Yoga Center How to Teach Yoga for Children - Interview with Christine Curtis
How did your interest in yoga for children start?
Helping children reach their full potential, whatever their starting point, has always been one of my prime goals as a primary school head teacher.
Children with learning challenges particularly concerned me, especially those with attention deficit disorders or high anxiety. As a yoga practitioner I knew how grounding and calming yoga could be and wondered if yoga could offer similar benefits to children.
The results were almost immediate for those children. Over time, yoga and mindful activities were gradually introduced throughout the whole school and included all children.
It was one of the most popular and productive initiatives I had ever introduced into a school setting and every child benefitted in their own particular way, according to their individual needs.
Did anything in particular take you by surprise?
Yes! Absolutely! How children need to stop and just be! They look forward to it, ask for it! All of them – even the most unlikely, hyperactive children!
Why do you think yoga is so popular with children?
That’s a good question and is often not apparent. Parents say, “My child loves yoga – what is it you do in class?” I believe it is the atmosphere they appreciate rather than any activity in particular. Subconsciously they feel they are in a safe, judgement-free zone, away from expectations from parents, teachers, peers and society in general. They can experience being their true selves in a space that is free from the stresses of constantly being assessed and judged and the fear of possible failure.
This belief is supported by their typical responses when asked why they enjoy yoga:-“Yoga makes me feel calm/peaceful/free/loved/happy/relaxed…..” What more could we wish for them?
What is your joy when teaching yoga to children?
All children are perfect beings. They all have a good heart but aren’t always provided with the conditions needed for them to express this. It is lovely and truly gratifying to see children releasing tension, opening up and spontaneously showing kindness and support to each other, themselves and in general to the world around them.
My joy is bearing witness to this and having the privilege of holding the keys which unlock the world of yoga for them.
What is your advice to anyone thinking about teaching yoga to children?
It is a very different experience to teaching adults so it is important to be flexible with no pre-conceived expectations. Children are great teachers and when we can accept this with an open mind we regain that simpler, purer perspective on life which has often been misplaced as we pursue our busy, modern day, adult lives.
If you have ever, even fleetingly, thought about teaching yoga to children, then my advice is to give it a go! Children’s yoga teachers are sowing the seeds for a more positive future for all. What an amazing mission – and the way is fun, enlightening and fulfilling!
Liz's Workshop March 2014
Liz enchanted and challenged us all once more. She engaged the group with a continuous series of sequences that charmed everyone while getting them to do more than they imagined possible. At the same time Liz mesmerized the participants with her art, her music, her songs, and her inspirational quotes taken from the poets and mystics of the world and the ages.
Liz's Growing Collaboration
Liz has agreed to participate in our new Advanced Diploma course that completes the 500 hours of our Hatha Yoga Teacher Training certification. We will soon be announcing the content of her contribution to the advanced course. She will train the graduates in 'creative sequencing'.
First Advanced Course Presentation
We will be offering our new 100 hour Advanced Diploma course this summer in Aldeaduero. As soon a s we have Liz's curriculum we will include in the course description.
Liz Lark's Workshop
We had a great weekend with LIz again. She always comes ready to inspire us with her 'go for it' way of life. She brings new ways to sequence the asana practice.
We want to thank her for her creativity and integrity. We look forward to more ways to collaborate with Liz. Perhaps we will have her with us this summer. Thanks Liz. Lots of love.
Yoga Teacher Training Graduates
We are proud of our new Yoga Teacher graduates. We have just completed 3 of our Yoga Training courses. This year for the first time the 3 training programs concluded on the same weekend. Congratulations to all of you for your outstanding effort and well deserved results.
Hatha Yoga Instructor Training
Iyengar* Yoga Postgrads
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Instructors
Don't panic Meditate
If you have ever had an anxiety crisis you may find this recent article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times interesting.
As someone who treats individuals for Panic Disorder, I can highly recommend learning and practicing mindfulness meditation.
"Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness" The Journal of Neuroscience, April 6, 2011
Mindfulness reduces the Experience of Pain
The Journal of Neuroscience has just published research which gives evidence the practice of mindfulness meditation can help to reduce the experience of pain. For centuries those practicing meditation have claimed that the nonevaluative representation of sensory events such as pain, influenced the very experience itself. The current study claims that 4 days of mindfulness meditation training reduced "pain unpleasantness by 57%" of "the noxious stimulation" and the "pain intensity ratings" were reduced by 40%. The study noted that meditation reduced the activation of the "contralateral primary somatosensory cortex" which affects one's pain related experience.
