My department offers a monthly yoga class for children. Originally, this was supposed to be a special summer series. We hired Miss Joan—a lovely yoga teacher who specializes in teaching yoga to kids—for 3 sessions in June, July, and August. At the end of last summer, patrons begged for more; and we made it a year round drop-in program.
At the end of the June session, Miss Joan told our program coordinator she had to cancel the July session. At that point it was not feasible to book another yoga teacher. We didn’t want to disappoint our regular attendees by skipping a month either. I stepped in, and offered to teach the class myself.
A few years ago, I would have spent hours researching and putting together a detailed lesson plan. I would have been PREPARED FOR THE PROGRAM! In practice, however, “the plan” would have been a stumbling block. I am more likely to get annoyed or frustrated by interruptions when I’m worried about whether or not I’m “doing it right.” I have finally accepted an important fact about myself: I work better with an improvisational plan.
Improvisational plans allow me to listen, connect, and respond to the kids in front of me. I create a simple framework and let the materials (e.g. books, apps, music, felt boards, etc.) and the participants guide me through the program. Most importantly, I follow the 2nd rule of improv comedy: “say ‘YES! And…’” This helps me relax and accept whatever comes.
Teaching a kid’s yoga class was going to be a new experience for me, but I wasn’t going to be a fish out of water. I said to myself, “You are NOT going to sweat it! You are going to relax and have fun.” I assured myself this program is similar to storytime, and I’ve been storytiming regularly for years. Plus, I’ve been practicing yoga for about fifteen years. I decided to be like this:
I turned to the App Store for help. I’ve been using my iPad for yogic purposes since day one. There are a number of excellent iPad-friendly yoga resources for grownups: Pocket Yoga, Daily Yoga, podcasts, YouTube, etc. So, I knew my iPad was going to play a role in this program. But I did not realize it would be the star of the show until I found Super Stretch Yoga.
Super Stretch Yoga uses “animated flashcards” featuring both animation and real kids to demonstrate these 12 fundamental yoga poses:
Here’s how I used Super Stretch in the library:
Warm-up: Meet the Librarian & the Poses (7 minutes)
First, I introduced myself. I explained that Ms Joan was on a tropical vacation in Hawaii and asked me to lead the yoga class. I said, “I know Ms Joan always tells yoga stories. So I thought we could tell one as a together as a group.”
They looked at me like I was nuts, of course, but this was part of the plan.
“The first step in telling a story is to get to know your characters.” I hit “play all” on the iPad. The purpose of this was to get warmed up. I did all the poses with them once.
Review & Discuss the Poses (10 minutes)
Next, we reviewed the poses. During the review, I asked the kids to describe the animals that match each pose. We talked about how they look, where they live, what they do, and how the pose fits the animal. As you can imagine, this was a very lively discussion. The hardest part was moving on from one animal to the next. Luckily, many poses are at least a little challenging, and they were ready to move on because their muscles were tired.
Yoga Reader’s Theater (20 minutes)
Now came the fun part: a yoga reader’s theater version of The Glerp by David McPhail. The Glerp is a weird blob who goes out for a walk one day. As he walks along, he comes across a bunch of different animals. He eats them one by one. Eventually he gets a tummy ache and barfs them up. I adapted this story using the poses we learned and a huge fitted sheet with eyeballs.
I hung the sheet from the ceiling over the yoga mats. I let each kid choose an animal pose. Then I narrated the story while they did their poses and acted out what I was reading. It was super fun, and actually quite easy to do.
Shavasana & Guided Imagery (7-10 minutes)
Once they all tumbled out of the Glerp, the kids were pretty tuckered out. I finished the session with shavasana and a bit of guided imagery. I used this Treehouse Relaxation Script.
This was one of the most fun programs I’ve ever done. Thanks to Super Stretch, I was free to forget all the details and focus on the kids. I was rewarded with about a million hugs.Cate Levinson is a Youth Services Librarian at Niles Public Library District in Niles, IL. You can find her online at her blog and on Twitter as @storytiming.