For this last term of school, I re-started my after-school Storybook Yoga class for 1st and 2nd graders. For this set of classes, I wanted to establish "themes" more related to the yogi way of life, meaning that within each class we talk about a yama or niyama, and/or focus on building self-awareness, self-respect, the idea of non-competition, etc. through asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing). For this class, I used the gorgeous picture book Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and Eric Puybaret to talk about Ahimsa, or non-violence (the first of five yamas). This tied in perfectly to Earth Day, as the book touches on water pollution and the efforts Jacques Cousteau has undertaken to clean up our waterways. Because we live in Indonesia, a country of 15,000+ islands, the kids have all witnessed first hand both the beauty of the wild ocean and the trash that pollutes it. This read aloud sparked some great connections and ideas for what we can all do to practice Ahimsa with our precious earth.
With the asanas, backbends were the name of the game. After a bit of core work, we spent a lot of time on our bellies imitating various forms of sea life (including scuba divers!), and then finished it off with some restorative forward folds and "jellyfish" shakes. This physical practice really challenged the kids to move with their breath and use it to support the poses, and they all had a great time pretending to be manta rays and puffer fish.
Before final relaxation the kids laid on their backs and pretended to be starfish, breathing and stretching out from their core. We inhaled and stretched our bodies as much as possible, and then exhaled and relaxed the whole body. I forgot my music for Savasana, so after starfish stretches I did an impromptu "ocean journey" guided meditation, taking the kids from the beach to the waters edge and then all the way under to explore the various ocean life that we talked about during our class. I'm not always comfortable leading guided visualization and usually have to psych myself up for it, but it worked out great! It was so lovely to see the kids just melt into the floor and rest so peacefully. Often times, they continue laying there after we have finished. Its a good reminder when this happens that while kids love to move, they also crave rest, relaxation and silence. Something to keep in mind for future classes.
This book also lends itself beautifully to some great literacy areas, including non-fiction vs. fiction, vocabulary growth, and reading comprehension strategies. I highly recommend it!