By Kelsie Castro
“Whenever you are in doubt, it is best to pause. Few things are so pressing that they cannot wait for a moment of breath.”- TKV Desikachar
A few weeks ago I decided to re-introduce our Olive Room children to yoga. Being someone who regularly does yoga on my own, I was excited to share this with the children and see what sparks might emerge from that experience. What I didn’t anticipate however, was how much the energy of our group would shift our practice.
Because our group had already done a lot of yoga in the younger classroom, I started our practice taking the children’s lead for the most part trying to get a feel for what they already knew. We played different yoga games that Olive shared from past yoga experiences, practiced some of the poses Isabella had created, and even took some time to explore other poses and games that different children had tried before.
But this energy quickly shifted over our next couple meetings with the focus of the group starting to drift elsewhere and the input from group members becoming more of a distraction than support. As I tried to get through these moments of disarray I could feel myself getting frustrated, wondering what I could do to bring the children’s focus back to our practice.
It was then that I remembered something that had been shared with me by a past co-worker, as an essential foundation of yoga: pranayama or breath. Breath, as she had explained, was the first step to any yoga practice. It is the life force that powers our body and that helps ground us by bringing our energy and concentration to our center. In order for us to practice and grow through yoga we must first appreciate and listen to our breath.
As I reflected on this idea further I realized that this group, possibly more than others, simply needed that reminder to slow down and appreciate the basics. Because we have so many children who are so comfortable in the classroom and who have had so many rich experiences already, it is important for us to find ways to challenge them not just to try new things but to explore the things they have already done with more intention and thought. Realizing this I saw an opportunity to practice that skill of slowing down by infusing their lives with a little less moving and a lot more breathing.
I tried this in our next yoga group by describing the importance of pranayama and having them focus solely on their breath. I watched as Isabella, Willa, Olive, Lillian, and Bowie laid their bodies on the floor and brought their concentration to the gentle breath moving in and out of them. I could feel the energy that had one distracted them start to melt away as their bodies relaxed deeper and deeper into the floor. And in that moment, I felt all of us together in the present.
While our group was enjoying this moment of breath, I found myself reflecting on how important this simple task was. I wondered what other times throughout the day this practice of slowing down could help the children. I imagined how it might help them through conflicts, big emotions, or even just to recenter in those more active parts of the day.
Holding on to these thoughts I brought my attention back to the children letting them know they could now lift their bodies and open their eyes. As each of them slowly lifted, releasing their final breaths, our practice was complete with Willa’s voice saying, “Let’s do that breathing thing again.”