Yoga philosophy can be intimidating to teach kids but the Yamas and Niyamas are simple precepts that can be used to explain some of the important ideas behind the practice of yoga.
The Yamas and Niyamas are two of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Patanjali was a sage who lived about 1600 years ago in India and his sutras are a foundational text of yoga. This text outlines what yoga is and how a practitioner can reach a state of tranquility.
The Yamas are things we should NOT do; they help us to live peacefully with others. The Niyamas are things we should do; they help us to live peacefully with ourselves. They are universal practices.
These principals can be integrated into social emotional learning (SEL) lessons in the home or school classroom. SEL is defined as the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Imagine the advantages we can give kids by teaching them ways to identify feelings, self-regulate and make good choices. As parents and teachers, we instinctively do this, we spend time teaching manners and encouraging kids to treat others they way they wish to be treated. We want children to learn to be self-aware; aware of their feelings and how their words and actions affect others. We want them to get along well with others and make good choices. We want them to be calm, confident and compassionate.
The Yamas and Niyamas can help build social-emotional skills in kids. Let’s take a look and break them down.
The Yamas /Things not to do
1.Ahimsa / Don’t be mean
- Be kind, respectful and loving in thought, word and deed.
- Be tolerant and accept other points of views
2.Satya / Don’t lie
- Tell the truth.
- Be yourself.
3. Asteya / Don’t steal
- Be generous.
- Don't take what isn't yours.
4. Brahmacharya / Don’t waste your energy
- Be moderate.
- Practice self-control.
5. Aparigraha / Don’t be greedy
- Be grateful.
- Be flexible.
- Take care of yourself– body and mind.
- Take care of your community and the Earth.
7. Santosha / Be Content
- See the positive in everything.
- Have an internal sense of peacefulness.
8. Tapas / Be Hard Working
- Be disciplined and build good habits.
- Always do your best.
9. Svadhyaya / Be Reflective
- Spend time with yourself.
- Take time for quiet.
10. Ishvara-Pranidhana / Be Devoted
- Connect to nature.
- Trust the power inside yourself.
Our book series A Yoga Storytelling Adventure helps kids be more socially-emotionally intelligent. Each of our stories is based upon one of the Yamas or Niyamas. You'll find FREEBIES at our website for using story and yoga in your classroom!!