Yoga for kids can be geared to teach them the meaning of yoga but with lightness, lots of levity and tons of exploration. Recently, I have been thinking of how to teach the koshas to kids. I have found that studying and teaching Esoteric Anatomy (your energetic anatomy)informs my practice and teaching in a beneficial way. The study of the subtle-body’s energies and structures supports my desire to focus inwards. Focusing on the energy inside your body is a great way to notice tensions, relaxation, and a great way to focus inside rather than just externally. I love feeling that the inside of me is just as powerful means for change as the outside.
In yoga, you can describe the functions of the perceptible (corporal) body and you can also describe the functions of the subtle (implied) body. The subtle anatomy of the humans is divided into five energetic sheaths known as ‘pancha kosha’. Pancha, meaning five and kosha, meaning layer or sheath. To explain these layers, I got out my Winnie The Pooh nesting doll-which by luck has exactly 5 layers. The outermost layer is Pooh, then Tigger, Eeyore, Owl and finally Piglet.
- (Winnie the Pooh Body) Annamaya Kosha (Food Sheath/Physical Body)– This describes the physical body composed from the five elements but mainly from food and water. With this layer you experience awareness of sensation. Imbalance can be experienced by: muscle tension, too much or too little body weight, obsession with appearance. To balance: Eat a simple diet, rich in organic foods and unprocessed food and do twists.
- (Tigger Body) Pranamaya Kosha (Pranic or Energy Sheath)-The Pranic or Energy Sheath, comprises the prana vayus*, nadis** and the chakras***. Prana, the vital breath which man lives by, is the bridge between the gross and subtle bodies as well as between the other koshas. Imbalance: nervous stress, anxiety, shortness of breath, depression, ADHD, exhaustion. Balance: pranayama, forward bends for anxiety, backbends for depression.
- (Eeyore Body) Manomaya Kosha (Mental or psycho-emotional Sheath)– Consists of thoughts and emotions. Expressed by ego and personality. Imbalance: fear, vengefulness, clinging attachment, mental illness. Balance: visualization, meditation, mantra chanting, inversions.
- (Owl Body) Vijnyanamaya Kosha (Intellectual Sheath)– Governs intuition. Created by instinct. Imbalance: lack of trust, arrogance, lack of empathy, malcontent. Balance: walking and sitting meditations, solitude, spiritual study, and headstand.
- (Piglet Body) Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss Sheath)– The ‘bliss sheath’ is the seat of the inner essence or self and is where we metabolize our experience of Samadhi or a higher level of concentrated meditation. The mind is said to rest in its intrinsic natural state which is pure bliss. In reality (or spiritually) there are no imbalances at this level as the mind is free from ‘chitta vrittis’ or mental confusions and distractions; yet…Imbalance: ungrounded, unfocused, suicidal thoughts. Balance: use all strategies.
*Prana is the force/energy that is in our body which brings forth life. Vayu means winds. Prana viyus are energy winds inside the body.
** Nāḍis are the channels through which, in traditional Indian medicine and spiritual science, the energies of the subtle body are said to flow. They connect at special points of intensity called chakras.
***Chakra means “wheel” or “circular motion”. They are the psychic centers located in ascending order along the shushumna nadi (the spine) and are part of the nadi (“little rivers or streams”) system of yoga.
We started class lying in constructive rest, hands on belly, just noticing breath. I gave an intention for the practice which was that we were going to give our yoga practice our wholehearted attention-training the mind to regain its ability to be undistracted. This will help them to remain aware and conscious throughout the practice. I also began to explain how to do Ujjayi breath or Victory breath. With breaths in and out through the nostrils, I first had them imagine that the breath was coming from the soft spot directly in the middle of their collar bones, at the base of their throat. I explained the sound was audible only to themselves but it should have a soft oceanic pulse. Imagine they are really Darth Vader but they do not want anyone to know so making Darth Vader breath “silently”.
From constructive rest, we moved on to an easy twist, something I learned in Svaroopa yoga, which I like a lot.
Standing, breathing up and down from Up Mountain to Bent Over Forward Bend using the inhale to lift us and the exhale as we descended. This establishes a coordination of breath and movement.
High lunge on both sides ending with Downward Facing Dog. Of course we had to try 3 legged dog with some leg wags and barks! As we began to use our breath more, I encouraged them to try their Ujjayi breathing. I also reminded them of our class intention, just a few subtle reminders and they kept on track.
We then did Triangle, Tree and then Half -Moon, even going for a foot hold, which some people call Sugarcane Pose…I just call it “Wheeeeee”!
Sitting back down, Bound Angle Pose, to Revolved Head-to- Knee Pose, with Karate Chop action…taking the opposite arm, lifting it high by your ear and then bending over and karate chopping towards the pinky toe side of the extended leg to a simplified version of Marichyasana III.
Of course, I threw in a number of Child’s Poses throughout.
What came next was unplanned, but grew into the perfect activity to tie in the koshas. We lay the yoga blocks out in a pattern, like stepping stones. As each person began their trail, they would take the first block with them and then add it to the end of the trail, reshaping the shape. To make this an exercise in concentration, I first had them say “So” “Hum” as they walked, one syllable for each step. We then internalized this and it became a silent walking meditation. They had to pay attention to their feet or they wold fall off the blocks. The shape moved around and ended up heading into the kitchen, where after each block placement, they would walk around the kitchen island and back to the head of the trail. The shape slithered through the kitchen, back out again and across the floor, to the supply closet, where the carefully placed each block back in place and then quietly went back to their mats for Final Relaxation. This unplanned activity lasted a good 15 minutes. They all worked together, silently, and the joy and happiness radiated from within.
I love yoga!
Here are some Babushka coloring pages and crafts or you can get your own set of Babushka dolls from https://nestingdolls.co