Yoga-based tools for educators, caregivers and kids, with Tracey Uber Cook

THEORY

Welcome to this course! In this introduction, Tracey talks about her yoga journey, her experience of working with students and educators and how she’s interweaved the two to create this course. She explains how this program developed, what you and the children in your life will learn, and how to navigate the modules to ensure the most effective and integrated learning experience. 

This section is divided into 3 parts. This class (Part 1) begins with a moment of stillness to invite the body and mind to settle. Tracey takes a look at the challenges we all face and why we need a course like this in the first place. We’ll explore the underlying causes of stress, overwhelm, anxiety and discontent and learn how the philosophy and tools of yoga can help us to transform them.

Part 2 in this exploration focuses on what Tracey calls ‘the crisis of disconnection’. Though technology enables us to connect to the external world in more ways than ever before, the process of rapid technological development has, in fact, reduced our connection to what lies beneath. Tracey outlines 5 different ways we’ve become disconnected and highlights pathways back to reconnection.

Part 3 focuses on the good news: that what we are searching for and how we can reconnect to that which is greater than any of our thoughts, emotions and experiences, is already here. Tracey explains how the wisdom contained in the framework of yoga and the natural order of life can offer us a pathway back ‘home’.

A look at the overall makeup of who we are, according to a model in yogic philosophy known as the Koshas or layers of our being. We move from the peripheral, outer shell (the body) and work our way through to the deepest, most subtle layers to the heart of who we are. We explore how all of these layers - from the physical to the formless - work together to create our individual experience and keep us in balance.

Tracey looks at the idea and definition of resilience, suggesting that it’s so much more than the idea of ‘bouncing back’ from hardship. She shares a story about nature and how we can be inspired by its wisdom to know when it’s time to act and when it’s time to rest.

PRACTICE
Taking care of yourself - 3 parts

We now move onto the Practice part of the course, beginning with a look at ‘self-care’ and how the term has become a kind of luxurious ‘concept’ rather than something that is essential to our lives. We learn some essential self-care tips, from the more obvious (diet, exercise, etc) to the more subtle (breathing, thought patterns, etc) and how to encourage the children in our lives to do the same.

Some suggestions of things we can incorporate into our day to help us and the kids in our lives to stay present, grounded and connected. She includes ideas for short morning and evening routines and practical things we can sprinkle throughout the day to maintain connection to the parts of ourselves that are greater than the body and the mind.

A daily pattern of activity, which includes noticing and nurturing the Koshas, is an effective way to keep our systems clear so we can move through life without getting ‘stuck’. Tracey offers three key techniques informed by yoga philosophy and practices, for caregivers, parents and educators that work on the body, breath and mind, and explains the efficacy of each tool. 

Resources to help you take care of your Koshas - 4 parts

A brief overview of the resources in this section that you can use to re-establish and maintain a sense of homeostasis and balance on all levels. It includes a shakeout, a gentle yoga class and a breathing session which will help you relax and rest in awareness.

A short, fun and effective practice designed for times when you just need to move! These movements include a little bouncing, dancing, shaking and tapping and help to mobilise the joints, clear out the energetic pathways and reduce the amount of tension that the body carries.

A full but gentle yoga practice for parents, educators, and caregivers designed to get everything moving and bring you into a state of deep and natural rest by the end. You’ll be given lots of options to adapt the poses, so please stay within your boundaries, breathe with ease - and smile! You might like to have a couple of blocks and an eye pillow or small towel to cover your eyes.

A gentle Pranayama practice that’s perfect to do in the evening to help you wind down, relax and ease out of the day. Make sure you’re sitting comfortably (you don’t have to sit on the floor - a chair is fine) with the spine upright and the muscles relaxed. 

Yoga-based tools for kids

This next section will teach you how to share everything you’ve learned so far with the children in your life. The yoga-based tools framework using body, breath and mind techniques will be adapted for different age groups - from young children to teenagers. It’s helpful to become comfortable with the practices yourself first, and introduce them to kids step by step.

