Yoga at Dysart
Yoga was first introduced into the Dysart curriculum by the OT team in 2013. Maya Patwa was brought in initially to see one class a week. The aim now is for every pupil in the school to have some Yoga input throughout the year. As well as having fun with the classical postures such as tree pose, shoulder stand and downward dog, we use sounded breaths and songs. Maya has been teaching Yoga full-time since 1997.
There are many different styles and types of Yoga. ‘Hatha Yoga’ is the method that uses the breath to balance our physical, mental and emotional energy. At Dysart we use it in its simplest form as a way to bring the pupils into the awareness of their breath and body. The system we have developed for Dysart pupils assesses key criteria for each child at the beginning of the term and we seek to build these qualities accordingly. We call these criteria the Magic C’s: eye contact, co-operation, communication, curiosity, concentration and confidence.
Some background of Yoga
The word ‘YOGA’ comes from the sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which literally translates as yoke…(not as in egg yolk but the old fashioned word for a harness).. think of a bullock being yoked/harnessed to a plough or a milkmaid with two buckets of fresh milk hanging from a yoke suspended on her shoulders and you have a sense of how long Yoga has been around! Essentially it can be interpreted as a method of harnessing our energy to influence the systems of our body to work in the most harmonious and efficient way possible. When we breathe well, this has an effect to stimulate the neural pathways in the brain that lead us back to balance and contentment.
Yoga is not a magic bullet which induces calm 24 hours a day but what it does do, we feel, is more useful and realistic. It can give tools to maintain calmness in situations we know can be stressful and to regain calmness after a meltdown. In the long term it helps us regulate emotions. We learn to recognise more clearly the feelings/actions that build up to frustration rather than those that lead to contentment.
The Magic C’s
These qualities are such valuable building blocks to structure our interaction with every stage of our lives and the people in it. As we build these, the quality of calmness is a welcome ‘side effect’.
Eye Contact: “Seeing is Believing” This tells us much about the starting point for each child and building eye contact is a way to engage the children so that each child feels completely safe and secure in the process is paramount. If they are shy to look directly at us, we take an active interest in what they are looking at and this is such a reliable way to connect with them. Eye contact is key to building trust and understanding. In keeping with the Dysart School principles, we use a framework that can be adapted endlessly for each child’s needs and personality rather than a use a one size fits all approach.
Cooperation: “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.” This old wisdom Disengagement can sometimes disguise itself as calmness. We recognise that it can also be conditional to wanting to be in control and so this is why we focus so much on co-operation in Yoga as it creates a foundation for relationships and interaction as a life-long skill. We create clear boundaries – children get two choices: to participate or return to class. We want to come out of ‘control’ and ‘contest’ behaviour so there is no resistance and no losers. We have a great success rate in Yoga being top choice. It is an activity that teachers can use in class to encourage engagement.
Communication: “How to listen so children speak…”Whether it is verbal or non-verbal, we ensure the children know they are heard. By giving gentle eye contact and time to interact at their own pace, children will choose to engage. Body language is so valuable and we can often tell if a child is in discomfort or pain rather than acting out. Sore tummies, headaches and tooth pain can be addressed in a session. There are also some who have stayed on the sidelines and screamed and screamed for weeks. Then just as we feel Yoga may not be the right approach for them, they open up and participate fully.
Curiosity: “Curiosity is a key ingredient in learning.” By encouraging curiosity about the movements of our bodies and sensations within, we connect with our innate desire to learn and interact in the world around us. Somehow the children become more interested in what is around them rather than the fixating behaviour that is so often problematic.
Concentration: “All in good time.” To a great extent, the ability to concentrate comes naturally when the first three C’s are in place. The children then get to practise this skill during sessions to then use it more and more in daily life.
Confidence: “The greatest gift we can give children is roots to grow and wings to fly.” Building confidence is key to ideal and we do this in the most playful way we can. The confidence to recognise when they are have had enough is also a wonderful marker as we do not want to overload their senses. We are happy when the pupils – having engaged, move to put their shoes back on and are ready to transition back to class. In this case whether we are finished or not, we take them back to class. We do however recognise when they do this to opt out and in this case they wait until we are ready to take them or the group back! Building confidence encourages the children to engage and be most receptive to learning and being peaceful in the world.