29 Oct 2014, Hilary Harker.
The past couple of months have delivered very positive and exciting feedback on the ‘Life is Yoga’ programme.
In September 2014 the pilot project team met with the VTE principal, Carol Booysen, and 4 of the school teachers to explore how they viewed the yoga programme and to find out if they had observed a shift in the children. Some felt that since the yoga classes began they themselves were more calm and “the kids are taking more control of themselves”. Carol said; “the values you teach, even if the kids don’t seem to understand, eventually comes out in the class during the day”. A number of the learnt yoga practices are carried out in the classroom throughout the day and often children will be seen teaching each other what they had practised in yoga class. Teachers said that they were able to apply what they had learnt in Swami Vidya’s classes to their day to day life. On yoga days the teachers also have a separate Hatha Yoga class with Hilary.
A recent introduction to the ‘Life is Yoga’ programme in the older class is the Peace Table – a tidy little table in a quiet corner of the class. The Peace Table is a special place, not to be used for other play or snacking, where a child can sit whenever they like, because they are feeling upset or just need a moment on their own. Along with a lovely poster of a tranquil forest, a simple stack of river stones, and a small vase of flowers, is an hour glass – a source of total fascination for the kids. The child will sit, turn it over and watching the sand run through the timer, enter a state of extended calmness that becomes habitual the more they access the Peace Table. When the time is up, other children may have a turn sitting alone with the timer.
The children are told, “When we sit at the Peace Table by ourselves, we sit quietly. You may watch the grains of sand. If someone is sitting alone at the Peace Table, we do not disturb them.” It promotes respect and creates an enormous amount of mindfulness and self-regulation, an opportunity for the little ones to recognise, manage and resolve their own feelings, something most adults struggle to do!
In October the pilot project team attended the school PTA which was an opportunity to speak to the parents and show them a video of their children doing yoga. Parents were asked to complete a short survey questionnaire to assist with our action research. 84% of the parents who completed surveys had noticed general improvements in their children since the ‘Life is Yoga’ programme started. Parents noticed their children being more relaxed, having more confidence and handling discipline better. One mom expressed it this way – “I think it is amazing. Please continue the excellent work. Yoga rocks!!”
Shanti has joined Estelle and Hilary and her lessons will focus on loving nature. The children like the fact that the meaning of Shanti is linked to their Peace Table! Each child in the older class has been given a ‘petri dish’ and is nurturing bean seeds. The bean seedlings will eventually be planted into the veggie patch at the school.
On Saturday 25 Oct I attended the VTE Graduation Prom. The 6 year olds were all dressed up, ready to move onto formal school! They danced and performed a number of action songs for their parents. During one of the songs two of the children stepped forward and thanked “teachers Estelle and Hilary for yoga is a way of life”. It was such a joyful celebration. Carol expressed her thanks to all those giving their time as seva for the ‘Life is Yoga’ programme, and invited me to say a few words to everyone as well.