It’s 9 o’clock on a weekday morning. Windows are open wide, allowing a warm breeze to move through the room. Outside, birds are singing. Inside, a group of children are gathered in a circle. One child is leading the others through a sun salutation . . . all of them breathing and moving together through lunge and plank, up dog and down dog.
A new day of yoga camp has just begun.
While summer camps have been the norm for many generations, you don't often run into yoga camp- which might beg the question, "What is yoga camp?"
I'm glad you asked...
Yoga camp is where children come together in a welcoming environment to learn about themselves and the world around them. This is the essence of yoga. Yes, we learn yoga poses, all of them presented in a fun and age-appropriate way. And we play games that help reinforce their learning of the poses. Musical Mats is a great favorite (a lot like musical chairs, except when the music stops, the children have to look for a pose card by their mat and perform the pose indicated). We also play Triangle Tag and Crab Soccer – both vigorous games that get the kids moving, breathing and using their muscles.
But much of what we do provides an opportunity for children to explore their place in the world. As we move through this vast home we call earth, we meet many people and discover much about our environment and ourselves. Every connection a child makes is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. We spend our childhoods – our whole lives, really – collecting these pieces. And we are each at the heart of our own puzzle, constructing a picture of the world as it relates to our self. Yoga camp provides an opportunity for children to find these pieces, and offers them tools to help them place each piece where they feel it best fits.
At yoga camp, we take time to get to know one another. Through group activities and games, we learn to appreciate each other where we are. Playing games like Web of Connection (a game of sharing in which we construct a literal web of yarn connecting each child to the others), we can see how we are all connected to one another and that, while we’re different, we are also very much the same.
At yoga camp, we might spend an hour walking through the woods, looking closely with magnifying glasses at all the little details of the outside world. While walking, we might collect pinecones, sticks, acorns and stones - bits of nature with which we can build a large nature mandala. We might learn about different rocks and minerals, or explore a river and discuss its importance to the local eco-system. Discussions and activities are meant to encourage children to notice and to inquire - asking questions and inspiring thoughts that help them to gain a better understanding of their place in the world around them. And, of course, all of these ideas are reinforced through games, activities, arts and crafts, and of course, yoga.
At yoga camp, we believe in the power of peaceful moments. While most camps provide nonstop intensity, inciting a furor of excitement and energy, yoga camp balances joyful play with quiet reflection and relaxation. We believe children need both in order to be balanced and healthy. And as much as the children enjoy interactive play, they also relish the end of the day, when they all lay down in savana for a short period of relaxation and breathing.
The best measure of a successful day at camp is each child's demeanor as they're picked up by their parents: not wired and energized, as you'd expect after a day at camp, but calm and content.
And the children must like it, because year after year they keep coming back. Which means, in addition to all that it does for children, yoga camp is just plain fun.
Visit the ChildLight Yoga website for details about this summer’s yoga camp offerings in Exeter, NH (Grades K-5) and Dover, NH (Grades Prek-2 and GIRLS CAMP Grades 3-7).
Lisa Burk-McCoy holds a 200 hour teaching certificate in Classical Yoga from the YogaLife Institute, a prenatal yoga certification, and children's yoga certifications from ChildLight Yoga and Itsy Bitsy Yoga. When not practicing yoga, she dabbles as a musician, playing flute in a local contradance band and teaching classical flute lessons to children and adults. She is blessed with a wonderful family–a husband, son and daughter, and a menagerie of pets. They make their home in Exeter, NH