Yoga helped me connect my mind and body in a way unlike any other activity. It helps my physical, mental, and emotional bodies stay open to change. It’s also helped to further connect me to other people in my life by making me pause and think about the role I play in relationships. It’s helped me learn my limits and how to set better boundaries. Anything on the mat ends up being a lesson off the mat and in the world.
I serve on a Local Mental Health Advisory Council in Grand Marais, Minnesota. During the pandemic, the conversation about supporting young people in our community topped each mind in every meeting. From that concern stemmed conversations about mindfulness, meditation, and yoga for young folks. Due to generous local grantors, we now started our second year of providing yoga for kids – from kindergarten to eighth grade.
I never imagined how rewarding it would be to teach yoga to youngsters throughout Cook County. So receptive and open to learning new things, young people inspire me with their awareness about feelings of anxiousness and mental health.
Yoga can provide a long list of benefits for young folks. On an emotional level, sharing the practice with kids helps their coping skills, and emotional regulation reinforces positive behavior and reduces anxiety. From a physical perspective, they learn body awareness, harness their strength and flexibility, and cultivate better sleep. Particularly helpful skills to learn while in school include training fine motor skills, improving social relationships, lengthening attention span, and unlearning perfection.
I’ve spent much of my life chasing perfection in school, athletics, or anything else I could throw myself into. I now joke I’m a recovering perfectionist – although it isn’t much of a joke. I look back and see the anxiety and tightness present for me as a kid. Providing tools for young people in my community to help them move through helped me heal.
Colonized so much, what we refer to as yoga in the global West is detached from any of yoga’s true foundations. We think of yoga as a physical practice, but it surprises many to learn this is just one of eight limbs of the actual practice. Capitalism created a very narrowly defined image of yoga marginalizing yogis that aren’t thin, white, able-bodied women. But yoga’s roots show us everyone can benefit from the practice of yoga, and should be invited to.
Especially young folks, because there truly is something for everyone.
The kids and I explored different breathing techniques, physical movements, meditation, and more. We’re currently learning about yoga philosophy, the Yamas and the Niyamas, or yoga’s ethical guidelines. So far, it’s prompted conversations about peace, truthfulness, and how to protect our energy.
Some days the lessons focus on how to physically take care of our bodies. Many young athletes in class enjoy practicing physical asana movements that can help prepare them for a game or calm their breath, making them better competitors.
I’ve explored these concepts through games and movement practices with the younger kids. With the older kids, it’s been through movement and discussion.
Not every lesson goes perfectly well.But when things don’t go the way we thought they would, part of learning involves figuring out how to get through the moments.Whatever the lesson each day, I always walk away feeling wiser from their insight and honesty.
Both student and teacher, Carly Jean Puch host’s the podcast Consciously Clueless, works as a Conscious Living Coach, and guides folks through yoga – all in the hope to change the world together. She helps folks wanting to learn to be imperfectly sustainable and sustainably vegan. People are complicated, messy, and layered with identities and Carly loves embracing that. A meditation enthusiast, Carly sits in quietness every morning. She’s a gym rat, a yoga instructor, and a lover of blasting 90’s hip-hop at full volume.