Mindfulness affects Multiple Brain Mechanisms
The effect of Meditation in pain intensity ratings were associated with greater activity in the "anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula" that influence our "cognitive regulation of nociceptive processing". The resultant reductions in the experience of pain were associated with orbitofrontal cortex activation. This area of the brain influences one's contextual evaluation of sensory events. Such reductions in pain were also associated with "thalamic deactivation, which may reflect a limbic gating mechanism" that modifies interactions with the "executive-order brain areas". All of these observation associated with the practice of mindfulness meditation, suggest that meditation affects multiple brain mechanisms that alter the subjective experience of pain.
Mindfulness Programs at 'Yoga Center' Madrid, 'Yoga Sananda' Vigo and Hotel Spa Balneario****
I would like to remind my readers that we offer regular meditation classes, meditation instructor courses, mindfulness for stress reduction courses and mindfulness based psychotherapy in our 'Yoga Center' Madrid and 'Yoga Sananda' Vigo as well as our summer intensives offered at the Hotel Spa Balneario**** in Mondariz-Balneario in August.
The New C/ Serrano
The C/ Serrano construction has finally ended and we can now enjoy walking along a very broad pedestrian avenue. It is lined with new Plane trees, interspersed with benches and includes a bicycle pathway.
The construction of the underground parking is about to finish. More than half of the underground parking is already open. Last Saturday I saw more people enjoying Serrano than in the last 12 years.
The Miracle of Christmas
The underground parking at the height of our center will open in a few weeks. It will be a comfortable feature for our students because the pedestrian entrance to the parking is right at our entrance. A small miracle of Christmas after 2 years of public works at our door step.
Questions I have spent a lifetime trying to answer
I am in the throws of choosing a topic to research for my doctorate in Psychology. i personally am interested in a number of areas. One interest regards the Oriental and Western mystical notions of elevated states of consciousness or mystical states. Such states are clearly referred to in Patanjali's Sutras and in the Cloud of Unknowing. Some Psychologists in the humanistic tradition, from William James to Maslow and more recently Robert Kegan claim that adults are capable of higher orders of consciousness. I would especially like to research the following two questions: Is there any empirical evidence for higher order consciousness besides anecdotal evidence?; is there any evidence that higher order consciousness can be taught?
Your thoughts and suggestions
First I would like to ask what your opinions are regarding my two principal questions. Have you or anyone you know exprienced higher order states or something similar. If so how did you or they do it? How doe you know that it wasn't just siggestion and wish fulfillment fantasy? I would also appreciate your comments and suggestions regarding any books, essays, journal atricles etc that you feel could help answer my 2 questions.
My recent trip to the ashram made me reflect on some of the functions of an Ashram. In India an ashram is a place of refuge, sanctuary or retreat.
My own observations during my role as ashram director for many years brought me to similar conclusions. What I observed is that many come seeking shelter from the turmoil or crisis in their life. The ashram provides a safe place to care for their emotional wounds and to take the time necessary to rebuild themselves, their new world view, their new identity - a life moratorium.
1 to 5
I found that most stay for somewhere between 1 to 5 years at most and then return to the fray. The ashram plays a principal role in their personal life renewal. A wonderful service indeed!
As I reflected upon my own experiences I realized that there was one aspect which I found missing in this healing environment - the open expression of conflicting opinions. It is a kind of groupthink. It occurs throughout our society, especially in businesses, corporations, religious communities, and many other organizations and groups. The problem is that growth is stifled. Transformation is limited. There occurs almost no thinking or being outside the box. This is what I feel is missing.
As you can see I have mixed feelings about ashrams. I guess they serve their function/purpose of giving us comfort and removing the need to reflect upon conflicting opinions. We are surrounded by one blanket of sameness. Like going home. Just what the doctor ordered - time out from the game of life.
I mentioned that I was at the Yoga Congress a couple of days ago in Germany. One of the themes that I mentioned as I introduced myself and my background interests, concerned transformative learning experience.
I have had an interest in mystical traditions since I was a teenager. Probably because of curiosity into what my ancestor Meister Eckhardt was all about. One of the common themes in Christian and Indian mysticism is tranformative development or higher stages of consciousness. The mystics claim that they have been able to experience higher levels of consciousness or what Psychologists would call higher complexity.
