Mindfulness...at any age.
This past week I was invited to lead Brownie Troop 80792 through yoga so they could earn their yoga badge. The troop, some 13 girls strong, ranged in age from 7 to 9 years old. I had no idea what to expect. Would they pay attention? Would they have any interest in yoga? Indeed, they ended up surprising me in more ways than one.
I started the event with the following question, "What is yoga?" Hand after hand shot up into the air with excitement to answer. "Yoga is stretching.", said one girl. "Yoga is calming when you are stressed.", said another. One after the other the girls could not wait to participate and share their understanding of yoga. After congratulating the girls on being correct in all of their answers because yoga is many things, I informed the girls there are actually eight limbs of yoga. "What is a limb?", one girl asked.
They got me...so, I had to use 7–9-year-old friendly words to elaborate. Ah, they got it. I explained yoga is more than the asanas but also breathing, meditating and so much more.
Their eyes glazed over.
I quickly regrouped and led them through an exercise. I asked the girls to place one hand on their belly and the other hand on their chest. I then asked the girls to close their eyes or gaze down the end of their noses and to breathe normally. Then I asked them to tell me where they felt movement. "In my belly!", one girl called out. "Both, in my chest and my belly.", said another. Great! I said and then proceeded to explain why that was the case.
We then worked through a second exercise. Again, I asked the girls to keep one hand on their belly and one hand on their chest, with eyes closed, but this time I instructed them to inhale to the count of three with a soft belly, and exhale to a count of three. After a few rounds of breath, I asked the girls to sit with the feeling before opening their eyes and sharing how they felt.
What they said absolutely floored me.
One girl said that the feeling reminded her of a nice warm hug from her mom. Another shared that she has a baby sister who is one and a half who really makes her mad sometimes and that breathing like this was calming. She said the next time she got really mad she will go into her room and take a few deep breaths.
Super powerful answers that brought tears to my eyes...but I had to maintain focus and managed to regroup.
Next, I asked the girls, "Who likes animals?" Everyone answered at once, "I do!", "Me!", "I like dogs!", "I like cats!". We then proceeded to move through a series of yoga asanas named after animals beginning with downward facing dog, followed by cat and cow. I am not sure how many poses we worked through before one girl asked about swan pose. This stumped me for a moment because there are some similar dance and yoga poses, including all the variations and different names for similar shapes. After several more activities we put it all together and concluded with a deep breath and a collective "Namaste".
These girls, Brownie Troop 80792, amazed me with their interest as well as their participation. Each of them shared they learned yoga was more than just stretching and moving your body, and they were excited to share what they learned with their families when they got home.
I am incredibly grateful for having been invited by Anne Mattia to participate in helping the girls earn their yoga badge for I have no doubt that I learned just as much from each of them as they learned from me.
And, I now have the Brownie Yoga Badge to prove it!