Own Your Tree by NGY Teacher, Joanie Layden

Own your tree. Own it. Make Yoga yours. This principle of Yoga is deeply embedded in the Next Generation Yoga philosophy. When realized, it’s a life-changing concept: one that can be applied within Yoga practice and in the world outside of Yoga.

“A tween evolved.” That statement in and of itself is amazing! Watching it happen, knowing that a fundamental of Yoga was a driving force behind it, AND that I had a hand in prompting this enlightenment in a young girl is so powerful and inspiring to me. It, alone, is reason enough to practice and to share the practice of Yoga with kids.

Eleanor*, a ten-year-old girl, entered class with an attitude that can only be named as “indifferent”. She half-heartedly held her poses and shared only single word answers during our first few weeks of mat chats. She never caused a raucous and always left class with a thank you.

During our fourth NGY session together, we were chatting as a group about “things that we don’t like or make us uncomfortable.” Answers varied from peas to when grown-ups make us do stuff. Eleanor started to open up about how her day is filled with teachers telling her the proper way to complete an assignment so much so that it leaves little room for creativity. She follows a structure at soccer practice finishes her drills just as she was instructed but lacked time to test out skills she had been working on at home. At home, her parents had rules – not just rules – but certain ways they prefer she polish off her chores. Eleanor was certainly not alone in this sentiment. Many of the girls expressed their feelings of confinement, lack of freedom, the need to be like others and how that all leads to losing ownership of their lives.

Shortly after this talk, where I mostly just listened, we entered into Tree pose. We sampled some different variations of Tree … foot on ankle, foot on calf, foot on thigh, arms up, arms out, arms holding onto a wall. I said, make your tree your own. Whatever variation of tree works for your body today, do it and own it, it’s your tree. I invited the ownership and watched the invitation silently be accepted as Eleanor owned her tree: free of worry of the rules of tree, free of comparing her tree to others, open to her individualism. Her tree wobbled and morphed has she played around. It was awesome.

Eleanor started sharing more in class. She started experimenting more. She stopped looking around at others. She took chances – with victories and defeats. She learned that ever day our bodies are different. She owned her tree and owned her Yoga.

I can only hope that Eleanor’s Tree of Life is as free and open as her Tree of Yoga.

*names have been changed

Joanie Layden
Next Generation Yoga Teacher

Yardley, PA

Helping people move, feel and breathe better has become a major focus of Joanie Layden’s life. As a certified classical Pilates teacher and former elementary school teacher, she put her two passions together with her Next Generation Yoga training for ages 2-13.  Teaching at various studios, schools, and local events has brought Joanie much joy.  The joy created by teaching NGY classes boomerangs from her students and their families right back to Joanie and her own family.  In attempting to help children feel balance, confidence and inner peace those attributes have bettered her life as well. She is eager to continue to spread the contagious joy that NGY brings.

  1. Wendy spampinato 3 years ago

    This is amazing. Such lucky young people, i hope many take advantage of this great opportunity to express themselves .

  2. wendy johnson 3 years ago

    Thanks for this story. I am teaching yoga with my students – I teach health and physical education to Pre- K through 6th grade. Your story gave me inspiration. thank you.

  3. alenna mcdonald 2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your heart and your Yoga passion with your students…may your yoga journey continue to bring you joy!

  4. Cindy 2 years ago

    Amazing story and I’m so glad I took the time to read it. Wow. I’m just beginning my journey teaching kids yoga and THIS is why I am. We can all make a difference in this world one child and one village at a time. Together we can pass the values of yoga to those who so desperately are searching and hoping for something to heal themselves. Our cookie cutter lifestyle is in need of creativity and flow. Namaste.

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