by Thea Nicholas, Yoga Teacher
A few years ago I was sharing with a yoga instructor about my GrandMother Nature programs—where I go to any number of schools, youth centers, special needs groups of all ages and other sites to share stories about nature and us. She suggested that I look into StorytimeYoga™, a program created by Sydney Solis.
I followed up soon after, finding Sydney online. Alas, she had had some serious life-changes and was now living in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. No way was I going to be able to do any serious StorytimeYoga™ under those circumstances. I purchased the materials and read through them. I liked what I read and thought she had some really great ideas and found some stories from different countries which I really liked. I added some of the stories to my storytelling repertory.
This past summer, 2013, Sydney moved back to the US and connected with the Powhow Teaching website. Hooray! I immediately signed up for the 3 basic courses she offered in the fall through a series of Webinar teachings. We enjoyed working together, sharing some of our storytelling experiences as well as honing my skillset. I completed my StorytimeYoga™ certification process in the winter of 2014 by conducting 6 StorytimeYoga™ with Thea classes at the Downtown Des Moines schools and then submitted my final evaluation. It has been accepted; I am now a certified StorytimeYoga™ instructor. While finishing the classes, a local yoga instructor announced that she was offering Yoga Teacher Training. I am now almost finished with that instruction too!
What does StorytimeYoga™ mean? How is it different from other yoga classes? What can you expect from this experience for your children?
- Enhanced understanding of stories
- Enriched yoga experience
- A yoking together—after all that’s what yoga means!—of movement and thoughts; feelings and thoughts
- Creative understanding of basic values through body movement
- Emotional, Physical and Social Literacy
Here is an example of a class I presented to some Pre-K students in a 30 minute class.
Our story was about Butterflies and the Life Cycle/Stages of a Butterfly. I had many props with me, a plastic butterfly, a chrysalis I found on one of my plants, a picture of a butterfly egg and a caterpillar puppet that turns into a butterfly. Also, my helpful skeleton, Mr. Jones, comes to teach us to make good choices for our health.
I planned the following yoga poses: butterfly, egg (rolled ball); caterpillar walk (crab pose) and candlestick for the chrysalis/cocoon.
Mr. Jones helped us find a part of our body that looks like a butterfly: our shoulder blades! We can’t see them at all! What do they do?
Using our sense of touch, the children each found a partner, and with one person’s back to the other person, we outlined on their backs their shoulder blades by gently touching them. This helps the children understand something about how their bones connect and by using the correct words—scapula and clavicle—for the body parts, we are gently teaching them anatomy. We also talked about what our shoulders were doing in all of the poses we practiced to reinforce the information. By helping them to visualize what is on our insides, we teach them more about how our bodies function. This also teaches the children what is appropriate touch.
For some of the children, the poses are very difficult. We go very slowly, using lots of touching so the children get a feel of their own bodies. Finding the appropriate verbal cues is very critical for this age group. For some, learning to have their legs in the air is very strange. They had a hard time making their legs be straight in a different plane. I was introducing them to a new way of thinking about their bodies. Some children seem to have little to no body awareness. Yoga is helpful for that. Having a story to bind the poses together helps the children picture in their minds what we are trying to portray.
The poses are then used to re-create the story. I may start them out with a pose and ask them which comes next and then next. This helps with sequential thinking. Sometimes, when it’s appropriate to the story we talk about what the characters might be feeling and then try to find where that feeling might be in our body. We do feeling research! Then we can talk about different feelings and the thoughts that go with them. At other times, we try to breathe like the character.
In our poses today, we inhaled when we brought our knees up and exhaled as we lowered them back down in butterfly pose. In egg pose we were very quiet—just like an egg. When we were being caterpillars we were chewing and when we were being chrysalis’ we had strong legs. All of these activites help the children to remember what they were supposed to be—reinforcing through movement knowledge of the life cycle. They will have the memory imprinted in more way than one. Children learn in oh so many ways! This also helps them to realize that they can control what their body does; they wake up to the idea that they can make good choices for themselves! That is really important when you are so little.
We end in relaxed pose or savasana. I suggest that they think of their scapula or shoulder blades as they are lying down. Pretend that you are a butterfly resting on a flower. Use your shoulders to touch all of the petals. Then relax.
We come back together to thank each other for a great yoga experience together by bringing our hands in front of our hearts and lifting our hearts, feeling our shoulders and our collar bones working to hold us all together, we acknowledge our lesson together. This time the lesson was about Life Cycles. We are all a part of a Life Cycle. Namaste`
Reinforcement of the core message, using as many of our senses as we can and focusing on our inner self is the goal and aim of Storytime Yoga™ with Thea. Happy and healthy children who are learning to be alert, alive and aglow is what it’s all about. I believe that every child can be stronger and make better choices for themselves through Storytime Yoga ™ with Thea.