When I feel small in a world so big,
when I wonder how I fit in,
when the world is spinning so fast…
I tell my wiggling body: be still.
I tell my thinking mind: be quiet.
I tell my racing breath: be slow.
– I Am Yoga, by Susan Verde
In the transition from spring to summer, many students start to feel stress and anxiety. At this time in the year, educators often see a change in student behavior, which can make teaching and sharing fun activities harder. This change can be due to the fluctuating weather, end of the year testing, or unpredictable schedules and special events. Many students feel unsettled about the upcoming summer, unsure about how their routine will change, sad about being away from their beloved teachers, or nervous about losing the consistent food and shelter that they receive during the school year. The academic demands of April and May can also take their toll on students of all ages (as well as their parents!). Whatever the root of the change, the tumultuous feelings of little ones can make the last month of school more work than play.
A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon the book I Am Yoga, written by Susan Verde with art by Peter H. Reynolds. At the time, I had never practiced yoga myself, but I immediately saw the benefit to sharing this calming and empowering book with my students. The story features a girl feeling small and anxious in a world that seems too big and too fast for her – and to deal with her feelings, she decides to slow down and focus on her thoughts, her breathing, and her body. The book gently and playfully takes readers through a series of simple yoga poses, with an empowering message on each page: “I can touch the sky. I am so tall” (tree pose).
At a past school, I had the pleasure of teaching pre-school classes as well as my K-4 students, and the end of the year was a tricky time for these young ones. For many hours a day, the building had to stay quiet for older students’ testing. Playgrounds and staircases near windows were off limits because of their proximity to windows. They arrived to the library anxious and unsettled because of the change in their routine. As we greeted each other, they fidgeted and rocked back and forth in their spots on the carpet, unable to sit peacefully. So I reached for I Am Yoga.
Our first time through, I simply read the text. The words themselves are slow and calming, and had an immediate effect. The class stopped fidgeting, stopped arguing, and stared at the book, mouths hanging open. They seemed transfixed by the rhythm and soothing sounds of the words. When it came time for them to move their bodies and make them look like the illustrations, I saw eyes close and breathing deepen; little tongues stuck out of mouths with the effort of balance or stretching. At the end of the book, I turned the lights down to allow them to take a well-earned relaxation pose (savasana) – they laid happily on their carpet squares, breathing and smiling quietly. It was magic.
Since that day, I have used I Am Yoga regularly with classes that seem anxious or antsy. It works for rainy days and sunny days, during the spring or in the middle of a snowstorm. Sometimes we’ll take our yoga outside, turn the lights down low, or move slowly holding colorful scarves. My classes love the stretching, balancing, and wiggling, and they love giggling at each other from their yogi poses. It’s the perfect way to help them feel calm and in control while still letting them be little. As an extra treat, my parent volunteers this week have been joining us for our mini-yoga sessions, which has been sweet and so much fun.
In prepping for this week’s lesson, I stumbled upon an artist named Emily Arrow, who combines popular children’s’ books with sweet ukulele music in a genre she calls KidLit Tunes. Her song and video for I Am Yoga was the perfect way to unwind and celebrate after working through all of the poses in the book. My kindergarteners loved it, and several parents asked me for the link. Here you go! Check out I Am Yoga, by Emily Arrow, and the adorable music video below.
Interested in trying yoga in your library, classroom, or at home with your little ones? Here are the resources that I use in my library:
- I Am Yoga book by Susan Verde with art by Peter Reynolds
- Emily Arrow on iTunes, including the I Am Yoga song
- Cosmic Kids Yoga has a series of yoga adventures that will have kids engaged and moving along with the story – including Harry Potter, Frozen, and Star Wars!
- Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube
These have all been tested by my nieces and nephews, so you know they’re good 😉 I am not a yoga expert – if you have any other great resources, please share them! Would you ever try yoga in your classroom or library? Have you ever used this book or video before? I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, namaste!