.
WARM UP: Practice several rounds of sun salutations. “Dance for the Sun” by Kira Willey is always a favorite. Perhaps discuss how grateful we are for the sun and everything it does for us!
YOGA POSES: Invite your students to think of a pose that represents something they are grateful for. For example, “I am thankful for trees!” and then have the group practice Tree Pose. Be prepared, not every student will be grateful for cobras however as an instructor we can encourage gratitude for the muscles that allow us to practice the pose. Be creative!
YOGA GAMES: Sit in a circle and play the GRATITUDE BALL game as taught in the Yoga & Mindfulness for Children training. The first student states something for which they are grateful then rolls, bounces or tosses the ball to someone else in the circle. The game continues until all participants have a turn.
TRANSITION: Practice BALLOON BREATHING as a way to settle the body before it’s time to rest. Try speaking these words from pg. 96 in Yoga for Children by Lisa Flynn: “Imagine your belly is a balloon. To inflate your balloon belly, breathe in slowly through your nose, filling up your balloon belly. Now, slowly exhale and feel your balloon belly deflate… What did you notice? How do you feel?” As long as you are absolutely certain that all of the children are allergy free and have adult consent, consider spraying “magic mist” during this exercise. Find the instructions for creating your own simple blend of magic mist on page 43 of Yoga for Children.
RELAXATION: Integrating a time for relaxation is recommended at the end of all yoga practices as a way for the body to settle back into ‘rest and digest’ mode. Suggest all students lie down on their yoga mats, dim the lights if possible and play quiet, instrumental music. Read the “Gratitude Relaxation” from Yoga for Children and incorporate a gratitude rock (found on page 265).
TAKE AWAY: Send your students home with this PERSONAL GRATITUDE LIST from Christina Flanders, and encourage them to fill it out at the end of their day:
End class with the group seated together once more. Have everyone place one hand on the belly and one hand on the heart, taking two big breaths while remembering to give thanks every day, not just on Thanksgiving!
Meg Durkin, MS, E-RYT, RCYT is a Yoga 4 Classrooms® and ChildLight Yoga® Trainer and founder of Yoga Magic 4 Kids. Meg is also the coauthor of the ChildLight Yoga & Mindfulness in Schools Teacher Training manual and writes articles on the topic of yoga and mindfulness for children and in schools for local media outlets. Meg works extensively with educators, parents and children promoting stress reduction, nutrition, movement and mindfulness at a young age as a foundation for success at home, school and in life. In addition to…read more here.
Join Meg Durkin at any of her upcoming ChildLight Yoga Teacher Trainings in 2018.