Elders and Children Belong Together
A long time ago, most elders and their children and grandchildren lived together. Little children would crawl into grandma’s or grandpa's lap when they were tired or wanted to hear a story. Now-a-days, you hardly see the old-old, who are often isolated in their own homes or in elder communities. Grandparents are seen as a burden. It’s time for children and grandparents to band together and “change the channel.”
The Need for Yoga-for-Children Classes
Adults are stressed out in our fast-moving, ever-changing society. Our tension rubs off on our children…from birth to participation in playgroups, and pre-school, at all levels of grade school and middle school, and even high school, as students prepare for their next step – college, work or other exploration. Sensitive parents and teachers recognize the need to instill in children the yogic ability to calm and center themselves, to be in the present, and to develop wellness skills in body, mind, and spirit.
Finding Grandparents and Unrelated “Grandparents”
Grandparents are often are called upon to care for their grandchildren while their parents are working. Guess who escorts the pre-schoolers to “Kindergym?” Grandparents, as well as parents and paid childcare providers.
Currently most yoga for children classes are taught by parents of young children, school teachers, and early childhood educators. Why not have grandparents become certified to teach yoga to young children so they can share something of value with their grandchildren and with other young children? Many of the baby boomers worked throughout their children’s youth and could use more training in childcare for their grandchildren. Children’s yoga allows elders to experience multi-sensory, present-focused skills, which young children have naturally (until they become seduced by technology).
Since grandparents often do not live near their grandchildren, grandparent substitutes are needed. A ready place to find them is in elder communities. AgeSong WoodPark, an innovative elder community in Oakland, is planning to host staff’s children and community members’ grandchildren this spring in an intergenerational yoga class.
The Ideal Situation
Imagine if there were also a college or university within walking distance to the pre-school and an elder cafe or elder community…and if the nearby college had an early childhood or gerontology program to give students and alumni opportunity to apply their learnings at the elder cafe or community…and if “yoga for children” or an “intergenerational yoga” course were offered in their curriculum.
The Next Best Situation
Nicole Bergstrom, a Next Generation Yoga teacher from International Falls, Minnesota, brings yoga for children to elder communities in an after-school program. Elementary schools students visit the elder community once a week to do yoga, then have a healthy snack with the elders and engage in a story or craft. Nicole also holds classes for new mothers and their infants at the elder community, where the young mothers get advice from the elders.
The Key Word is "Mindfulness."
Yoga for children can be taught in a fast-paced, frenetic way, as in society. Jocelyn Levy, aka “Kaylee Smiles',” Wee Yogis approach to teaching yoga for children is different. She brings a sense of joyfulness and mindfulness in her music and other media, as well as in her live presence. She empowers children of all ages by inviting them to teach with her, not just to follow directions for structured yoga activities and poses. Nicole extends the yoga experience by facilitating a crafts class in which the elders and children participate together after the half-hour children’s yoga class, which the elders are invited to watch or participate in by singing and moving to the music.
The pace is slower at an elder community, and with elders, in general, than in the bustling outside world. There are many ways for grandparents and grandparent-substitute elders to practice mindfulness with children, such as taking walks, stopping to breathe, listening, role modeling, dancing, and singing. Yoga incorporates all these skills. The yogic principles of mindfulness, being in the present, deep listening, and breath awareness are valuable skills that elders can pass on to younger generations, …and have fun in the process.
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