People practice yoga for many reasons. They want to get flexible and fit, they want to lose weight, they want to cope with life better, they want to relax, or they may want to be spiritually enlightened, and yoga can give you all of this and more.
So, Yoga is not a goal on its own, it is a tool. A tool to get whatever you want. And for me, Yoga is also a tool for nothing less than WORLD PEACE.
When I first joined as a monk at the Yoga Ashram in 1994, an inspiring lady from the USA came to stay for a few days on her way to Jordan. We had a few deep and meaningful conversations and I found out that she has just become the private Yoga teacher of King Hussein and the Royal Family.
A few months later King Hussein’s attitude toward the Middle East conflicts changed and in a surprising move, he made peace with Israel.
Yoga is a powerful tool, even a tool for world peace.
After leaving the Ashram in 2004, I started developing our unique style of Yoga called Rainbow Yoga. The idea behind Rainbow Yoga was to bring people together through yoga.
I found the more “traditional” yoga to be isolating with its focus on the individual and its philosophy of negating the world. So my new Yoga was a rebellion against what I found constricting within that old yoga world.
Many of us feel hopeless about the state of the world, fearful for our future. But what if you did one thing? What if I did one thing? What if we all, every one of us who is able, did one thing that is kinder?
How do we save the world?
The answer is surprisingly simple: EDUCATION.
Yoga is a fantastic tool to teach people about the world, nature, animals, themselves, their mind, their emotions, their bodies and many life lessons such as kindness, friendship, resilience, confidence, equality, self-expression and many more. And that, EDUCATION, is the key to social evolution and positive change in the world!
If we teach our children to hate they will hate. If we teach them about kindness, equality and peace (even inner peace like King Hussain experienced), this is what they will emanate to the world.
The ripple effect is real; change one person at a time and eventually you will change the whole world.
You can’t actually change the whole world right away… The process is always done one person at a time. If you want to change a polyester cloth into a cotton one, you will have to take out one polyester thread at a time and thread in instead of each, one at a time, a cotton thread.
Yes, it takes time and effort, but open your eyes and you’ll see that the change is already here.
Coming from Israel, I’ve been in a few wars. There is no good side and bad side in wars… Everyone is bad.
There are also no winners or losers… Everybody losses.
The people never want war. It is bad for our families, it is bad for our business… Wars is corporations and politics, but people get sucked into it despite of themselves and they are the ones who get hurt.
The change will not come from up there. This is grassroots activism with the change coming from us, from the children.
We need people that have enough inner strength, enough inner peace, to be able to stand firm and say “we are not going to be a part of this conflict. We are going to be the solution.”
The world needs you, children and families need you. More than ever the world is, and children in particular, are in strife with physical, mental health and social issues and yoga can help... You can help!
Let’s be the change we want to see in the world and bring peace and love to it from the inside out.
It may never have occurred to you when you were kind to someone who was different or when you took time out so that you wouldn't hit your brother or sister that you were working for world peace.
But guess what? That's just what you were doing. Because every time we make a choice that creates more peace in our own life we are practising a way of being, a way of doing that can stick with us our whole life long and have huge consequences, for ourselves, for our families, and for many others who touch our lives.
Perhaps no one can say where the little choices we make in our lives will lead, nor what big choices we may have to make later in our lives.
But one thing for sure, the people you see or hear about who do things that really hurt people (sometimes large numbers of people) almost certainly did not get enough practice making peaceful choices before their lives took them to the moment where they began doing serious harm to themselves and to others.
If they had been practising the art of choosing peace long before that moment, then they would have known the right thing to do when the time came.
So now is the time to begin asking yourself, "What can I do to create more peace, in my own life... and in the world?"
- For War & Peace: T-Shirt for each student, Duct Tape, Water Balloons (LOADS of them), Fabric Colour… And a few towels
- For Peace Prayer Flags: Squares of Cloth (different colours), Sawing Needels & Thread, Thick String (Rainbow Colour is best, but not from Animal Products), Cloth Sharpies or Permanent Markers
Let’s Talk Peace
Start by defining the word “peace” with our students. You can ask children what they think it means; their answers will probably be very enlightening.
They are often surprised to realize that peace can be found in many places. It doesn’t just refer to “world peace”. They can have a hand in creating a peaceful environment wherever they are.
