Guest post by Jennifer Cohen Harper
There are dozens of potential uses for a singing bowl in a children’s yoga class, but the one that is the most potent is also the absolute simplest. The activity described below has a unique way of engaging children’s cooperation in the exact manner that you hope, while at the same time showing a profound respect for their independence.
At the beginning of every class, no matter how many routines you develop or guidelines you give your kids, there is a certain amount of noise, movement, conversation and other distraction that is a natural part of the transitions that children go through during their day. Sometimes there is complete chaos that threatens your ability to start your class in the peaceful, centered and happy state of mind that every yoga instructor hopes for.
This point of transition, where you set the tone for the entire experience that both you and your students are about to have, is a particularly challenging one to navigate. You must bring all of your students attention together at the same time, there is often noise so if the kids are going to hear you it might mean raising your voice, and all of the conversation that your students are having with each other are compelling to them and they are going to need some pretty good motivation to wrap them up. This can lead to frustration on the part of the teacher, and a gradual escalation of your voice until you are actually yelling at your students before you have even started your class.
There is a better way. When I begin a children’s yoga class, my goal is fro the children to turn their attention to me naturally, because they are interested in what is about to happen. I also want to respect that all of the conversations they are having are important to them. They are not doing anything wrong by having these social interactions during a lull in their very managed day, and I do not want to make them feel as through they are in some way bad because they are communicating with each other.
Rather then say anything at all, I recommend using a singing bowl in a very deliberate way to let the students know that you are about to start class. The following steps are so simple, but the honor the students by giving them time to transition gently, wrapping up whatever they are saying and doing with no abrupt shift, no implication that they are doing something wrong, no order, no anger and no raised voices. If is important to follow these steps slowly and remember your intention – a group of children who feel respected, engaged and happy to be in your presence.
Singing Bowl Opening Ritual
- Enter your classroom with a relaxed, happy attitude. Smile at your students and allow them to adjust to your presence in the room before asking them to do anything at all.
- Go to where you are setting up your space. Put your things down in a slow and deliberate manner, keeping any clutter to a minimum. Place a singing bowl next to you. Always handle the singing bowl with gentle respect. You want to create a sense in the children that the singing bowl is something very special and something to be treated with care. This naturally make is more interesting to them.
- Settle onto your mat and model for the children a grounded and mindful seat. Take a few deep breaths. Pick up the singing bowl, and hold is at heart height. Make sure you are treating the bowl with reverence, and that you are directing your gaze and energy at it, rather than looking around at the kids. As the students notice what you are doing, they will look where you look.
- After a few moments and a few breaths, gently ring the singing bowl. Keep your gaze fixed on the bowl until the sound completely dies away.
- After the sound of the bowl is gone, look around at your students and make eye contact. If many of the kids are still not with you after the sound of the bowl is finished, take several breaths and then ring it again. Be careful not to show any frustration or annoyance. This ringing of the bowl is an invitation to your students, not a command or a reprimand.
- There will be a moment of quiet after the sound finishes, when the children’s attention is turned to the bowl and to you. Take advantage of that moment (and it may not last long) to draw them in. Depending on whether the children are still up and about of they are on their mats, say good morning, ask a question, give them an interesting piece of information, or move directly into an activity. This is your opportunity to start class from a place of engagement. Try not to be overly concerned if every single student is not completely silent or still when the bell finishes ringing. As long as the general orientation of the class is towards you, you have a space to being your teaching.
This method of beginning gets more and more effective as you use it. The children learn the routine and many will begin to get themselves set up for class just by watching you take the singing bowl into your hands. Remember that the singing bowl must always be treated as something special – don’t ring it in anger or frustration or desperation or it will lose it’s meaning. Your attention to the attitude you convey at the beginning of class will make a tremendous difference in the attitude of the children. Become a model of patience, grace and loving acceptance. Invite your students on a journey, and you may be surprised at how willing they are to participate.
Jennifer Cohen Harper is the founder and director of Little Flower Yoga, a unique organization that provides education based yoga programs to schools and youth organization, teaches creative and nurturing classes for children and families, and trains teachers to engage, encourage and inspire joy in all students. Come grow with us.
This a continuation of our My Favourite Prop series written by experts in the yoga for kids and teens field. Visit our Yoga Props page to view the complete collection including how to use feathers, hula hoops, puppets, hoberman sphere and many more.