A friend shared this video the other day that gave me many smiles and laughs. In it, Anusara Yoga Teacher, Elena Brower, explores yoga with her four year old son while he runs around and wiggles and absorbs yoga in his own kid kind of way. This is how it goes sometimes. I find it to be a treat to witness such a real and honest example. But even when kids aren't up for following our yoga agenda, if we share it openly, respectfully, and with love then they get it. And, even better, if we live it day to day, there is a natural learning that unfolds. Mantra chanting, in particular, is something that children often can take off with. They enjoy being vocal with music and chant.
With my own children, yoga, meditation, and mantra is woven into the fabric of our home life. Sometimes I roll out the yoga mats and my six year old daughter and I do yoga or meditation together. However, at this age, it is rarely a lengthy practice. Often she becomes the teacher because while she may not always find it fun to follow my directions, she is usually quite happy to give them herself! There are times that she will join me while I am meditating, popping in for a few rounds of a mantra or I'll hear her laughingly mimic my Sat Nam's from the other room while I do Sat Kriya. Having mantra playing in our home and car, she picks up the words and chants along. On several occasions, I have discovered her chanting softly in her room while she plays. Our 7 month old daughter is often lulled to sleep by the sound of soothing mantras. I bundle her up in a soft cotton blanket, and put on the Guru Ram Das chant. It makes for a very peaceful nap time. For both our girls, mantra has been a part of life since before birth.
I love to watch Bibi Bhani Kaur Khalsa, a Kundalini Yoga Teacher and Kirtan artist in Phoenix, teach yoga to children. She guides them through a yoga journey using story-telling, animal and nature-inspired yoga poses, and songs and chants that she leads while playing her guitar. She says, "Children don't seem to question the meanings of mantras, but just tune into them on a vibrational, subtle level."
Mantra and song is frequently incorporated into yoga movements and celestial communication. She says, "The children really love the Sa Ta Na Ma (mantra) and seem to get lost in it. They often don't want to stop. " For infants she incorporates Long Sat Nam with gentle arm and leg stretches. Her Amrit Bani CD includes the shabad Poota Mata Kee Asees which is a favorite during relaxation in her Mommy & Me classes because it is a mother's prayer for her child.
There are several great resources for using yoga, meditation, and mantra with children. Check out the book Fly Like a Butterfly or the Happy and Cozy CDs, which offer fun songs and mantras for kids. The Shanti the Yogi DVD provides a guided class and kids can't help but sing along to the Feeling Good Today CD. Sharing mantra with children is a gift to them and it also allows us, as parents and teachers, to explore sacred sound and vibration in new and creative ways.
(Editor's Note: Snatam Kaur's new CD Divine Birth also has many beautiful songs for children and mothers alike, including a sweet lullaby.)
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