A Different Kind of Walk Through The Forest
It is a gloomy Tuesday afternoon in Amagansett, New York, but as I walk into Mandala Yoga and Healing Arts Center, Heidi Humes’s beautiful smile is like the sun rising. A yoga teacher certified with the Guru of all Kids Yoga (as well as Shari Vilchez Blatt from Karma Kids Yoga in New York City), Heidi greets my daughter and I, welcoming us to the class.
Though I have been a yoga practitioner for the past 20 years, this is my first time I attending a kids’ yoga class. My husband is a psychotherapist specializing in children and adolescents, and from him I’ve learned a lot about the many healing benefits of yoga, especially when taught to kids at an early age. Yoga gives children a natural way to calm themselves from the overstimulation of their daily lives, and the practice has a proven impact in easing some psychological disorders and ADD/ADHD. Teaching kids a way to calm themselves and discover the inner connection between body, mind, and soul can lessen the need for pharmacological help.
“The highs and lows of yoga are an amazing energy release, and the utilization of talking, poses, and meditation are instrumental in helping children of all kinds to stay connected to themselves,” Heidi explains to me before class. “The earlier in life we humans can implement these ancient healing traditions, the healthier our life will be.”
The room is filled with giggles and noises as the children arrive. Heidi has laid out the green yoga mats in a circle, and the class starts with a gentle warm up. After the first ten minutes, it is amazing how much the children have calmed down.
Heidi introduces the journey for the day: they will go on a Nature Walk to discover the inhabitants of a wild forest. As Heidi begins her storytelling, there is a sudden awe and quietness in the room. Together they walk on the soft forest floors covered with moss, tiptoeing along. They approach a gigantic, old oak tree and form a circle holding hands to surround it. But the trunk is too big. So the kids transform into little trees– getting into tree position and practicing their balance.
Heidi continues the story and they pass by a snake. You can hear some hissing, as the snakes look for prey, and everybody drops into cobra pose. The kids transition through Chaturanga and into downward-facing dog as Heidi identifies a wild dog straying through the forest– the reason for the snakes’ earlier discomfort. The story and movements continue as they discover the forest, transforming their little bodies into wild pigs, pigeons, forest warriors, fairy babies, butterflies, wild cats, and cows.
I am amazed at how Heidi manages to keep the attention of this young group for 45 minutes, and how each of them relaxes peacefully at the end of the class in Savasana, enjoying a foot rub from Heidi as they listen to beautiful meditative sounds. She closes the class with a singing bowl harmony and each child is invited to share what he or she has been most grateful for on this day.
“This practice of self-discovery, of teaching children to care for themselves along with one another, to be mindful and grateful… it is just the biggest and best job on the planet!” Heidi explains to me after class.
Heidi Humes offers both private and group instruction, as well as yoga-themed parties for kids from NYC all the way to the east end of Long Island into the Hamptons. With her unique blend of nature-focused visualization and meditative yoga, she offers a welcome departure from the chaos of daily life– offering children an escape to their own private meditative oasis: a vision of nature itself.
For more information about children’s yoga and nature visualization, visit Mandala Yoga’s website.