As the school year begins and we have the priviledge of working with children from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, it is essential that we work to create inclusive and welcoming learning communities. An important part of this work, particularly in public schools, is a committment to secularism in our teaching, and to respecting the diverse religious and non-religious beliefs of our children and their families, both in priniciple and in practice.
Secularism maintains a separation between state and religious institutions and recognizes religious equlity before the law. Secularism invites students to bring their own belief system to the educational experience, and in teaching yoga and mindfulness we can meaningfully support students in this exploration without promoting any particular religious or spiritual beliefs.
Little Flower Yoga founder Jennifer Cohen Harper, along with colleagues Catherine Cook-Cottone and Traci Childress, have written an important persepctive piece, published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, that explores guiding questions for inclusive yoga in school. We hope that all school based yoga and mindfulness educators will consider these questions, and the implications for our field and community, as they dive into this important work.
Abstract: This commentary explores the legal and ethical obligations of yoga programs and teachers to uphold both the principles and the spirit of secularism when teaching yoga in schools. Arguing that secularity is essential both to comply with legal mandates and to maximize inclusivity and access, each facet of a secular approach to yoga in schools is explored through an inquiry-based model meant to help the reader gain clarity and make informed choices when developing school-based yoga programming. This article does not address the use of nonsecular yoga for children outside the school setting. It instead speaks to the complexities of topics such as spirituality, personal transformation, secular ethics, and the use of cultural and historical artifacts within school programs. While inviting continued reflection on the nuances of the topic, the article concludes that given both the legal imperatives and potential risk of exclusion, failure to offer school-based yoga using a secular approach threatens to undermine the success of the field and hinder access to practices that have positive effects on young people.
*This article originally appeared in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, published by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Used with permission.
If this conversation is compelling to you, you may want to check out our webinar on the topic, led by Jennifer Cohen Harper with guest Catherine Cook-Cottone.
When new books to share mindfulness and yoga with teens are released, we typically await them eagerly, as this can be a hard population to reach and good resources are scarce.
Mariam Gates new offering, This Moment is Your Life (and so is This One), exceeds all of our expectations and provides teens and tweens with a powerful, yet simple and engaging, guide to bring mindfulness into their daily life.
The book is a joy to explore, with interesting exercises, beautiful illustrations, and a friendly tone that never feels patronizing. Mariam is clearly a supporter of the brilliance of young people. Her belief in their power and potential lives in every page.
This is a guide I wish I had had myself during my adolescent years, but I'm learning from and enjoying it now as an adult as well. I look forward to sharing it with our students and clients.
Don't just do something, be here.
The key to happiness is being able to find comfort in this moment, here and now. When you are completely present and not distracted by regrets, worries, and plans, even for a little while, you begin to feel more confident and can deal more easily with everything you experience. This is mindfulness: paying attention to this very moment, on purpose and without judgment--simply being present with curiosity.
This engaging guide, packed with simple exercises and endearing full-color artwork, provides a handy starting point for bringing mindfulness into your daily life. Chapters on meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing explain the benefits of these practices, and you are free to pick and choose what to try. There are quick exercises throughout, and a more extensive tool kit at the end of each chapter. The final chapter offers satisfying five-day challenges that map out ways to pull all of the book's mindfulness techniques together in your day-to-day life.
With the appeal of a workbook or guided journal, and full of examples relevant to tweens and teens today, this book will be your trusted companion as you begin the valuable, stress-relieving work of being still with skill.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR
Mariam Gates has a master's degree in education from Harvard University and has been teaching children for more than twenty years. The founder of Kid Power Yoga, she now devotes herself to training children and adults in yoga and mindfulness. She is the author of the picture books Meditate with Me, Good Night Yoga, and Good Morning Yoga. She lives with her husband, Rolf Gates, and their two children in Santa Cruz, California.
Libby VanderPloeg is an illustrator and designer living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan, on the edge of the Great Lakes, and since then, she has lived in Grand Rapids, Chicago, New York, and Stockholm. She's created book covers and editorial illustrations for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Design*Sponge, among others, and as well as a line of cards and prints that she sells via her Etsy shop and in stores.