Freedom is our birthright. It is so natural to us that many times we take it for granted. We are shocked when we hear about oppression, or about people who have many less choices than us Westerners.
We want freedom, because freedom is happiness. When we feel limited we experience suffering, and when we are free we discover happiness. Freedom, or moksha, is the goal of yoga.
As a yoga teacher of adults and children, I have found that both yogis and kids struggle to find their way to freedom. The struggle comes not only from their lack of knowledge, or from being confused about what they really want or need, but mainly from being guided in a non-encouraging way.
In a preschool where I taught for a few years, there was a little girl named Daniela. Secretly, Daniela was my favorite student. She always sat right beside me in class, but she never did what I instructed everyone to do. If I guided all of the kids to do one pose, she would do something totally different that she’d invent on the spot. I added many of her new yoga poses to my repertoire.
The other kids in Daniela’s class never complained about her doing what she wanted; they understood that she had a special job in their society, to be the creative person. Sometimes the preschool teacher was present and would shout at Daniela for not following my instructions and Daniela would always respond by crying. Is it our job as teachers to suppress creativity?
Adults experience freedom by making choices every day. Being independent is something we work very hard for, yet we still take freedom for granted. As a result, we don’t even see how constrained the freedom is that we give to children, or yoga students. In yoga classes and the education system, following instruction and doing what you are told is much more appreciated than independent thinking and creativity.
You’ll notice that the most shining people in our society, whether yogis or not, were not followers. They were rebels, independent thinkers; different, daring and maybe even considered a bit crazy. We are all unique, we all have something new to give to this world, and we all have this ability to shine.
Teaching yoga to kids and families, I see it as my duty to rebel against this system that will inevitably inhibit creativity and independent thinking. There is no doubt that as a teacher, or a parent, it is very efficient to have kids or students who always do what you tell them to do without arguing, or who do not talk unless they are asked or permitted to. But will it serve the real purpose of education, or will it just provide a comfortable space for us adults to do our jobs?
Is it the job of educators to create citizens who will continue life like it is now, or people who will have free and fertile minds that help us grow as a civilisation? The purpose of education is to give us the tools to live a good and happy life, a life of freedom, a life that will support and enhance our society.
Shall we let go of our egos that expect everyone to do what we say, and be catalysts in creating a world that moves forward and reinvents itself? Will you join me in bringing more freedom to this reality of rules and limitations? Please say YES!
Feel Your Freedom
4 ways to spark creativity and explore freedom with others
Create: Pair up with a partner and face each other. Put on some funky music to inspire you. While the first song plays, create a unique flow of 5-7 yoga poses that your partner imitates as you move. Repeat the sequence until the song is finished, and then let your partner lead a yoga flow for the duration of a song.
Innovate: Find three new ways to do a pose with a partner. As this is a partner pose exercise, you will need to be connected in some way.
Connect: With a partner, create a yoga sequence that keeps you connected to each other via a prop. You can use props such as scarves, sticks, hula hoops, a parachute or an elastic band.
Imagine: Gather some kids and adults together and create a group yoga monster, yoga flower or yoga spaceship and name it. It can be a single pose or a pose that moves and transforms.
Gopala Amir Yaffe is co-founder of Rainbow Kids Yoga and trains teachers internationally. He lives in the Huon Valley, Tasmania, with his wife Angel and their three (almost four) children. Visit www.rainbowkidsyoga.net.