In yoga, there is a set of ethical principles or guidelines called the Yamas and Niyamas. Yamas are things not to do, or restraints, while the niyamas are things to do, or observances Together, they provide ways in which we can build a better relationship with the ourselves and world around us too.
Let’s take a look at the second yama, Satya.
Satya simply means do not lie. We teach our young ones to tell the truth and not to lie. It’s also important to teach children that lying can hurt other people and can also hurt yourself. By age 7, we see that children understand accountability for lying. They can tell the difference between a story, truth or lie. Still, sometimes it can be hard for kids–especially if they do not want to tell the truth out of fear of getting in trouble and/or hurting others’ feelings.
That’s where ahmisa can help. Ahmisa, the first yama, means kindness and non-harming. Think about a time where you wanted to be honest to someone but it would hurt them. Referring back to ahmisa, ask yourself:
Is it true?
Is being non-harmful more important than being truthful?
Is it necessary to say?
By thinking to yourself “if I say this, is it kind and non-harming?”, we can make a conscious decision on what and how to communicate it.
We can also teach satya to children by having an open discussion about how to communicate truth in a deliberate and gentle way. Try asking children questions like:
What would you do if your friend asked for your opinion about something they like that you don’t like? Is it okay to lie in this case?
What would you do if your friend asked for your opinion about their new dress which you think is ugly? What do you tell them?
When you are in a disagreement with someone, how can you honestly express yourself without hurting the other person?
In a larger class or group setting, try our honesty activity below, which can be found in our lesson unit, Yamas and Niyamas for kids ages 7-11.
Be Honest with Ourselves
Start by breaking up children into pairs.
Have students sit back-to-back in easy pose (criss cross applesauce) and adjust themselves to sit firmly on the ground and lengthen their spine. They can both support each other while being supported. Make sure neither person feels they are being pushed or pulled. They can rest their hands in a comfortable position.
Counting to 4, children will take a deep breath in, then hold the breath in for two (2) counts, and slowly let out their breath for another count of four (4).
Repeat deep breathes at least three (3) times.
Prompt the students to notice how their breath feels with the support of their partner.
Once done with the breathing exercise, have them turn around and face each other. Ask the children to think of something that they are proud of about themselves; this could be a personality trait, an accomplishment, an activity/hobby they like doing, etc. It’s important that each child have a turn to talk and to listen.
Follow-up by asking children to think of something that they would like to work on, encouraging them to be honest with themselves about their strengths and weaknesses. Give them a few minutes to think of their responses. Then, suggest that the children share their ideas with their partner and brainstorm possible ways that they might work on their weaknesses.
What are some other ways we can teach honesty to children? For more information on how we can bring honesty and truthfulness to a child’s life, join us for a free webinar on Thursday, February 14th, 2019 at 4:00 PM EST.
Together, we’ll learn how to facilitate conversations as they relate to the second of the Yamas: Truthfulness in the context of a child’s life.