Freedom for all yoga kids
Fun ways to encourage creativity in your yoga classes. By Gopala Amir Yaffir
Freedom is our birthright. It is so natural to us that many times we take it for granted. When we hear about oppression, or about people who have fewer choices than us Westerners, we are in shock.
We want freedom because freedom is happiness. When we feel limited we experience suffering, and when we are free we discover happiness. Freedom is the goal of yoga; it is called Moksha in Sanskrit, or referred to as Nirvana in Buddhism.
Unfortunately, I find that both yogis and kids struggle to find their way to freedom. The struggle comes not only from their lack of knowledge, or from being confused about what they really want or need, but mainly from being guided in a non-encouraging way.
In a preschool where I taught for a few years, there was a little girl named Daniela. Daniela was, secretly, my favourite student. She always sat right beside me in class, but she never did what I instructed everyone to do! If I guided all of the kids to do one pose, she would do something totally different that she would invent on the spot. I later added many of her new yoga poses into my repertoire!
The other kids in Daniela’s class never complained about her doing what she wanted; they understood that she had a special job in their society – being the creative person. We have so much we can learn from kids.
Sometimes the preschool teacher was present and would shout at Daniela for not following my instructions; Daniela would always respond by crying.
Is it our job as teachers to suppress creativity?
We, as grownups, experience freedom in many ways by making a million little choices every day. Being independent is something we are always working very hard for, but we still take freedom for granted. As a result, we don’t even see how constrained is the freedom we give to both children and yoga students in our society.
Both in yoga classes, and in the education system generally, following instruction and doing what you are told is much more appreciated than independent thinking and bursts of creativity.
However, you’ll notice that the most shining people in our society, whether yogis or not, were not followers. They were rebels, independent thinkers, different, daring, and maybe even considered a bit crazy. We are all unique, we all have something new to give to this world, and we all have this ability to shine…but it is not hard to suppress those amazing qualities.
As a yoga teacher to kids and families, I see it as my duty to rebel against this system that will inevitably inhibit kids’ and yoga students’ creativity and independent thinking.
There is no doubt that as a teacher, or a parent, it is very efficient to have kids or students who always do what you tell them to do without arguing, and do not talk unless they are asked to or permitted too – but will it serve the real purpose of education, or will it just provide a comfortable space for us adults to do our jobs?
So what is the job of educators? Is it to create citizens who will continue life like it is now, or people who will have free and fertile minds that will help us grow as a civilisation? What is the real purpose of education? The purpose of education is to give us the tools to live a good and happy life, a life of freedom, a life that will support and enhance our society.
So how about changing our attitude a bit and adding some spice to our classes by encouraging creativity? Should we let go of our egos that expect everyone to do what we say, and be catalysts in creating a world that moves forward and reinvents itself? Will you join me in bringing more freedom to this rules and limitations overloaded reality? Please say ‘yes’!
Ways to inspire creativity
Here are a few fun activities you can use at home, your workplace, your yoga classes (whether with kids or adults) to shake it up a bit and spark creativity and explore this deep longing for freedom in everyone:
Saluting each other
In pairs, facing each other, each partner takes turns creating a unique yoga flow of 5-7 poses while the other imitates their exact movements. Put some funky music on to inspire everyone! The pair keep repeating the sequence until the song is finished, and only then they change roles.
Salutation to something
Did you know that the sun salutation was a prayer to the Sun God in India? Here, both partners together create a salutation (a yoga sequence flow from 5-7 poses) to something they like/adore. Give them about five minutes to create their salutation. They can even show it to the whole group who then try to guess what the salutation is for.
Find three new ways to do a pose together. It’s a partner pose, so you need to be connected in some way. You can give a different pose to each pair or the same pose to everyone.
Create a group Yoga Monster, Yoga Dinosaurs, Yoga Flower, Yoga Spaceship or a Yoga Machine, and then name it. It can be a pose that moves and transforms or one group pose.
Create a yoga sequence together while connected to each other with a prop. You can use scarves, sticks, hula hoops, a parachute, elastic band, exercise balls, something which can be tied to one another on the ankles or wrists.
Create an original human pyramid. Give the groups about three minutes and then have them show it and teach it to the whole group. You can do the same by dividing the whole group into two and see who can create the tallest/biggest/weirdest pyramid using yoga poses.
Sitting in a circle, divide the group into A and B (go around the circle and touch their heads saying “A” and “B” alternately) and have them create a Yoga Flower or a Yoga Kaleidoscope. While the A group is doing one pose, the B group intertwines into it with a different pose. Do it as a yoga flow using a series of poses: beautiful flower-like Mandalas or shifting kaleidoscope poses will be created in this way!
With all of these exercises, if people are in the mood to play more they can perform and even teach their yoga innovation to the rest of the group. Above all, have fun and inspire creativity.