Focusing on values: Balance

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I work at a great school that has, in the past few years, redefined its dreams, mission, and values to better reflect our changing society. I am especially drawn to our values throughout my day as they are clear reflections of what we expect from our students: perseverance, responsibility, respect, integrity, compassion, balance, and fun.  The latter two especially resonate as defining these terms and their importance to student learning may sometimes be overlooked. 

Recently I was looking over the values and realized how inline they are with yoga, especially the first four (of eight) limbs of yoga: the yamas (our attitudes toward ourselves and others), niyamas (our personal habits), asanas (poses), and pranayama (breathing). It occurred to me that yoga is the perfect way to teach our students about our values.  As always, Marcey was on board to try a new approach to yoga with her 4th grade class.  For the remaining 5-6 sessions of the year, we will pick 1-2 values and create a class around them.

The first class was about balance.  This seemed like a perfect place to begin as we have been working on balancing poses throughout the year and the concept of balance comes with many visual aspects that are easy to demonstrate.  We started by having a class discussion about balance and how we use it both physically and mentally.  I shared that when we get our bodies, minds, and breath in balance we often start to find balance in other parts of our lives. Then we can better notice when things are out of balance. Then we moved into a slow warm-up using three Mindful Movements  to help the kids really get a feel for how to match their breath to movement, and to slow down their bodies. 

Then we moved into balance.  Marcey read aloud The Man Who Walked Between The Towers, which is probably my most used and loved picture book (next the Where the Wild Things Are :)).   If you don't know it, this book is gorgeous, appeals to all ages, and ties in perfectly to wide range of movement activities, language activities, and math activities.  The kids were fascinated with the story, especially because its true! After the read aloud and discussion, we moved into a series of seated balancing poses and standing balancing poses.  The kids were encouraged to maintain each pose for at least three breaths, and if they fell, to come right back up and try again.  And while these poses were really difficult for some, I was floored at how all of the students took on the challenge.  Without knowing it, they easily put two other values into play: perseverance and fun.  It is an absolute blast to watch the kids all laugh and try and support each other, and to watch them do it all again with the next pose.

In the end, rather than a traditional savasana, I led the kids through a One Minute Meditation focusing on calming the body/mind and finding balance with the body, mind and breathe.   The goal was for them to walk away with a quick way to find peace in the moments when life starts to feel out of balance or overwhelming.  I liked this a lot and the kids really responded to it, so I think I will continue this in future lessons.

Next up...compassion (read: heart openers!) 

PS.  We did not get to the game Night At The Museum in the lesson plan due to timing, but I have played it in other classes focusing on balance and it is very fun! I highly recommend it.  Basically you close your eyes or turn around (or turn off the lights) and let the kids go crazy on their mats.  But when you turn around or open your eyes, they have to freeze in a balancing pose (or other pose) like a statue.  I play non-competitively with the little kids, but with older kids you could have them sit down if they are caught moving and have a winner at the end.