Yoga Syllabus for Joyful Attention

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Mary Oliver

The theme of this yoga practice is cultivating joy.  Joy is a feeling of great pleasure or happiness. The practice of yoga can help us cultivate joy by helping us be more attentive to ourselves.  The more attentive we are to our ourselves, the more we are able to notice what is around us.  If we happen to notice joy, we can salute it, enjoy it, and share it with others.

This syllabus is prepared for a yoga class for elementary age students and takes about 15 minutes.  The practice includes a reading of two poems by Mary Oliver.  The first is read while students practice the first pose, and the second one as they begin to settle into savasana which is a mindful rest at the end of the class.

During our practice notice when your mind drifts somewhere else.  Silently notice that you are thinking about something else, take a breath and then come back to the pose you are practicing.


  • Begin in an easy seated posture.
  • Calm Eyes:  Gently place the base of your palm over your eyes.  Rest the tips of your fingers on the top of your head. (Teacher reads aloud, The Summer Day by Mary Oliver.)
  • Cow Face:  Come to all fours.  Cross one leg in front of the other so your knees are in a line.  Move your feet out to the sides.  Sit back between your feet.  Your knees will be stacked on top of each other.  Clasp your feet.  Lift your chest.  Stay for eight long, deep breaths. Repeat the other side.  Come back to all fours.
  • Cat / Cow:   Press your palms and and all of your toes into the floor.  As you breath in, look up towards the ceiling.  As you breath out, look towards your navel. Repeat eight times.
  • Downward Dog:  From all fours, tuck your under the soles of your feet and press palms and toes into the floor. Slowly lift your hips away from your feet and palms. Stay for eight long, deep breaths.
  • Chair Pose:  From downward dog, hop or step forward so your legs are between your hands. Place your hands on your hips.  Bend your knees. Reach your arms towards your ears.  Stretch your hands up to the sky.  Relax your jaw.  Breath! Press your feet into the floor to come to standing.
  • Forward bend with interlocked hands:  From standing, bring your hands to your hips.  Bend knees slightly.  Fold torso over legs into a forward bend.  Interlace hands behind you and let your arms fall over your back.  As you breathe notice how your belly extends towards your thighs.  Stay for 8 breaths.
  • Bent knee Standing Twists: Unlace your hands and release your fingertips to the ground.   Soften one knee so one leg is bent and the other is straight.   Open your torso towards the straight leg and reach with your hand towards the sky above your straight leg.  Stay for 3 breaths.   Repeat the other side.  Come back to the first side.  Bend your knee and inhale and exhale.  On your next inhale reach to the sky towards your straight leg.  As you inhale come back to a forward bend, bend the straight leg, straighten the bent leg and exhale reaching to the new straight leg. Repeat each side 6 times.
  • High Lunge:  Place both fingertips on the floor. Step one foot back into a lunge.  Take a moment to balance here.  Place your hands on your hips,   inhale and lift arms straight up.  Relax your shoulders downward.  Bend forward so your fingertips both touch the floor.  Notice which knee is forward.  Step that knee back and bring the other knee forward. Repeat the other side.
  • Warrior 3 / Superhero Pose:  Come back to high lunge.  Tip your torso forward so it is parallel to the ground.  Shift your weight into your front leg and lift your back leg off the ground so it is parallel to the ground.  Extend your arms towards your ears and fingertips towards the wall in front of you as if you are flying like a superhero.  Come back to high lunge then bend forward so your fingertips both touch the floor.  Repeat the other side.
  • Squat:  From the last lunge in the prior pose, bring both feet near your fingertips.  Walk your fingertips away from your feet.  Slowly start to bend your knees apart.  Lower down into a squat.  Press your heels into the ground.  See if you can lift your fingertips off the floor and reach your arms by your ears up to the sky.  Sit back, then roll down to the floor.
  • Bridge pose:  Lay on the floor with bent knees.  See if your fingers can touch your heels.  Keep your knees together and press your heels into the floor. Lift your back off the floor and scrunch your shoulders together.  Reach your arms under your backside so that your hands meet and hold each other.  Press your heels into the ground, point your knees together and up towards the sky.   Stay here for eight long breaths.  Slowly let your hips descend to the floor.
  • Wheelbarrow:  Reach your arms over your head then roll your legs back over your head until your toes touch the floor.  Straighten your legs.  Then let them bend if they need to.  Stay here for eight long breaths.
  • Savasana:  From wheelbarrow, unroll so you are fulling reclined on the floor.  Relax your jaw.  Rest your arms by your sides. Let your palms turn up  towards the sky.   Teacher reads aloud Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver.  Let students rest for eight long breaths.
  • Coming out of Savasana.  Extend your legs.  Wiggle your toes and hands.  Roll over to one side.  Use your hands to press up into a seated position.  Breath.
  • Bring your palms together just at the base of your rib cage.  Bow.  Namaste.  The light in me bows to the light in you.

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