Psychologists since William James have been interested in the possibilities of adult transformative changes. These are usually provoked by crises which cause a disorientation deep enough to provoke questioning long held beliefs, values or assumptions. Spiritual heroes usually have such experiences which result in new perspectives on life and its meaning.
I am interested in learning more about how such transformations could be assisted or actually taught to others. This is very much like what I looked for in the Yoga tradition and the Christian mystic tradition. I have been somewhat encouraged in my pursuit by the developments in what is called the study of Transformational Learning. I am considering the possibilities of investigating adult transformational development and how it compares to the mystical traditions as part of my doctoral thesis.
Any suggestions or bibliographic recommendations will be greatly appreciated.
I told you that I just got back from the International Yoga Congress, but I forgot to mention that I met a lot of old friends from my years as a swami. I felt a special warmth throughout my being to be there with so many long time friends and gurubhais. Sukadev aka Volker Bretz, the director of Yoga-Vidya was a fellow swami when we both served Swami Vishnuji. I have a great respect for Sukadev and more so for his humility in spite of his outstanding achievements of creating the largest Yoga organization in Europe with an Ashram capapble of accomodating comfortably close to 1000 people.
Narayani was also there. She arrived from her recent programs in the USA with her daughter Amari. Narayani gave a very inspiring talk full of beautiful mystical Sufi poetry, life lessons and of course the next day she gave a joyful yoga class to hundreds of attendees from all over Europe.
I reminded Narayani I will be seeing her at her upcoming weekend program November 19, 20, 21 in Madrid. I am sure you won't to miss it either. Narayani becomes more and more a voice of loving kindness and inspiration. She always touches my heart.
Lots of Yogis
I just got back from the International Yoga Congress in Germany. It was held at Yoga-Vidya headquarters in the spa resort town of Bad-Meinberg. There were over 600 people attending. Yoga personalities from most European countries and the USA came to contribute a lecture and workshop.
I decided to offer my views on how contemporary Psychology can complement and enhance what many practitioners of Yoga want to achieve - personal change and well being.
My workshop was on how we can make changes in ourselves in spite of our own usually unconscious resistance to changes. I was happy to see that many of those attending the workshop gained new insight into their own resistance to change. I didn't have the time to assist the workshop participants with their practical change process. Many asked me afterwards if i could come back and give a longer set of workshops on "How to overcome our immunity to Change". However for now, I hope, many will continue the process on their own.
Many were mothers or fathers who wanted to change the way they communicated with their children. This was very close to home for me. I have also faced this particular personal change challenge. i wish them big success.
My lecture was on Positive Psychology and what it may contribute to the Yoga community. I told everyone that Swami Vishnuji always made fun of psychology. He repeated a 1000 times the joke: "A neurotic builds castles in the air. A psychotic lives in them. A psychiatrist collects the rent." I got a lot of laughs.
My challenge was to show that these mindsets which are apparently contradictory, are just different filters of reality. No single worldview is sufficient. Psychology is a resource that can be a gold mine for those Yogis who want to understand and accept themselves better while learning how to live a fuller life.
Chronic stress causes damage on a cellular level to the body. Such prolonged stress leads to cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes and frailty. Feelings of being overwhelmed by our circumstances contributes to physical effects such as stress-induced chronic inflammation - the result of an immune system in a constant state of high alert.
Research on Hatha Yoga and Stress in Women
Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD has researched how chronic stress harms the body. Her investigations have led her to look into the mechanisms underlying Hatha Yoga potential stress-reduction benefits. She has compared inflammatory and endocrine responses of novice and expert female Yoga practitioners before, during, and after a Hatha Yoga class. She found that a Hatha Yoga class boosted students' positive emotions, but there was no overall difference in inflammatory or endocrine responses as a result of the Yoga class.
Regular Practice of Yoga
But Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser found that Yoga experts had 40% less serum interleukin(IL)-6 levels than novices following a stressful experience. She concludes,in the Journal "Psychosomatic Medicine" March 2010
"The ability to minimize inflammatory responses to stressful encounters influences the burden that stressors place on an individual. If Yoga dampens or limits stress-related changes, then regular practice could have substantial health benefits."
How to get people to use the stairs
I received this from Enrique, a dear student of ours, and I thought it was worth sharing with you. I am not into advertising any particular firm but the idea merits exposure.