By Ava Dussault, Lara Hocheiser, and Kathryn Boland
Yoga is about so much more than poses -- even for children and youth. In fact, teaching the young people in our lives about the yoga that goes beyond poses -- in age-appropriate, accessible ways -- can make the practice enhance their lives far beyond their physical health, for years to come. Yoga philosophy is one branch of yoga through which we can fruitfully do just that.
This branch of yoga includes the Yamas, or the "restraints" -- things that we should refrain from doing for the betterment of ourselves, our communities, and the world. We want to shed light on one of them in particular here -- the third Yama, Asteya or non-stealing and generosity. It is important that we teach students this concept in our kids yoga classes, to help them make healthier, more adaptive and kinder choices in their daily lives. ️
When we are generous to others, it makes both them and us feel good. For example, the smallest gestures -- such as holding the door or giving someone a compliment -- can make someone's day as well as bring a smile to our own faces. It doesn’t need to be a big act. In fact, smaller actions can be more sustainable and consistent for us -- and sometimes be just as meaningful as grand gestures.
Another way we can live out this Yama is by giving credit when it is due. We can utilize this in a small group in our yoga classes, even virtually! We can teach them to credit others for their ideas and support one another instead of calling their ideas our own. Having students work together and learn from one another is can be incredibly beneficial in other ways, as well -- such as learning the value of teamwork and how to settle disputes amicably.
We can set positive and powerful examples here as well. As teachers, we can give credit to our teachers and those that came before us as well as the cultural, linguistic, and historical roots of yoga. We should not steal or culturally appropriate it. Instead, we should shine light on who originally created the amazing practice of yoga -- the people of India and surrounding South Asian nations.
As practitioners, we should not steal other people's practices and try to do what they do simply because we think it is good. We need to follow our own paths, which has a lot to do with self study and being yourself. When you are yourself, you are enough and need not want to be anyone else. Not only is this the right answer ethically, it will lead to yoga practice that will truly nourish us rather than harming us -- helping us avoid doing poses that could lead to us injuring ourselves, for example.
As for generosity, children have a lot of generosity in their heart when they are met with compassion, enough attention, and good example. We teachers can bring that generosity out through being generous listeners in their presence -- again, leading by example. For instance, ask them in which ways they have shown generosity in their lives. Listen attentively. This action can show them that generosity is something to be encouraged and shared.
Asteya is more than not taking; it’s a loving generosity that comes from your self-knowledge, your leadership, and the love in your heart. Want a simple way to encourage this practice in yourself? Do a loving kindness meditation, and send love to anyone that is suffering. These sorts of actions and practices are muscles -- the more we exercise them, the stronger they get.
Want to learn more about how to teach yoga philosophy to kids in ways that will draw them in and teach them life-affirming lessons they can benefit from for their entire lives? We have resources in our shop for that, for ages 7-11 and tweens/teens!