Sharing Astaunga Yoga with 3-5 Year Olds

Notes from a presentation given by
Mahajyoti Glassman at the NHE 
Diploma Programme Seminar in 
Sangklaburi Thailand
What is Astaunga Yoga?A 7,000 year old ancient science called Tantra Yoga
Concerned with the progressive evolution of the body-mind
A system of physical and mental exercises
A scientific philosophy
Practices are geared toward synchronizing the body and mindWhat is the goal?
To merge our individual identity with our Cosmic Identity
To become the ideal spiritualized human being

The 8 Paths of Astaunga Yoga

1. Yama 
2. Niyama 

The 10 yogic commitments or promises
The moral foundation
Socio-emotional Developmental Support

How do they benefit the students individually?

Provide a framework for cooperative living
Reduce stress, frustration, and confusion
Help students to be “good friends”
Supports children in caring for and helping others & the world
Enhance sense of safety and comfort
Come into every sphere of their experiences

How does the teacher implement them?
Teacher understanding is crucial
Guides every thought, every word, and every action of the teacher
The teacher is the example of these ideals
Looks for and presents opportunities to support the child’s understanding of these ideals
Constant Yama and Niyama awareness/sadhana

What affect does it have on the class?
Supports positive student behavior and attitude
Creates a small microcosm of what the world could be like
Establishes harmony in the classroom
Building the ideal mini-society promoting safety and compassion

How is it presented?

Stories, discussions, songs, dramatizations, art, problem solving experiences

3. Asana 

Physical exercises that bring balance to all systems of the body
Enhance the ability to engage in meditation

How do they benefit the students?

Heart & Circulation
Provide physical activity that strengthens the heart & circulatory system

Elimination and Digestion
Supports young children who are toilet learning and may have problems with elimination and digestion problems

Nervous System
Maintains a calm nervous system for a calm mind
Can temporarily minimize hyperactivity, physical and mental

Guides proper respiration
Lung and respiratory development continues until the age of 8

Skeletal and Muscular Systems
Strengthens and supports the development of the spine, muscles, joints
Some young children have low muscle tone
There is a need for physical practice stretching and toning muscles, flexibility

Reduces problems with the skin

Assists in balancing the hormonal functioning of the endocrine glands
Hormonal imbalances cause many social/psychological problems
If overactive, criminal tendencies and immoral behaviours develop
Excessive frustration, sadness, despair, depression and other emotional difficulties are caused by hormonal imbalances
Specific hormones induce anger, happiness
Pressure to these organs encourages proper hormonal secretions
Having fun and laughter also releases endorphins, positive hormones
The immune system is strengthened
Enhances the proper development of the reproductive system

The Brain
Regular asana practice balances the brain and the mental processes
The 5 year old brain is 90% of its adult weight
Hyperactivity, aggressive & destructive behaviours, emotional disturbances are temporarily minimized
Asana exercise is brain exercise
Organizes and stimulates the entire brain
Prepares students for classroom learning

Non-competitiveness increases self-confidence & self-esteem
Increases perseverance, determination and motivation
Supports positive student behaviour and attitudeHow is it presented?
Playful and fun movement exercises.4. PranayamaWhat is it?
Simple breathing and breath awarenessHow does it benefit the students?
Breathing techniques directly affect the brain and emotions
Efficient respiration is key to overall good health
Proper breathing promotes strong mental wellness
Can improve emotional stability: fear, self-doubt, anxiety
More and more children experience chronic stress
Deep breath can enhance the activity between kosasWhat causes stress?
Hectic lifestyle, family hardship
Thoughts and feelings of anxiety, fear
Causes the breath to become shallow
The leading cause of diseaseHow is it presented?
Simple breath awareness exercises, asana practice5. PratyaharaWhat is it?
Withdrawing the awareness, the senses from the external environment
Mental relaxation with alertness

How does it benefit the students?

Reduces stress of daily living
Clears the mind
Supports the “inner connection”: We are more than our bodies
Enhances the ability to “detach” and “witness”, internal awareness
Directs awareness towards the Inner Source, Supreme
Guided imagery can increase concentration and attentionHow is it presented?
Deep relaxation (seated or lying down)
Simple games6. DharanaWhat is it?
Holding the mind firmly on a point or region of the body
Focusing the mental energy creatively

How does it benefit the students?
Stimulates upper kosas
Visualization helps to develop attention and concentration
Stimulates creative abilities and intuition
Mantra and visualization can improve imagination, creativity, memory encoding, storage and retrieval problems

How is it presented?
Deep relaxation (seated or lying down)
Simple games

7. Dhyana

What is it?
Deep uninterrupted concentration
Unbroken flow of mind towards the Supreme

How does it benefit the students?

Builds the connection between the Creation and our Inner Nature
Supports the harmonious unfolding of all layers of the body-mind

How is it presented? 
Absolute stillness in meditation

8. Samadhi

What is it?
The complete merging of the Individual Identity with the Supreme Identity
The ultimate goal of all yoga practices

How does it benefit the students?
Enables the student to achieve their fullest potential in life
It is the ultimate destination of all living beings.

Astaunga Yoga Summary

Yoga practices can:
Maximize the fullest potential of the brain and all body systems
Minimize personal challenges, complexes, samskaras
Release hormones contributing to emotional well being & balance
Boost physical & mental fitness in all layers of the body-mind
Assist in the expansion of mental functioning
Provide fun, laughter, playfulness and a close teacher-student relationship that heightens learning & development
Guide children towards living a happy and harmonious life by providing practices that bring harmony and a framework for exploring the world with gentleness, empathy, and understanding.