Why Kids (and Yoga Teachers) Love Poetry and the Power of Words – Part 1, by NGY Teacher Katy McSurdy

“Think of a poem as a flashlight, an instrument of discovery.” – Billy Collins

To me, poetry and yoga are one. Talking about asana, all you hear is symbolism and metaphors (Triangle pose, Goddess pose, Fish pose). Even the yoga cues in class can be metaphors. It’s unquestionable that they help us remember, understand, and embody the poses. Both disciplines can evoke wonder, enchantment, and self-discovery. And both can be healing and life-changing.

In teaching yoga, we can also use the power of words in affirmations, chanting, and visualizations. There are lessons in how we use words and what we say to kids.

A few of my favorite simple yet powerful affirmations are:

  • Lying down, hug your knees into a ball and say to your knees, “I love myself.”
  • Peace begins with me.
  • You’ll never talk to anybody more than the words you say to yourself. Make sure they are kind words.
  • You are enough.

I’ll never forget the yoga teacher who said, almost forcefully, “YOU. ARE. ENOUGH.” (Her name was Gina and she had awesome harem pants.) And it was the first time the phrase really landed for me. I didn’t brush it aside that time. 

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” -Mother Teresa
In class, I sometimes invite kids to write (ages 8-13) and I hope to one day offer a series of combined writing and yoga classes. Writing (whether a poem, free writing, or whatever) can help shape our experiences and gain understanding. Think of the changes that can come from a gratitude journal. Writing can be a form of therapy and of course, expression. However, taking into account the power in words and how harmful they can be, it’s important to serve writing along with kindness and self reflection, and that writing is ok to keep private too. In the age of (seeming) anonymity and the Internet, it’s important to talk about the power of words and the ways we can use them to create, to empower, and to come together as one. 
Check out some writing prompts, my favorite poems, and some good quotes for class on my Instagram @yoga_poets.  I’ll leave you with a poem on the power of words: 

Vocabulary of Dearness
by Naomi Shihab Nye

How a single word
may shimmer and rise
off the page, a wafer of
syllabic light, a bulb
of glowing meaning,
whatever the word,
try “tempestuous” or “suffer”
any word you have held
or traded so it lives a new life
the size of two worlds.
Say you carried it
up a hill and it helped you
move. Without this
the days would be thin sticks
thrown down in a clutter of leaves,
and where is the rake?

Katy McSurdy
Next Generation Yoga Teacher for 2-13 year olds
Blue Bell, PA

For position only.

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