Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yoga Stones

At the end of each class while the children are in Savasana, I come around with scented lotion for their hands if they want it. Before moving to the next child, I touch the center of the his or her forehead - the 3rd eye. I remember the first time this was done to me in my very first yoga class 8 years ago. I wondered why my teacher did that...was there something on my forehead? No clue. She continued to do this at the end of every class I attended and I accepted it as an endearing touch...a little hug of sorts. Through my years of yoga studies, I found that it had a deeper meaning.
This spot in the center of the forehead has been known as the 3rd Eye for centuries. It has also been called the "Inner Eye", the "Mind's Eye", the "All Knowing Eye", the "Higher Consciousness". In some Eastern and Western traditions, it symbolizes "enlightenment". In scientific terms, it is known as the Pineal Gland - the pea-sized spot between the two hemispheres of the brain. This gland is activated by light and releases melatonin during relaxation or meditation. When we deeply relax in a meditative state, we strive to become separate from all external hindrances. We block out all noise and all thoughts. We aim to stay in the present, focusing on breath. When our third eye is touched by our teachers, we are encouraged to go deeper into our consciousness - focusing on that which brings us light - the present.
Through research, we have found that this gland is larger in children and shrinks over time. There is no better time to start bringing attention to the 3rd eye in my young students then now! When deciding how to do so, I decided story-telling and guided visualization would be the best route.
I picked up the book Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. I chuckled the whole way through it as the main character gives you the 10 rules to picking a rock..."and not just any rock, but a special rock that you find yourself and keep it for as long as your can, maybe forever." As I read, the kids were amused by the rules, like "A rock as big as an apple is too big...a rock as big as a horse is MUCH too big." And as an illustrator myself, I must point out how Peter Parnall's line drawn illustrations in this book remind us that simpler can be better. These days when children are often taught bigger, better, louder...this book shows us, really, it's the little things that matter most.
After the story, I had the kids prepare themselves for Savasana and (with some inspiration from The Pranamama) took the children on a visual journey to find their own rock, or Yoga Stone, and ultimately bring attention to their 3rd Eye:

"Lay back and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Close your eyes and place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Feel your belly rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. As you slow your breathing down, feel your heart slow down. This is your time to relax…your reward for all the hard work you’ve done. Imagine yourself feeling more peaceful then you’ve ever felt before. Take a deep inhale and then exhale the word “peace”. Use your Peace Breath and imagine yourself walking through a field of the softest green grass you have ever seen under the bluest sky you have ever seen. The sun is shining down warming your shoulders and somehow you know this is your special place – a place no one else knows about.

You walk a little further and spot a tree. You decide to take a rest in the cool shade of the tree. Lay back on the ground and let the earth support you from head to toe. It is SO peaceful here. As you settle in for Savasana, you reach your hand over to the right. You feel something on the ground and pick it up. It’s a stone. You look at it closely feeling the smooth edges, feeling how it sits in the palm of your hand. You can tell it’s been shaped by the wind in the meadow and your hands are the first to have ever held this stone. Some may think – it’s just a stone. But it’s not just any stone, it’s a special stone – a Yoga Stone. What makes it so special? What makes it a Yoga Stone? You think about this and place the stone on your forehead – right in the center. Yogis say this is where your 3rd eye is – our internal eye – the eye that sees what’s going on in our heads. It’s also known as our conscious. Placing the yoga stone on our 3rd eye brings us awareness, allowing you to quiet your mind, allowing you to find complete peace and comfort. You are able to relax your entire body here under the tree with your yoga stone…inhaling and exhaling. And now that you’ve found this field, you know you can return here anytime you want or need to with your Yoga Stone to find peace and relaxation.

When you’re ready to go, you take your Yoga Stone in your hand. You hold it tightly and start to stretch. Arms over head, then hugging your knees into your chest. Slowly sitting up , take your Yoga Stone between both hands at heart’s center. Take good care of your Yoga Stone. Keep it in a safe spot. Sit up tall and take a deep breath in for the sound of Om."

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