Creating both movement and art comes naturally to us when we are young, so it's not surprising that children take naturally to yoga. This ancient discipline unifies the energy of the body and the mind and teaches you to trust your senses. By cultivating this power, you increase the amount of wisdom, confidence and happiness that radiates into the world.
My objective at the festival was to take a group of children on a creative and colorful journey to Yoga Mountain. Here we explored the kingdom of the natural world, the inspiration for yoga.
Thousands of years ago, people in India known as yogis lived close to the earth and had an intimate relationship with the world around them. They felt the dynamic strength of trees, the graceful flight of birds, and the swiftness in the movement of fish. The yogis developed poses, or positions, for their bodies based on nature. They found that practicing these poses helped unify the energy in their bodies and minds, leading to inner peace and wisdom. The word yoga comes from am ancient term meaning union.
Practicing yoga and mastering some of the more difficult poses requires you to be more aware of all the parts of your body. So our Yoga Mountain explorers made colorful decorative puppets with moveable joints. The puppet-making project helped children understand their bodies and created a greater sense of awareness and self.
Both art and yoga balance the active with the quiet. Bodies are moved into a yoga position, and then stay still for seconds or minutes. Artists imagine their work, and then move a brush or a pencil. The brain's right and left hemispheres quite literally start to come into equal use. With this balance in the brain, you can develop imagination and critical thinking skills.
In a culture that encourages fast action and constant movement, both art and yoga help you to relax, slow down, and uncover the wisdom of your intuition. Intuition is the ability to sense or know something is correct or true. In slowing down you become more focused, develop greater mental and physical flexibility, and have more energy.
All movement everywhere - the movement within the atom, the movement of thought - is caused by cosmic energy known as prana. Electricity is prana, and so is your breath. The rush of energy from breath, or prana, is felt as an awakening of the cells of our being. Breathing creates movement that helps you to be more at peace and healthier. Yoga teaches you to be more aware of your breath.
The festival was an amazing opportunity to nurture the important values of yoga, the yamas (how to treat others) and the niyamas (how to treat yourself). These values deepen your sense of self-respect, as well as your ability to respect and appreciate other viewpoints and different cultures and traditions.
One of the great aims of education is to make it possible to be engaged in the process of creating ourselves, or as one might say, coming into yoga (union). Not everyone spoke the same verbal language at the festival, but we were able to communicate beautifully through the language of art and yoga, opening us to all the possibilities of a greater unity (yoga) throughout the world.
WENDY COHEN is a Baltimore artist who has been practicing raja yoga and hatha yoga since 1977.