I wish there was a way to verbally express the feeling that came over me as I was teaching my older students this week. Thinking back on that experience, remnants of the emotions still rise up inside me. I left my class that day feeling so inspired and hopeful for our future. Our children are so amazing. So amazing. I wish it was easier for all of us to see this all the time. Myself included.
I’m a children’s yoga instructor for kids ranging in age from one to eleven. I love teaching all of these ages, but the seven to eleven year olds are my favorites. I can really dig in with them. This week we worked on positive affirmations. It was an easy lesson for me to come up with, but a surprisingly difficult one for them to complete.
At the beginning of class we always start with a greeting. On this particular day, I explained to the kids what a positive affirmation is. I kept it simple, and told them that it is basically a compliment about ourselves. Then I asked that each of them say hello to the group, tell everyone their name, as well as a positive affirmation. They really struggled with it. At first, the kids would say things like, “I like dancing,” or, “I like to swim.” I had to stop the activity and give some examples of positive affirmations:
I am smart.
I am beautiful.
I am amazing.
I am loved.
One student raised her hand and asked, “But if you say stuff like that about yourself, wouldn’t that be conceited?” Then another chimed in, “Yeah. That’s snobby.” There was a sea of nodding heads in agreement. I felt a little disheartened at their comments. At such young ages, these kids had already been conditioned to not love themselves. This realization made me sad. So I took a few moments to explain to them that loving ourselves, and feeling emotions like pride or confidence, are not conceited or selfish. I went on to explain that as long as these feelings don’t make them feel as though they somehow make them better than others, that they are good for us. They seemed to understand what I was saying, so we started over again. On our second try they did a little better.
“I’m a good dancer.”
“I’m good at swimming.”
And so on….
Later in the lesson we used shaving cream to demonstrate a metaphor. I had them empty an entire can of shaving cream onto a table, then challenged them to try figure out a way to get the shaving cream back in the can. They were adorable as they worked together trying to solve this seemingly impossible problem. They laughed and encouraged each other, as I played a fun song and danced around the table while they worked. When the song ended, I asked them to stop and inquired if they thought it was possible to get the shaving cream back in the can. They all agreed that it was impossible. They were right.
I explained to the group that they are to imagine that they are the shaving cream can. Next I told them that the shaving cream is their words and actions…. So what’s the lesson? They excitedly started shouting out answers:
“You can’t take words back!”
“You should be nice!”
“If you do something mean, you can’t undo it!”
Yes. Yes. YES! I was so proud of them. They giggled and jumped up and down as they shouted out their responses. Then came the fun part… They got to spend some time playing with the shaving cream. My only instruction was that they should write or draw positive affirmations. They wrote words like ‘beauty,’ ‘love,’ and ‘happiness,’ and drew hearts, rainbows, smiles, peace signs, and flowers.
In preparation for Savasana, I had the kids take turns practicing mindful breathing using an expandable ball, as I played “Who Says” by Selena Gomez. They then laid on their backs in Savasana, and I went around to each child and gently rolled a yoga ball over them as they relaxed. The kids always claim this is their favorite part of class. Admittedly, it is my favorite part too. I turn off all the lights, walk around to each of them, and watch as they smile with their eyes closed as I roll the ball over them. They all stay completely silent and still… And I get to savor their perfection as I look at each of them. They are all perfect. Every single one of them.
We bowed to each other and said, “Namaste,” as we ended our practice that day, then the kids slowly streamed out of the room. As each walked out, I challenged them to tell me one more positive affirmation in exchange for a sticker. This last try was inspiring.
I am beautiful.
I am talented.
I am smart.
I am wonderful.
I am amazing.
Amen! Yes you are! You all are! My heart bubbled over with joy. I literally almost cried. I realized that day how important it is for us to be telling our children how amazing they are. They are perfect. They are amazing. They are beautiful. They are miracles. So tell them. Everyday. Tell them! They desperately need to hear this. They’ve somehow forgotten how wonderful they are. We need to remind them.
Who Says~Selena Gomez