A local author mixes yoga and art into stories to help children with conflict resolution.
As a counselor and dance therapist, Sharon Mond knows that talk therapy isn’t the only way to help children express their emotions and resolve conflicts.
With her new book, “Yoga Stories for Kids: A Path to Resilience and Growth” (Mind Mend Publishing), Mond, who is also a yoga instructor, uses her own homespun, child-friendly stories — as well as art and yoga postures — to teach children coping techniques, social skills and values such as kindness, honesty and empathy.
Mond — who worked for 20 years as a dance/movement therapist in the Baltimore County Public Schools system — said the book was inspired by her work with students with severe behavioral, emotional and developmental disorders.
“I wanted to find another way to relate to the students that was not so direct,” she said.
She said she believes the themes explored in her stories about conflict resolution, anxiety, anger management, loss and low self-esteem are “developmentally universal. Any child, parent, grandparent or teacher can benefit from the book.”
In her review for the book, Owings Mills educator Ellen Agronin wrote, “These stories … cut to the essence of what we all experience. They reflect Sharon’s deep insight into the challenges of her students and her gentle way of instructing them.”
Divided into three sections, the 136-page “Yoga Stories for Kids” begins with simple instructions and illustrations that show children demonstrating 25 yoga poses. Many of the poses are named after animals— downward dog, cat/cow, rabbits — that students will meet in the stories. Following the yoga poses are six stories geared toward students in kindergarten through second grade, and nine stories for students in grades three through five. Each story presents a dilemma with which the characters must grapple and recommends healthy options for solving the story’s conflict.
An Owings Mills resident who belongs to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Mond, 63, says she used puppets in her classes to tell the yoga stories to her younger students, encouraging them to move into yoga poses as they listened to her read aloud.
Following the yoga and storytelling, Mond gave her students the opportunity to use the puppets to retell the stories in their own words. Then, they were asked to draw pictures relating to the story they heard.
After sharing their pictures with the class, Mond and her students discussed the stories using the questions provided at the end of the stories, which “are designed to bring out the message of the story,” she said.
The stories for the older children include animals as well as children and adults. Though Mond didn’t use puppets with the older group, she had them practice yoga poses while she read the story, and followed up the storytelling and yoga with discussion questions “to help them discover the lessons embedded in the story.”
The older students were given mandala pages to color, or could opt to create their own drawings. While the children colored, Mond said she “walked around the room so that I could be available to talk to them individually if they wanted that.”
Drawing was a good vehicle for encouraging children to discuss the challenging issues portrayed in the stories, said Mond. “Without eye contact, it was easier for the children to talk,” she said.
Mond found that the techniques described in her book were highly successful in engaging her students.
“As a dance therapist, I’m trained to understand nonverbal communication,” she said. “I could see in their bodies, their attention, their eye contact, that they were right with me. The children loved it. They would stop me in the hall to ask me about the stories and the characters. It was so gratifying that they were thinking about the story outside of class.”