Though it may sound like no small feat to teach Yoga and meditation to little ones, Haris Harini Lender has been teaching kids and developing unique methods and forms of teaching children’s Yoga since 2000. With years of experience in running the children’s summer Yoga camp, Camp Yogaville, Harini went on to found Kidding Around Yoga, which specializes in kids’ Yoga teacher trainings. In the following article, Harini shares the creative ways in which she teaches meditation to children.
Meditation for Children
When I first thought of teaching meditation to kids, I heard that children would not be able to focus long enough so they would not benefit. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this could not be further from the truth. I start with a minute of meditation and, if the kids are still quietly sitting there after a minute, we continue. We meditate at the beginning and at the end of every class. I think it’s important for kids to how it’s easier for them to sit quietly after doing asanas, pranayama, and deep relaxation.
I spend a lot of time showing the kids that in Integral Yoga, Hatha Yoga is done only for the purpose of relaxing the body and getting it ready for meditation. So, I always ask them, “Was it easier to meditate for a minute or two minutes after doing the whole class?” They have the opening minute of meditation to compare it to, and they agree. In fact, it’s not just kids—it’s also easier for adults to sit to meditate after doing the class, too.
I also explain the benefits of meditation through these examples:
Bitten by a Scorpion
I get the kids to jump up and down like drunken monkeys bitten by scorpions (this is from the story Sri Gurudev tells). I first have them jump up and down like monkeys, and then they sit. Next, I tell them to stand up and jump around like drunken monkeys. I have them sit, and, finally, they stand up and jump up and down like drunken monkeys bitten by scorpions. By the time they get through that, they are tired and ready to sit and listen as I explain how our minds are like that and that’s why we need meditation.
I have the kids all say aloud, at the same time, what they did from the moment they woke up that day to when they came to Yoga class. You have a group of kids all talking at one time, and you hear all the noise, tension, and thoughts; it’s crazy as they describe everything about what they ate, what their teachers said, and so on. Then, I chant an OM to signal quiet, and I tell them, “This is what happens in your head all day long. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn how to calm our minds and meditate for a minute?” It’s an interesting way for them to understand what’s going on in their heads.
Crystal Bowl Meditation
My favorite way of illustrating the mental madness in our minds is Swami Karunananda’s crystal bowl exercise. I put a crystal in a glass bowl filled with water. One at a time, I add different food coloring dyes to show the clutter in our minds. At the end, I pick up the crystal and wash it off to show that meditation is like soap for our minds—it brings back crystal-clear thinking. I use yellow first, referencing when they were born. The first thought is: “Mommy my diaper is wet.” That starts the conversation off with some laughter. Then, I pour the blue color, which represents sad thoughts. Red is anger and green is envy. I explain how all these thoughts create chaos in our minds.
Once they understand why we meditate, I give them the choice of meditation techniques that we can use for our class that day.