Peace may look a little different to everyone. To me, it doesn’t mean the absence of conflict. That would be an idealized world in which none of us live. Rather, it’s learning how to deal with conflict in a way that doesn’t put the rights, wants, or needs of one person over the other. It’s learning conflict resolution skills that stress respect for the individual and the group.
Go ahead now and declare your classroom a “peace zone”. Do not tolerate any kind of bullying. Lay down ground rules together of what it means to live in peace with each other. Have all the children agree to the ground rules (even signing the list of rules) and hold them accountable.
Practising simple acts of generosity can make you happy, root you in your community, and inspire creativity. Best of all, money isn’t required. Some of the most altruistic acts - offering a kind word or helping hand - involve only time and an open heart. Engaging in random acts of kindness can set off a chain reaction in which others pay forward the generosity you’ve shown and shared with them.
Decide with your group that whenever throughout the class ANYONE (teacher or student) calls out “altruism”, everyone needs to stop and go and help someone or do something nice to someone… This is how peace grows, one little random act of kindness at a time.
1 Minute at a time… Throughout the class.
Inhale, lifting your arms up, and then exhale, bringing your arms to your sides, saying a very long “peace…” You can even try to practice breathing peace in different languages:
- Shalom (Hebrew)
- Salaam (Arabic)
- Shanti (Hindi)
- Mir (Russian)
- Pache (Italian)
- Aloha (Hawaiian)
War & Peace
This is optional of course… Because it is messy… Best to step outside for this part.
Note: Be sure to let the students know the week before this lesson that they will need to bring a change of clothes and a white shirt!
Explain to students that they are going to experience ‘Peace’ and ‘War’, beginning with ‘Peace.’
The challenge is to create a peace sign on their t-shirt using masking tape.
Once they have their peace signs on their t-shirts, now begins the ‘War’ part.
Everyone is against everyone...
Have the water balloons with different colours in them.
When you say ‘war’, they begin throwing the water balloons at one another until all of the balloons are gone.
In the end, they should have a really cool ‘tie-dyed t-shirt’.
They will need to let the t-shirts dry and then take off the masking tape to reveal a cool peace sign t-shirt.
Peace Sign Yoga
Peace symbols and icons in yoga poses…
Peace symbols are universal glyphs and images - peace icons - made easily recognizable through the antiwar movement or pop culture. Many different symbols for ending conflict are recognized around the world. The most familiar universal icons are a dove, an olive branch, a broken weapon and the graphic used originally by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (the round peace symbol).
Although more than 40 years have passed since the 1969 march on Washington, DC, the peace symbol remains a popular icon in world cultures. The round graphic and the fingers displayed in a "V" shape have the same meaning no matter what the language.
Let’s all have a turn leading everyone into a yoga pose (or 3… depending on the size of your group) holding the “V” peace sign in our hands, making a peace declaration in each that we invent on the spot or inspired by our discussion from the beginning of the class:
- May peace prevail on earth
- May all conflicts end
- Inner peace for world peace
- If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there would be peace (John Lenon)
Partner Pose Peace
This is a yogafied version of the classic card game War.
Divide into pairs, and simply pass out yoga posture cards to the two players.
They each flip over their card at the same time. Each player is responsible for performing their own pose and also somehow linking it with their partner’s pose. For example, if the partners’ cards were downward dog and fish, they’d have to create some sort of partner pose connecting the two.
Peace Prayer Flags
Tibetan prayer flags are used to promote harmony, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetans believe the flags help send prayers and mantras blown by the wind to spread goodwill and compassion to all.
So today we are going to create our own prayer flags each decorating one flag (or a few if you have time) with peace symbols and peace declarations.
Each of the students will receive a colourful square of cloth and colourful texters to share with everyone. When you finish your Peace Prayer Flag, you will receive a needle and thread and you can come and stitch your prayer flag into our rainbow thread of combined set of peaceful intentions and prayers.
Do it all in silence and in a very ceremonial and intentional way.
Hang it in the classroom as a reminder of our peace declaration and commitment to ourselves, our community and the world.
Imagine ... Peace
All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono campaigned for peace and human rights using art as the medium to communicate their message. John's lyrics (poetry) often included peace messages:
Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try
No people below us, above it's only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do
No need to kill or die for and no religions, too
Imagine all the people living life in peace ...
Imagine was recorded and performed live numerous times, as was another famous Lennon anti-war song, Give Peace a Chance.
