We’re about to kick off this year’s round of school day-off camps. I was looking at field trip ideas and loading up my Pinterest craft boards, and remembered something I heard over and over again this summer from people who spotted our groups on a field trip. “What’s yoga camp like? Obviously you don’t just do yoga all day,” they would ask, gesturing to the campers at the museum, pool, or playground.
The thing is, though…we do.
Yoga isn’t a verb. It’s not something you do on a mat for 45 minutes before you get on with things. Yoga is a mindset. It’s a way of living that we’re trying to teach children to apply while their lives still relatively simple, so they have the resources available as they become more complex.
Western wellness culture–or at least the big name gym and that social media influencer–would have us believe yoga is about putting our bodies into progressively more bendy or complex shapes and through standing on our heads or holding a long plank, we’ll find peace. That’s part of it, sure. But those shapes, or the practice of asana, is only one piece of the eight-piece puzzle that makes up Patanjali’s Limbs of Yoga. I don’t think its any accident that asana isn’t the first limb. It isn’t even the second. It comes third, after the yamas and niyamas, the ethical standards and spiritual observances of the practice.
If we take a big step back for a broader view of yoga, we see that moving our bodies comes secondary to establishing a mindset that includes kindness, truthfulness, generosity, moderation, and gratitude. We also seek to be clean (in body and mind), content, hard working, curious, self confident, and able to trust that we’re part of a bigger picture.
Seen that way, yes. Yes we do “do yoga” all day. Especially where kids are involved–whether you’re caring for one or you are one–yoga isn’t about the path to finding peace. Yoga is about managing our reactions when peace couldn’t be farther away.
Sure, we come together on our mats once or twice a day at camp and practice asana, and that looks like yoga (and it sometimes looks like hard work). But then we move into artistic flow and practice contentment. Or we go to a museum and get really curious about how all the art in one room is similar. We practice gratitude when we sit down in the pool at Yards Park after a long hot walk from the bus stop on a humid 90 degree day. A four year old walking from the metro to The Fields at RFK or a seven year old waiting 15 minutes for a bus that’s off schedule are both working just as hard as they can to do the thing without losing their patience.
The thing that makes yoga, well, yoga is mindset and intentionality. Connecting movement with breath and presence in one’s body is what makes yoga asana different from stretching after a run or working out at the gym. Just like the shift in mindset can make a physical practice become something different, it can make an art project or a museum visit something different.
At yoga camp, we practice being present, and in the flow. We practice embodying the yamas and niyamas. We practice remembering we’re all a part of this community of humans and that what we do and how we think–whether we’re 3 or 103–matters. And through that practice, from drop-off to games club, its all yoga.
Not looking for the philosophical explanation of what we do all day? Free free to check out the sample schedule as well.
About the Author
Jessica LaGarde has been teaching creative movement in the metro area since 2005 and is passionate about helping children discover and explore their bodies and the world around them. She was trained by Joye Newman, MA to teach preschool creative movement for Kids’ Moving Company, a Bethesda-based creative movement/perceptual motor therapy studio. In 2017, she completed her Baby, Toddler, and Children’s Yoga Teacher Training through Childlight Yoga. In addition to working with preschoolers, Jessica is a registered massage practitioner and is trained in infant massage instruction. She has practiced massage for over twelve years and taught massage as part of Potomac Massage Training Institute’s professional training program. Outside of the movement space and massage room, she enjoys cooking, knitting, sewing, gardening and exploring the outdoors with her daughter.