My friend Becca started a lovely new tradition. A reading club. Not a book club, but just a time for a few of us to gather and read whatever happens to suit us that afternoon. Inevitably the first 30 minutes or so though is spent chatting. It was during this time that Becca, who is a 5th grade teacher at my school, and I decided that a partner yoga class with her kids would tie in perfectly with their newly formed book clubs. Partner yoga would be a great way to get them thinking about trust and communication as they started to work more independently in their groups.
We set up the class to start with two connection activities: the first was more reflective and quiet, and the second much more active and fun. After the kids had settled in and gotten warmed up, we moved on to the partner poses. Before starting into the actual modeling and trying, Becca and I talked to the kids about the importance of communication for each pose. The kids were tasked with checking in with their partner in each step of the pose to make sure they were on the same page.
We started out simple with an easy partner heart opener, and then moved on to Lizard on a Rock. Interestingly enough, I always thought the bottom position in this pose was the hardest because you don't have much freedom of movement (although it is such a lovely stretch for your back). Its also hard to talk in this pose and let your partner know if you need them to come up (hence the constant reminders for the kids to check in with their partners). But the kids saw it differently. Most of them thought the top position was the toughest because you couldn't see behind you as you were leaning back - you had to trust that the person on the bottom would support you. it was also quite scary for many of them to go backwards without looking.
The final pose we did was Double Dog. Becca and I actually were applauded when we modeled this pose! The kids were really excited to try this pose, but it was definitely very difficult for them. Communication was really key as was establishing the trust that the bottom position would support the top, and that the top wouldn't put too much pressure on the bottom. Kids in the top position were definitely tentative to put their legs up and figuring out positioning of hands and feet was tricky. In the end there was a lot of falling and half Double Dogs (one leg up, one leg down) - but also a ton of laughter and talking. When I asked which pose the kids liked the best, the resounding answer was Double Dog. The kids said that it was so fun because it was so challenging and new. A good reminder for me - kids really do love a challenge, especially when they can do it as a team.
The final part of the yoga class was a savasana with a color meditation. This time I asked the kids to imagine the color blue, which is the color associated with communication. I proceeded with the color meditation as normal, but I ended up with the color centering around their throat - the center for communication in our bodies. I had them imagine the blue color turning into a light and shining out from their throats leaving them with a feeling of peacefulness, honesty, and the ability to talk openly with each other.
After the class, Becca asked the kids to reflect on how this yoga class tied into their book clubs and into their persuasive writing unit:
- It teaches us that we won't always be friends [with those in our group]. We also learn[ed] to stay quiet so the rest [of the groups] can also be heard.
- I think it helps build trust...I think it helps us remember that we need to stay serious sometimes...I think that it helped build trust with people that we don't know very much.
- You need a lot of different strategies and ways to communicate with somebody...like signs, signals, empathy, listening, understanding.
- This experience helped us think about our persuasive writing because we are trying to [show] the person that they can trust [us] to see what happens.
- This experience helped me [with] being calm and concentrat[ing], and focus.
- It helped me of trusting others and respecting. It helped me...to trust [my] partner.
As a next step, Becca and I talked about doing a follow-up partner class but this time giving the kids time to plan and problem solve before they got into the poses. It will be interesting to see if the second attempts at Lizard on a Rock and Double Dog result in different outcomes. Stay tuned...