Tracey explains how the check-in works. She demonstrates how different kinds of poses and movements can affect the body and mind and nervous system. Ultimately this class is all about encouraging kids to move in a way that feels good for them - whether it’s dancing, wiggling, bouncing or shaking - and to make it fun!

MOVEMENT
Age 3-10 years old (younger kids)

Tracey shares some fun and effective ways to get kids moving - ‘get the wiggles out’! These work particularly well for younger kids, but can easily be adapted for older kids too. She also demonstrates the Grounding breath, which is great for kids to do at the end of all the ‘wiggling’ to draw energy and attention inward.

Tracey recaps the 6 movements of the spine and gives examples of ways we can encourage children to incorporate them, using animals, daily tasks or things in nature as inspiration. As always, the idea is to encourage them to come up with their own ideas to maintain their interest and keep things fun.

Some simple and fun standing pose sequences to help kids experience steadiness, strength, balance and focus. There are options for younger and older children but feel free to adapt to the needs of the kids you’re sharing them with and the situation you’re in. A chair, wall or edge of a table might be helpful for steadiness.

Some examples of poses and movements you could do when there’s not a lot of space to move. You could teach these to kids (at any age) in a classroom, or do them yourself whilst sitting on a chair or on the floor. You’ll learn how to teach the ‘yoga seat’, the 6 movements of the spine, some body tapping, a hip sequence and a seated version of Downward facing dog.

At the end of a body tools session a tense and release session is a wonderful way to release, relax and let go. Tracey shares a sweet visualisation which is especially popular with younger kids.

MOVEMENT
Age 11 - 17 years old (older kids)

As this age group tends to be a little more shy and self-conscious, you might need to ease slightly older kids into movement. Tracey gives some examples of how to get even the most awkward of teenagers moving their body and demonstrates a dynamic breath exercise called Breath of Joy.

Tracey teaches a standing sequence which incorporates the 6 movements of the spine, plus a seated Sun Salutation sequence which can be done in a chair.

Any of the standing poses Tracey has offered already for younger kids are also suitable for older kids. Here she gives a couple of pose sequences for kids who want to challenge their balance and coordination.

Tracey demonstrates a tense and release exercise isolating different parts of the body - a nice way to release any residue of tension after the physical movements.

BREATH TOOLS
Bring awareness inward and balance energies

This section is all about breath tools. Tracey explores the thoracic and abdominal cavities, explains the mechanics of breathing and looks at the effects of the inhalation and exhalation on the mind and body. As with the movement practices, the breath tools you’ll learn in this section can be adapted for children of different ages.

A short note about adapting these tools and practices in order to keep everyone healthy and safe.

The breath tools you’ll learn in this class are suitable for younger kids but try them with older kids too. Tracey teaches seven different breathing practices with suggestions of how to share them with children. She also explains how these practices work and why they’re so effective.

In this class you’ll learn Alternate nostril breathing, Square breath and Centering and some short breath holds. These breath tools may be more appropriate for older kids as they require a little more coordination - the breath retention practice may also be more comfortable for older children. As always, try them out with different age groups and note what the effects are.

MIND TOOLS
Relax and rest in awareness

Encouraging children to experience deep rest is incredibly beneficial for them. In this section Tracey shares different practices, with meditations, body scans, Yoga Nidras, affirmations and guided relaxations for varying age groups. Please check out the separate downloadable audio files on the right hand side of this class. Here, she demonstrates the ‘Magic bell’ - which uses sound vibration to calm and balance the body and bring the mind into focus. It’s a great one to use in the classroom!

In deep states of relaxation when our receptivity is open and alive the power of an affirmation can be especially powerful. Tracey gives some suggestions of affirmations that kids can use when in a state of deep relaxation. You can also download Tracey’s audio file called ‘Feeling with gentleness from your heart’.

This is an example of a yoga break session using different techniques we’ve covered involving kids of different ages. It includes a check in and some body, breath and mind tools. These are just some suggestions - please feel free to use this as a template to inspire you to create your own and adapt it accordingly.

Well done for completing this course! Here’s a recap, along with a few reminders of how best to put it all into practice. We end as we started - with a few moments of stillness to assimilate and reflect on everything we’ve learned.