Kids ask the best questions.

How I answered my 7 year old student’s question, “What does Yoga mean?”

Returning to the enduring & transformative basics that have been around for thousands of years ~ thanks kid!

Among my many blessings is working one to one with children. I teach Parent & Child Mindfulness which includes a package of sessions, some are one to one with the child, some are one to one with the parent. When I started offering this, I had no idea how rewarding it would be to spend time with these kids. For starters, they ask killer questions…
 Recently a seven year old student of mine arrived for their second weekly session with me. Before the coat was even off they promptly and proudly announced they had written down a couple questions for me in their notebook. (They get little notebooks to draw in and take down notes.)
 “Oh! Excellent! I love questions!” I exclaimed….which is true. 
 I am a BIG believer it’s the questions one asks that reveal the true depth of thought and intelligence rather than the answers one grips….plus sharing questions with each other is probably the quickest way to build connections, not to mention create space for wonder…essential for creative thinking…
 Anyway…the first question written in the little notebook, 
 “What does the word yoga mean?”
 An opening to discuss theory and practice and sanskrit to a curious child asking very earnestly, locking eyes with me and ready to listen.
 First, I complimented my student on having an excellent question. 
 They wanted both a translation and a meaning.
 I started with the translation after a little explanation about Sanskrit being one of the oldest, if not the oldest languages in the world dating back to the 2nd millennium BCE. {kids like absurdly old dates!}
I explained, the word Yoga comes from the root “yuj” which has two traditional meanings…
 to unite, to bring two things together, to meet
 and second,
 to converge or focus the movement of the mind.
 It does not mean to stretch,
 it does not mean doing a handstand and posting it on instagram,
 it does not mean you have to totally get into all sorts of Eastern God & Goddess mythologies,
it does not mean you have to talk really slowly in a totally blissed-out way all the time,
it does not mean you must go to India to really get it, 
it doesn’t even mean you have to have some yoga pants or even a yoga mat…

One can do & have all that stuff, but they are sometimes a confusing distraction and most definitely not required…so what does it mean?
Yoga is coming home and feeling good & wise within ourselves.
{Kids totally get that!}
Yoga is growing our consciousness and experiencing our naturally occurring inner wisdom.
Yoga is lifting the veils of illusion and being fully present without fear.
Yoga is a path in which each & every foot print is relevant, purposeful, useful.
Yoga is coming home to ourselves…and in doing so feeling more connected to all that is within and around us.
Yoga is unity with ourselves and our world.
And none of this can happen without our choice.
And all of this can happen by our choice.
And all of this can happen at any moment…yoga is happening in the every-now.

As well…I love for kids to know this too {because the last thing they need is another competition}…Asana, the physical postures, are just ONE of the EIGHT limbs of yoga set out by ancient sage, Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras, {widely held to be the text on Yoga, dating back to sometime around 200 AD but often claimed to be much, much older} ~ a text that incidentally has ZERO illustrations of yoga poses, but rather presents all sorts of ways to overcome unhelpful thought patterns and refine how we use our attention & energy {monkey mind is not new people!}…
I can go on and on regarding this topic…
BUT for my seven year old student, the most important things for them to know:

  • Yoga means to feel centred ~ and this naturally puts us in touch with the wisdom within.
  • Yoga is intentional ~ ANY seven year old or seventy year old can do it — IF THEY CHOOSE.
  • Yoga is NOT performative, NOT competitive.
  • What is happening inside is the most important and THEY are the expert on that.

Kids totally get this…and actually….so do adults ;)
But in this case, I just wanted to celebrate a child’s direct inquiry, desire to understand, open ears and nodding head….
because it’s beautiful,
because it’s natural,
& because it’s yoga.

Meredith Gunderson lives and works in London teaching, speaking & writing on how & why we can use ancient practices & modern science to go within and find all we need there. For tips, insights & info on classes, courses and private sessions join her e-list: