This entry comes from Jessica McClintic, one of the founders of Imagination Yoga. Her story highlights some of the wonderful work Imagination Yoga is doing around kindness and the growth of positive community groups one child at a time. She reminds us that it is not just the physical practice that helps us grow our bodies and our minds.
Sometimes in Imagination Yoga class we like to mix things up a bit. I asked the kids to sit in a circle and I grabbed one of the rubber kick balls in the gym. I told them that we were going to play a game for the rest of the class, the game is called “The Kindness Ball”. One little boy said, “this is yoga class not a kindness class”(I love it when children open doors to amazing teachable opportunities). That let me help the children begin to learn that yoga is SO MUCH MORE than stretching your bodies. Exercising your body is important, but it is essential to give children a chance to practice what it feels like to intentionally be a kind person. So for the next several minutes we sat in a circle, the children rolled the ball to each other and then said something kind about that person. They said things like, “I like it when I get to play at your house” and “I like to do yoga next to you”. We talked about how good it felt to speak kindly to someone else and how good it felt to be spoken to that way.
It sounds so simple, but for some children it requires more practice. One of the children, Thomas*, found it incredibly hard even to roll the ball to another child, he said things like, “I’m not good at this, I’m not good at anything”, he finally just pushed it with his feet and said he couldn’t think of anything. I asked him to take his time and think; the room was silent, children sitting and waiting, wondering what he would say.
This is what the 10 year old said… “I have so much anger I don’t have room for kindness”.
I told him I was so proud of his brave words, “this is why we play this game, we must practice our kindness, let go of some of that anger to let the love and kindness that others show us shine in”. With that I gave him and the rest of the class a bit of “homework”, I asked them to take a bit of time during the week to think of something kind about each of the students in their yoga class.
The next week and the weeks that followed we spent time each class playing the “kindness ball”. Some of the things the children told each other were “Sitting by you at snack is fun”, “I like being your friend”, “You are really good at drawing”. The children bonded with one another, there were friendships sprouting. There is safety in knowing that someone thinks you’re awesome!
Each week I waited for Thomas, wondered how things would go. Each time I was so proud. Things got easier. At first it was just me he could be kind to. He told me he liked when I taught him yoga. Then he was able to tell another child in class he liked playing with him. By the end of the 6 weeks it wasn’t a big deal at all. All of the children, Thomas included, looked forward to sharing their kind hearts, kind words and kind thoughts. Even after I put the ball away and asked them to line up to go back to class the kindness kept coming, “Oh I have one more for you” Thomas told me on the very last class. “Thank you for helping me be kind”. I told him it was my pleasure.
I love my job.
We must practice our kindness and encourage the children in our lives to do the same. Say something nice about someone else, think a kind thought about yourself, take a kind action in your community – TODAY. Because as it turns out the more we practice kindness the space in our hearts for anger, hurt and sadness gets a little smaller, making more room for the love that abounds.
Jessica leans on her experience as a mother of two and Imagination Yoga Teacher Training to bring love, joy and movement into the lives of children. Jessica’s teaching style brings growth and awareness to not only the children’s bodies, but most importantly to their minds and self worth. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story!
*Names have been changed.