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 & mindfulness 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 & mindfulness camp?"
I'm glad you asked...
Yoga & Mindfulness 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. We learn yoga postures, all of them presented in a fun and age-appropriate way. And, we play games that help reinforce their learning of the postures (most of the activities can be found in Lisa Flynn’s Yoga for Children book). Musical Mats is a great favorite (a lot like musical chairs, except when the music stops, the children have to look for a posture card by their mat and perform the posture 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 & mindfulness 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 & mindfulness camp, we take time to get to know one another. Through group activities and games, we learn to appreciate each other where we are and for who 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, and how every action we make affects others around us.
At yoga & mindfulness 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 be mindful of their surroundings, 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, art projects, and of course, yoga.
At yoga & mindfulness camp, we believe in the power of peaceful moments. While most camps provide nonstop intensity, inciting a furor of excitement and energy, yoga & mindfulness camp balances joyful play with quiet reflection and relaxation opportunities that children need both in order to be balanced and healthy. As much as the children enjoy interactive play, they also relish (and request!) these quieter moments such as when they get to lie down for a short period of relaxation and breathing, sometimes involving a visual imagery exercise (imagination vacation) or soft and peaceful music.
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 alert, inspired, calm and content.
Year after year our students return to camp which tells us that in addition to all of the social, emotional and physical benefits for children, yoga & mindfulness camp is just plain fun!
Visit the ChildLight Yoga website for details about this summer’s yoga camp offerings at our studio in beautiful downtown Dover, NH (Yoga & Mindfulness Adventure Camp for 5-8 yr olds and GirlPowerment Camp for girls ages 8-12).
Michelle James, A.S. Early Childhood Education, NH Early Childhood Master Professional Individual Mentor, MRTQ Level 6 is an experienced, certified ChildLight Yoga Instructor and early childhood educator who has been working with preschool and elementary school aged children and families since 1991. In addition to teaching art and literacy to children and early childhood educators, you can find Michelle sharing developmentally-appropriate, playful and engaging yoga and mindfulness education at ChildLight Yoga Studio where she teaches Peace Baby Yoga, Tots, Little Family, Kids’ Yoga and Mother Daughter Retreats and leads the summer camps and yoga party program…read more here.