Color Me Yoga Founder Marsha Therese Danzig: Why 21st Century Children Need Yoga

A ten year old boy enters my children’s yoga class. He is large for his age, chunky in the middle, tall, clumsy, and loud. He makes up stories about his name and the other boys in the class. He interrupts me incessantly. The head teacher keeps apologizing for him.

She rolls her eyes, telling him, “Shhh, be quiet , sit down.”

I tell her their noise doesn’t bother me. They are okay and so am I. I have brought a brown bag with an ear of corn hidden inside. I want to teach the kids about ecology, nature, the process of growth, the traditions of our Native American heritage, the many uses of corn, the concepts of waiting, patience, transformation, connection. They want to be entertained.

After 20 minutes, I’ve lost the class of 13 kids ages 4-11, both boys and girls. One child sits out for most of the class. Two other boys start to stick out their tongues at me.  ( I try not to giggle). The children scream, break up into groups, lose their way. So do I.

I wonder – was the class really that bad? Was I off center? Or was more going on?

After teaching yoga for 13 years, and training people in Color Me Yoga for Children for 9 years, I have certainly had my share of “bad day classes’.  Grace seems to prevail in those situations. I know my calling. I trust the path of teaching yoga that I am on.

I reel the children back in during Sivasana (relaxation pose) having them imagine themselves as a corn cob, still and sweet. I am about to ring the bell after nearly 5 minutes in this pose. They do not want to get up.

The little boy who sat out for most of the class sighs: “Can we do this pose for the entire class next time?” My little chunky friend adds “ Yes, can we do this pose for a whole bunch of minutes next time? I love this pose.”

Finally a third little boy chimes in, almost in tears. “ I so want to do this pose next time. All my Mom does is drive me around from class to class. I’m so stressed. I just want to rest.”

My heart breaks.

I never thought I’d be at the point in my life when I would say, “When I was young we would…” but here I am. When I was young, I never heard of the word Stress. I did not really use the word until well into my 30s.

Here, in an hour long children’s yoga class in 2010, a little boy used the word with great aplomb.

This class, once again, provided a new kind of grace for my teaching about the pulse of American children today. They seem stressed, pressured, over-stimulated, overfed, undernourished, entertained rather than inspired, disconnected in some fundamental way from their environment, their bodies, their little souls and each other.

They are taught to respect everyone, and yet, because of many lines being crossed, they often don’t know how to respect adults or their world. They are given limited opportunities to succeed at responsibility or a sense of inner motivation. They have instant gratification that drains their little nervous systems and sets up unrealistic goals for them. The fear and mistrust that many adults model for them through hoarding of things and time, creates confused childhood identities. They have seen more in their young lives than many of us saw until we were well into adulthood.

Finally they often don’t really know how to PLAY.

Now I am not saying that every American child falls into the description above. I am talking about a general pulse that is happening.  In my trainings , I am hearing the same thing over and over, from parents, school teachers, occupational therapists. Children are struggling.

We all want to help these children live their full abundant selves. Yoga may just do the trick.

For more on how yoga can help kids live fuller lives, see the continuation of Marsha Therese’s article here:

Challenges Faced by Today’s Children – Can Yoga Help?

Marsha Therese Danzig is the founder of Color Me Yoga for Children, an International 200 Hour Yoga School and Children’s Yoga Program committed to bringing the gift of yoga to all children everywhere. You can read more about her and Color Me Yoga at www.colormeyoga.com.

© 2010 Marsha Therese Danzig dba as Color Me Yoga Enterprises,LLC

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