This delightful children’s book reminds us of the messaging beyond the yoga moves, to live peacefully within our bodies, with each other and in our world
Illustrations by Sarah Jane Hinder
When I work with children in my yoga classes, the focus for each student is on listening to his or her body. Whether they are noticing the way a big breath fills the belly, or rooting their standing foot into the earth to balance like a tree, they learn to focus intensely on what and how they are feeling.
That is the gift of yoga. We have this dynamic, playful practice that requires us to be aware of what is happening here and now. This is true regardless of age. A six year-old, sixteen year-old, or sixty year-old can show you which movements create strain in her body and shift to what feels ‘just right’. She only has to pause, and pay attention.
Partner Yoga for children (and adults) offers another level for fine-tuning our ability to listen. In partner yoga poses, the emphasis shifts from inner listening to also being able to understand and respond to another person. Partner Yoga offers real time feedback: If you don’t balance your weight with your partner, or if one of you pulls too hard, both of you will fall. You have to work together to create the pose, and this is where the magic happens.
We are constantly asking children to ‘cooperate’ whether in their classrooms, with siblings or with friends. What we are asking in those moments is that they include another person’s experience and perspective into what is happening. We are asking them to be willing to put the relationship and what they are creating together (even if it just means sharing the paint) over their immediate wants.
These shared experiences also help to build trust and confidence as both partners find a way to literally support one another to do something they could not do on their own. Plus, the poses require a certain amount of ‘figuring things out’ in a way that has structure, but also a lot of fun. In partner yoga poses, kids find a way to tangibly work toward a common goal that is both clear and immediate. Right there in the moment they are developing problem-solving skills that include learning how to listen, communicate what they need, and find effective ways to work with another person—the skills that are going to be important for the rest of their lives.
Mariam Gate’s new book, Yoga Friends: A Pose-by-Pose Partner Adventure For Kids (Sounds True, April 2018), is co-authored with her husband Rolf Gates and illustrated by Sarah Jane Hinder.