Yoga, Education, Health and Sustainable Living for Kids and Families

Body-Centered Education with Storytime Yoga

Sydney Solis and children at the Lyons Elementary Haitian Relief Fundraiser re-enact tree stories with yoga asana.

My son regularly tells me how bored he is in school, sitting for six hours a day in class. “We don’t even go outside for gym,” he told me this morning.

I remember how excited he was when he attended Montessori school from preschool through the second grade. His nickname was “Busy Beaver” becuase he took an interest in things, and Montessori’s method encouraged this self-motivated learning that encouraged children to move around to different stations of interest.

When I moved to Boulder, I thought the public education would be excellent. But what I found out it that public education is simply to produce factory workers and is broken beyond fixing. I swear my son’s school bell is the tone of a prison drone and it has the school architecture to prove it.  I have been with teachers in the St. Vrain school district last week and this week, and you can see how stiffled they are by an arcane system that dampens their creativity.

I’m so amazed how we just don’t move as a culture. Obese? Duh! We are all head and no body. I find this the primary issue with ADD/ADHD, depression, sensory integration problems and many health problems due to improper musculature skeletal alignment. And people eat like zombies. Seriously. I saw a documentary on TV about medicated kids, and by God they were stuffing them with drugs but these kids were eating corn dogs and chips. Advertisements regularly show people stuffing the worst foods in their mouth, then solving their digestion problems with an expensive pill. So unaware are we of our bodies, what we put into our bodies, and so unconnected are we to out bodies, to our environments, to ourselves and communities, no wonder children have a hard time learning and our society has taken a turn for the worse.

But something magical happens when we tell stories and practice yoga. When we learn about geography, story structure, different cultures through a ritual of a yoga class, it is integrated through the body at multiple levels. It is re-patterned in the body through the yoga asana, absorbing information and experience and connecting neurons. Learning is fun, it excites us and inspires us, and what we do in the Storytime Yoga class can be felt in all the subjects taught afterwards as the body is connected via the image and is grounded and ready to learn. Frankly, I think more exercise is needed in classes, not cut back.

Last week I taught some classes at Lyons Elementary School in Colorado for a Haitian fundraiser. I have been working with tree stories and the basic image of a tree and the tree poses. I wrote a curriculum that uses stories and yoga asana as the focus for the artist-in-residence program I am doing at an Arts-based public school, weaving the tree theme across the curriculum, which culminates in an art project and book making project. This curriculum is available to members of the Storytime Yoga League of Yogic Storytellers.

I am also doing an artist-in-residence program at Hygiene Elementary thanks to a grant made possible by the Longmont Council for the Arts. Today was my first day. I did six classes – three in the morning with 5th, 4th, and third, then afternoon was Kindergarten, second and third. Each class was different and had a different energy, so I was flexible with each class, feeling out the energy and what story or how kids responded and what they needed. I told mostly Asian stories, but also an  English folk tale, each time getting out the map and showing children where they were in time and space as well as that relationship to the rest of the world.  Breathing, tree pose, mountain pose, sun salutations and basic standing warrior poses were emphasized. Kids were encouraged to tell their own stories and we put poses with them. The kids were so imaginative. Magic fish, underwater kingdoms; dogs that were sad because they lost their bone. A crow who was knocked off a post by a frog, but the frog said he was sorry. And when the story called for running, kids ran around the gym. Or several times during the class, I do what is called controlled chaos. My puppet tells nonsense poetry, then we wake up the body by patting it all over and jumping around in rhythm while hearing the poem. Or during walking meditation, the bell is rang and kids can run around screaming and shaking it out for a few seconds before resuming quite walking meditation.

So many children knew yoga, and it proves that yoga is going mainstream. Kids were eager to show me their poses they already knew. I

Typically, a few parents are misinformed that yoga exposes their children to Eastern religion and had them pulled from class. I gave the teachers this response to give to parents.

Dear Parent,

I understand your concern about unfamiliar concepts being taught in your child’s school.

Storytime Yoga is a firm supporter of the first amendment and separation of church and state.

The dictionary definition of religion is:

•  the belief and worship of a super human controlling power, especially a personal God or Gods
• details of belief as taught or discussed
• a particular system of faith or worship

None of  these definitions apply to Storytime Yoga and what your child will be doing in school.

Storytime Yoga is an educational program based on scientific and factual methods of exercise combined with the art of storytelling intended to improve children’s health and literacy.
Any meaning that an individual creates about the stories and postures and projects onto these factual methods is up to him or her.

We invite you to come and observe or participate for yourself to better understand these facts and the benefits  your child will receive from experiencing Storytime Yoga.

best wishes,

I gave a teacher training last Wednesday morning, and I was glad that some teachers came up to me and said that I gave them confidence in themselves to be using the stories, ideas and yoga that they had thought of integrating into the classroom. Later I gave two assemblies to pump the kids up for next week, K-2 first, then 3-6 second. We had our geography lesson, we had our listening pose, being a flower anchored in our body, breathing in and out, using our arms, then resting our hands open and receptive on our knees. Breathing in to open the flower, breathing out to root our flower in the earth, in our bodies. I told the longer fairy tale of the Tree of Gold for the older kids, and the shorter, funnier Little Tree for little kids. I called kids up to do tree pose and mountain and warriors. By the end, I had all the kids stand up, and I gauged that the audience was willing and ready to actually all do mountain and tree pose at once — 200 kids. At other times that was a disaster, so I carefully gauge if I can control the chaos, and I felt I could. And the kids loved it. And they walked out, ready to learn!

Ironically, or maybe well-paired, the CSAP testing was this week. My daughter at her own school had an anxiety attack during the CSAP test. She was able to get out, take a walk in the park and used her breathing techniques. I feel like I was a respite for these kids from such torture and agony. And I can’t help but think Storytime Yoga will improve their scores, not to mention save their imaginations and prevent obesity!

Tell stories! Practice yoga! Teach it to the little ones because civilization depends on it!

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