Month: January 2013

Teaching Yoga to Female Teens

Asana Alphabet™ been embarking upon another semester of teaching yoga to teens.  Last year, our class had a near equal mix of male and female students, but this year the class is 100% female, all respectful and truly interested in finding the heart of yoga.

At nearly the same time these yoga sessions started, I had the good fortune of receiving Dr. Guru Rattana’s latest book in the mail, “The Gift of Woamnhood: Inner Mastery, Outer Mystery” .  If you already use Dr. Rattana’s books as a teacher or yoga practitioner (Relax and Renew, Opening to a Heart Centered World, for example), you will be pleasantly surprised to find that she has truly outdone herself in her latest volume of kriyas and advice on Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.  If you’re new to her books, I highly recommend them for anyone who is interested in going beyond what yoga poses should look like and get down to the energetics of the beautiful art and science that is yoga.

The Gift of Womanhood by Guru Rattana PhdThe Gift of Womanhood is creatively laid out into 30 lessons that give you a wealth of information, inspiring quotes and methods for coming into your true self as a woman as well as reaching out to female students that you teach.  Each of the lessons comes with corresponding kriyas (yoga sets) and meditations to give you the experience of each lesson.  What’s so great about this is that it lays out a very clear plan of creating a practice for yourself, or if you already have a regular sadhana (daily practice), enables you to intelligently select the set or meditation that you need at the moment.

As for teaching teenage women, and women of any age, everything is relevant.  Since our trimester will be relatively short, I will be referencing the chapters, “Experiencing my beauty, happiness self-love and ME” (what a great title) and “Beauty, Impact and Power of a Woman’s Presence”.  Since teenage females can often be overly self-conscious about looks and often deny their inner beauty, both the language Dr. Rattana uses as well as the recommended sets will reach this set of teens at a powerful yet accessible level.

In all, this well-researched and written collection is empowering and direct as can be felt in the enclosed quote from Yogi Bhajan: Woman is created to cultivate inner balance and to find happiness inside herself.  You can get yours too at www.yogatech.com. Sat nam.

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Yoga and Religion: What’s up California?

Recently, in San Diego, parents are upset claiming that kids should not be taught yoga in the classroom because it is religious…more specifically, preaching Hinduism.  You can read about that here:http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/parents_claim_grade_school_yoga_classes_are_first_amendment_violation/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email
  We only wish this was exclusive to this one school in California; however, this is a grave misunderstanding that we have encountered in NYC as well.  In 2005, our founder went to over 10 parent meetings at one public charter school in an effort to share what was being taught in yoga class during the school week.  A few, but very vocal parents, threatened to toss the program out claiming it was a class promoting the work of the devil and that yoga could place students in Hindu-style trances (after 20 years of teaching, I still haven’t seen one of my youthful yoga students go into a trance such as the parents above had claimed).
 I cannot speak to how religious or not the style of kids yoga being taught in the San Diego school is since it is not a part of Asana Alphabet…there are always more than one side to each story, but having been a yoga teacher and director who has had to defend yoga for kids, I cannot help but respond in defense of the teachers providing the yoga for kids program.
Religion and state in the United States are supposed to be separate in the public schools.  Yoga for kids in the school, especially public schools, should not include chanting to Hindu dieties or other Gods, just as we also wouldn’t quote the bible, encourage a Jewish prayer or bow to Allah during a kids yoga class in a public or nonreligious school. Schools that are privately run and include religion as part of their schooling have more free choice on the religious content of their classes. Several religious-based schools (none of them Hindu by the way) namely Catholic, Christian, and Jewish schools in NYC include yoga in their regular school day because they see the benefits the students receive from the practice.
We know many yoga teachers and students who are Christian, many who are Jewish, some who are Muslim, a few who are Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and several who claim to be of no religious background. Though people are religious about their practice, Yoga is not a religion!  Yoga is a means for strength, flexibility and coordination of the body which builds a strong body. With the right teacher and mindful student, it can boost self confidence and promote clarity of thought. In the classroom setting, it can promote cooperation and understanding of the diverse people we all are. It will help you to realize that all humanity is connected. We all share strife and we share our joys. These things are taught in yoga class as well as in many common team sports and other school friendly activities. So if yoga is too religious for school, then these parents should start rethinking many other things students are doing in schools these days.
The nice thing is, yoga can be done as a way to positively influence your health. You can make it religious if you want by thinking of the God you are devoted to while practicing, for instance, but this is not something that is the usual practice of children yoga teachers both with my company Asana Alphabet nor with many other teachers I have observed who have not been trained in my program.  In this age of promoting diversity and mutual understanding in the classroom, I’d like to argue that yoga is the perfect way to facilitate cooperation and respect of others who are different than oneself.  Open your heart and open your mind.  Now is the time to give students the tools to be at peace in this world…peace no matter what religion or no religion you adhere to.

Yoga for Children on the Rise!

Great news! We always new that the kids we taught loved yoga, and increasing enrollment has confirmed that. Now even ABC news is covering it. Here are a few excerpts from Genevieve Shaw Brown’s (@gsbrownabc) latest article on the subject:

Yoga: It’s said to be the fastest-growing sport in America, with 20 million people practicing. But the latest trend among yogis is that an increasing number of practitioners are pint sized.

Kids – from newborns to teenagers – are learning the terms down dog, sun salutation and more in kids-only yoga studios and even in their classrooms. It’s also one of the only non-competitive sports available.

“More practitioners and more parents are becoming aware of the benefits of yoga and seeing their kids can benefit too,” said Liz Eustace, CEO of Alignyo, an online yoga community with a newsletter devoted to all things yoga. “The things that benefit an adult will also benefit a child. Stress reduction, mind- body connection, physical strength – these are things that benefit kids as well as adults.”

At a recent kids yoga class for 6-9 year olds, both parents and children were anxious to talk about the good yoga has brought to their lives.

“It clears your mind off something that’s really bothering you,” said one little girl.

So how does a kids yoga teacher keep the kids attention on the “oommm” for an entire class? While there are similarities between kids and adult yoga, a kids class is far more relaxed.

“[Kids and adult classes are] very different, but the foundation is always the same. There’s still the mind-body connection that is the foundation of all yoga,” said Eustace. “But what’s great is there’s a ton of creativity with kids yoga, like meowing like a cat, barking in downward dog or hissing like a cobra. There’s an incredible amount of creativity and playfulness within the foundation of yoga. And it’s these kids moving in such a creative and conscious way that makes it such a fun practice for children to get involved with.”

“My daughter’s in third grade,” said Gail Tobias, mother to one of the girls in the class. “There’s an abundance of homework already. After she’s done with the (yoga) class I find she’s much more eager to go home and sit and do her homework and be more focused. ”

A little boy – one of two in the class – told me yoga helps him forget what’s bothering him. “After class is over it seems like I’m not so worried about my problems as when I was in school,” he said. ” Like when I’m here I’m not thinking about oh how much homework do I have, or what do I have to do, what do I have to not do.”

Experts say parents should do their research before signing their kids up for a yoga program. A good place to start is the Yoga Alliance web site, where parents can search for a instructor that’s been trained in children’s yoga. The voluntary standards put forth by Yoga Alliance require 95 hours of training to become registered.

If there are no children’s yoga programs in your area, your kids can still benefit from the practice. “There’s great resources online and through books and through DVDs,” said Eustace. “Whether you’re in a small community or a larger community you can still integrate a lot of the practices and teachings of kids yoga.”

There are many kids yoga classes going on through out NYC and beyond. If you have a particularly neighborhood you want kids yoga class info on, feel free to contact us @asanaalphabet.