It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, a couple of weeks back. I was sipping my tea, slowly waking up, and feeling a bit sluggish. Hey! Still getting used to the grey and constant showers outside. Opened my Facebook on a yoga group I am a member of, and was enjoying my time online going through different posts, questions, and shared stories. Interestingly enough, I found Jane’s – and I smiled. Jane’s story took me back in time…
Two years ago, I was volunteering in Italy for an organization that provided after-school assistance. We were organizing workshops, doing homework together and helped around with administrative chores. Children were of ages ranging from 5 to 12, hence quite a noisy bunch but my o my – every day was different and every moment spent with them was delightful.
It was then that I gave contour to a project which brought me so much joy – teaching yoga to children. I couldn’t think of something that was more meaningful for a child than this – to get a firm stand in a millennial practice at a young age, to be able to engage and connect mind, body and spirit, to find inner peace.
Throughout those few yoga classes I learned so much – first to let go of expectations, then, to let the child within prevail – ahead of the teacher, as now it was PLAYTIME. I learned that children need a loving and creative environment, their senses need to be engaged and ability to express allowed. Music, instruments, writing and drawing hence an interdisciplinary approach should be considered. ( add ecology, anatomy, nutrition, storytelling, and the list could go on according to one’s creativity)
Yogis developed the asanas as copies of the natural world – with which they were so tightly connected. Who could copy best poses that imitate animals, flowers, trees, warriors – than children? Movement and expression is, after all, that which most incite a child. This is how yoga works as well. Through union, alignment, expression and connection with one’s deeper self.
Doing yoga with children invited me to think and try to figure – what would I enjoy most doing if I were the child on the mat? We experimented with yoga cards, we had fun doing poses in pairs and I finally learned to let go and be gentle, to trust the process. Yoga is a process in itself, as there is no aim or target to be accomplished.
Coming back to Jane – well – Jane is such an inspiration! I will tell you a bit about her, so you understand what I mean. Jane Oppegaard, a beautiful soul that, having started with her Kundalini yoga practice in 1999, she further trained and qualified in 2008 at the Amrit Nam Sarovar school and furthered her practice with Gurmukh Kaur in the USA. She followed her desire to work with children and led her to qualify in Child Play Yoga with Gurudass Kaur.
In 2009 she founded Happy Little Yogi – and teaches children above two as well as teenagers in three separate groups: Happy Yogi Tots, Happy Little Yogis and Happy Yogi Teens. Throughout these twelve years of happy yoga, she organized after school clubs, holiday clubs and yoga in the classroom, as well as yoga teacher training programs (which she still does, online as due to the pandemic).
Must say that I felt compelled to tell her story, as we have crossed paths and have a common goal which, obviously enough, is to share yoga with children. I believe that if there were more Janes in this world, we would definitely live in a happier, more peaceful and harmonious world.
She’s my hero, and I can feel her energy, passion and dedication in all her activity throughout the years. Thinking of all those children that have encountered yoga through Happy Little Yogi!
2021 is here and what it brings to a child is a life lived in an enclosed, hurried-up world, pressured by busy parents, school long hours- probably on internet, more internet, friends, malls, competitive games and the list goes on. I don’t know about you but I think that children might need yoga as much as we do, if not even more, as they are so young and so inexperienced in dealing with all these.
Yoga is the way that could help them look within instead of outside, at the mere banalities of life. It could help them connect more deeply with their inner self and allow them to express both physically and emotionally in non-competitive exercise.
Feel free to find more about Jane on her page, maybe offer a meaningful experience to your child, to yourself as a parent or yoga teacher – or maybe even to your relatives. Give the children a chance to be Happy Little Yogis!