See if you can sing this together, or listen to the track with your eyes closed imagining a world full of peace.
Closing the Senses
Now it is time to bring it all within and go deep to mine inner peace.
Sit up tall (most children find it most comfortable to sit with their knees tucked to their chest because they can then rest their elbows on their knees) or lie down on your back and cover your sense organs with your fingers in the following way:
Place your thumbs in your ears so that you won’t be able to hear anything, place your index fingers gently on your eyelids, place the middle fingers on your nose, the next set of fingers above your lips, and your little fingers under your lips.
If all of this is too complicated, just stick your thumbs inside your ears and listen to the wave-like sounds that your breath makes.
Keep your elbows down and shoulders relaxed. Start breathing deeply, deep enough so that you’ll hear your breath very loudly inside your head. After about ten deep breaths, gradually make your breath so quiet and unnoticeable that you don't hear it anymore.
Now, start listening to sounds by your right ear, and as you listen, bring your attention to subtler and subtler sounds. Sounds that are hiding under the sounds that you already hear… go deeper and deeper within in this way.
Stay here for another few minutes before releasing your hands. When done, keep your eyes closed and enjoy the effect of this wonderful exercise for a few more gentle breaths.
Loving Kindness Meditation
And one last time, if you still have the energy for it, we will let our inner peace ripple farther and farther away from our centre until it encompasses the whole world and even the universe.
Lie down or sit tall and close your eyes. Start breathing deeply and this time direct your breath into your heart. Feel your heart softening and expanding with each breath.
We are going to think about different people, giving each a minute or two…
First, think about yourself and see yourself in your heart. See yourself as happy as can be, all your dreams coming true and enjoying life to the fullest. Now start repeating, silently in your heart, this Mantra:
“May I enjoy peace & happiness”
Continue repeating this sentence while you see yourself full of joy and peace.
Now think about the person you love most in the world. Your Mum or Dad or your boyfriend or girlfriend. Start repeating this Mantra:
“May my beloved (say their name in your heart) enjoy peace & happiness”
Keep repeating this while you see your beloved in your heart all fulfilled and absolutely happy.
We’ll shift our attention now to our best friend. Someone you can tell anything to. Sometimes we fight a bit, but we always make up. We are best friends. See them in your heart jumping for joy while you repeat the Mantra:
“May my best friend (say their name in your heart) enjoy peace & happiness”
Now we are going to expand our hearts and make them a bit bigger than usual. Think about a stranger, someone you don’t even know their name. It can be the cashier at the grocery shop, the bus driver, the street cleaner… Everyone wants to be happy!
Wish them all the happiness you wish for yourself and even more while you repeat again and again:
“May the stranger (street cleaner for example) enjoy peace & happiness”
We have arrived at the hardest part of this meditation. We are going to try and break the walls we have constructed around our hearts… Think about the most annoying person in the world. Someone that really gets on your nerves, maybe you even hate them. Start repeating this Mantra:
“May the most annoying person (say their name in your heart) enjoy peace & happiness”
This is not to say that anyone has any right to hurt you or do you harm in any way. This is more for you to come to terms within yourself and heal and let your heart rest again.
Anyway, if that annoying person was happy, they probably wouldn't be so annoying. So what do we have to lose? Wish them happiness too and see them happy in your heart. There is nothing stronger than love, send them love, defeat them with love.
In the last part of this practice, we are going to think about all of those people together: ourselves, our beloved, our best friend, the stranger and the most annoying person. All together, while we repeat:
“May we all enjoy peace & happiness TOGETHER”
Yes, we need to do it together.
We are all interconnected and interdependent.
We depend on each other for our peace & happiness.
If one of us is miserable it will pull us all down. And if one of us is happy, it will uplift us all. Being happy is the most selfless act you can take. So go ahead, let yourself shine for yourself and for others!
Love is limitless, and so is peace & happiness. There can always be more of it. It is infinite. So let your heart become bigger and bigger… Keep expanding while you wish happiness farther and farther into the universe!
“May my family enjoy peace & happiness”
“May all the people in my neighbourhood enjoy peace & happiness”
“May all the people in my city enjoy peace & happiness”
“May all the people in my state enjoy peace & happiness”
“May all the people in my country enjoy peace & happiness”
“May all the people in the world enjoy peace & happiness”
“May all beings in the universe peace & happiness”
Now stay with this expanded feeling for another minute or so and enjoy it.