Have you experienced the feeling of developing a creative, juicy lesson plan full of inspiration only to walk into the classroom and find it just doesn’t align with the needs of your students? Being able to recognize incongruence and spontaneously create a new agenda in the moment is a hallmark of a mindfully aware, attuned, present teacher.
I’ve experienced this situation many times in my teaching career, several of them stand out. Teaching 3-4 year olds on 9/11 and leading a middle school class the day after a classmate was lost to suicide required a heightened level of sensitivity that I could only find by first diving into my heart and connecting deeply to my purpose as a yoga teacher.
Time after time, I’ve found the simple plan to work best. A plan free of special effects, novelty and extraneous thematic content allows us as teachers to be fully present with our students. As we put our plans aside, we are more available to intuit and meet the needs of our students, especially at times when their needs are heightened. In other words, does a brilliant lesson plan on the solar system serve our students when their hearts and minds are completely absorbed in a the death of a classroom frog?
This is not to say that lesson plans don’t serve a meaningful function or that novelty is always a distraction, to the contrary, both can be powerful teaching tools when used intelligently. My point here is to draw a distinction between a time for plans and a time for spontaneous presence of mind.
This foundational “plan” below is my love letter to kids yoga teachers and students. It has become the backdrop upon which all of my lesson plans overlay. With this as my ground, I can go into any teaching situation with confidence.
The Only Kids Yoga Lesson Plan You’ll Ever Need
- The Moment Before: In preparation for teaching class, spend atleast a few minutes grounding yourself and tapping in to your intention as a teacher. This can be done in sitting meditation, by taking a slow, meditative walk or however works for you. For me, this step is akin to having keys to drive the car. I can’t really go anywhere until I’ve taken this vital step.
- Opening Circle: Gather into a close circle and pose a meaningful question. Pass a bell or chime around, talking stick style, and allow each student a minute or two to answer. While they are answering, see each student. See their hearts. See through their behavior to the beauty that they are. See and listen with your heart. Fully present, with no thoughts of what comes next or what must be accomplished. Just be there with them, each of them. Listen to their wisdom, and when it’s your turn, share your wisdom. Now, let the rest of the class ride on this connection.
- A Moment of Stillness: For a few minutes, allow the connection to deepen and resonate in the space. Be still and quiet in a way that works for your students. Child’s pose, laying down on the belly, or sitting in an easy cross legged pose are all good options. No need to have brilliant guided imagery meditation planned out, just guide them to their breath. Be open, though, because often an image will emerge in the moment. If so, go with that. It is the result of the relationship of the learning community and it may hold real meaning in the moment. Otherwise, simple mindful awareness practice serves just as beautifully.
- Playful Movement and Breathing: Listening to the needs of your students, you will know what comes next. Do they need to shake out their bodies? Do they need to move freely like jellyfish in the ocean? Do they need to play a game that promotes community? Warm up their bodies and get the breath moving with 10 minutes of playful, free movement. You can even simply put on sacred music and take turns leading moves.
- Focused Movement and Breathing: As a class, choose 8-10 yoga poses to practice. Ask them which poses they feel will help them get focused on that particular day. If it’s a new class that doesn’t know many poses yet, use a yoga card deck to help them decide. Sequence for safety and go for it. Students thrive in being part of the planning process. Focus on breathing and moving in sync.
- Wind Down with a Story: Tell the story of that day. “Today, we met in a circle and shared our thoughts about (fill in the blank). Then, we sat in stillness and quiet together. After that, we danced, played and enjoyed being free together. Next, we focused our minds on (name the poses). Now, it is time for our final relaxation. Let’s support each other by really committing to being focused, quiet and still now.”
- Final Relaxation: Rest well with a full body guided relaxation. Play soothing music or give your students the gift of trust by allowing them a few minutes to relax in silence.. Step back and let your students relationship with themselves deepen. Let their own yoga experience do the talking now. Connect into your heart and shine emerald light to each and every heart in the room. See all of these hearts connected in a matrix of emerald light and pulse your dreams and wishes for your students along these lines of light. Teach with your silence, doing the inner work of supporting.
When we trust ourselves and our students enough to put plans aside and allow the class to emerge from students present needs, we step into a deeper level of relatedness as a learning community.