Kumar Kumari Yantra Yoga for Children

“The Garland of Lotus Flowers”  

A session of Kumar Kumari yoga in the Gönpa at Merigar

Today, on a visit to a public school in Rome or to one of the small schools in Toscana’s Monte Amiata area, you may be pleasantly surprised to find  a lesson of Kumar Kumari (Sanskrit words for ‘boys and girls’) Yoga being offered to children during their school day.

At the home of the international Dzogchen Community in Tenerife, there are weekly classes for children and a creative summer camp with daily children’s yoga. At Merigar, the main place of the Dzogchen Community in Italy, the spring months have seen children and teachers on school field trips visiting the Gönpa – the Temple of the Great Contemplation –  and taking part in Kumar Kumari yoga sessions.

The practice of this precious form of children’s yoga has come a long way since it was first taught by Laura Evangelisti in a small primary school close to Merigar in the early 1990s.

Over the years Kumar Kumari Yoga has expanded, with lessons in schools in Tuscan towns, in Naples and Rome, and teachers from all over the world being trained. 

But more of these developments later.  Now it’s time to go back to the very origin of Kumar Kumari Yantra Yoga for Children.      

‘From the great island of the profound and vast Union of the Sun and Moon,

I have gathered the splendid lotus flowers of some important yantras

And offer them as a beautiful garland

To adorn the necks of boys and girls.’

This verse by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, who is the source of Kumar Kumari Yantra Yoga, expresses his wish to dedicate it to children considering that this method could be of great benefit for their growth and development.

He conceived and wrote down the Kumar Kumari text in Tibetan during a personal retreat at Merigar in the Tibetan year of the Female Metal Sheep, February 21st, 1992. As soon as he finished his retreat, he gathered some of his students at Merigar and orally translated the text into Italian after which it was refined by Cristiana De Falco, revised by Adriano Clemente and finally published.   

These particular movements for children arose from the profound teachings of Yantra Yoga, an ancient Tibetan spiritual discipline from the original eighth century text The Union of the Sun and Moon by the great scholar and yogin Vairochana.  Chögyal Namkhai Norbu started teaching Yantra Yoga in the West in the 1970s and composed a comprehensive and detailed commentary on this practice. Since that time this form of yoga has become well-known throughout the world and numerous books and manuals about it have been published. Moreover, there are a number of fully qualified teachers who give courses on this form of Yantra Yoga for adults worldwide. Yantra Yoga is based on coordination of movement, breathing and concentration particularly focusing on special retention of the breath. This yoga for adults consists of 108 movements and pranayama. 

Original drawings by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

In Kumar Kumari, 16 vital exercises are presented to children, (ages 5 years to 12 years). As stated by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, “Children’s bodies are small, the nature of their breathing is light and quick” so this yoga is particularly based on these qualities. The different sequences of movements are combined with quick and slow inhalation and exhalation guided by 10 particular sounds that define the quality and type of breathing.  This is what makes this yoga unique.  Breathing while making these sounds helps to rebalance the energy, as well as fostering wellbeing and optimum physical and emotional growth.

The 16 movements of Kumar Kumari include, first of all, a breathing excericise called the elemination of the stale air, then five exercises for loosening the joints (tsigjongs). This is followed by five exercises which are called lungsangs to purify the prana or breathing. There is one exercise for controlling the channels (tsandul) and finally three main yantras: the snake, the bow and the plough. There is a concluding exercise to purify the breathing again. 

This yoga is taught to children little by little. At the beginning, children are introduced to the warmups in a playful way and gradually they are taught one specific Kumar Kumari exercise at a time. In order to facilitate their learning how to use the sounds, in 2022 a booklet called The Adventures of Nyima, Dawa, and the Little Yak was published. This lovely book, created by an enthusiastic group of Kumar Kumari teachers at Merigar and beautifully illustrated by Cristina Conticelli, features  the 10 sounds through a fantastic adventure set in Tibet.  

In 2016 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu strongly suggested that the time had come to develop Kumar Kumari yantra yoga more actively, in particular in primary schools and as part of the summer Yoga Vacation. 

Kumar Kumari weekly lessons in school help children’s concentration; body awareness and  coordination increases and a sense of the importance of breathing in a more natural manner begins to take place. The sessions are fun, with creative and joyful moments, and emphasis on being part of a group.

The  development  and impact of this form of yoga for children in local communities continues to increase.  The following are only a few examples and places where this precious gift from Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has touched children, parents, teachers and colleagues.

In Rome, Italy  starting in 2019, ASIA, a non-profit social organization founded by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, created several projects, some in collaboration with Merigar, that introduced Kumar Kumari Yoga (along with other activities such as mindfulness, art, gardening) in two public schools in Rome involving five to six classes. Each year, around 120 children and six classroom teachers have been involved. The yoga classes were led by Kumar Kumari teachers Constance Soehnlen and Laura Graci.  In 2023, two new schools were added to the project. Teachers and parents have been very supportive while the children have been sharing designs and comments describing their experience such as Kumar Kumari Yoga is “different, fun” and also “calming” but “not so easy”.      

During those years, some schools in Naples were also involved in a project teaching Kumar Kumari, led by yantra yoga instructor Fabiana Esca. The children and parents were so positive and enthusiastic about the lessons that they personally made donations to extend them months after the project ended. 

It is thanks to the donors from ACIS (Agenzia Italiana per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo) and UBI (Unione Buddista Italiana) that these dynamic, important school projects were able to take place.

In tandem the Tuscan schools in the Amiata area (Seggiano, Castel del Piano, Arcidosso to name a few) followed the projects involving Kumar Kumari lessons over 2-3 months as part of the school day.  This year, Kumar Kumari Yantra Yoga was also introduced in some schools in the Siena area of Monte Amiata, with a PEZ project (Zonal Educational Plans), managed by the Union of Municipalities Amiata Val d’Orcia and financed by the Tuscany region to promote the inclusion of students with special educational needs.        

At Merigar regular events for children are held not only teaching Kumar Kumari yantra yoga but also creative workshops with art activities and story telling. This has amplified the possibility for children to express their creativity in new and stimulating ways. 

Yantra Yoga lessons and mindfulness for teachers in surrounding schools has been included in the recent projects. These regular workshops have been stimulating for all those who work with children thanks to the collaboration of Letizia Pizzetti, Dina Priymak, Laura Evangelisti, Michele Corrado, Constance Soehnlen, Natasha Priymak, Cristina Conticelli, and others, for these regularly happening events!       

A session of Kumar Kumari yoga at Dzamling Gar

Moving on to Dzamling Gar, the Dzogchen Community center in Tenerife, this special yoga for children has been taught from the Gar’s early beginnings by Kumar Kumari teachers. Towards the end of the Covid pandemic children’s yoga played a major role in a public program with the local city hall of Adeje, organized by the Atiyoga Foundation and coordinated by Ilaria Faccioli. The two classes, one for younger children aged 6 to 9, the other for older, were so well received by parents that they asked for them to continue the following year. 

In addition to regular weekly classes, in the summer a children’s camp, organized by Yantra Yoga and Kumar Kumari instructor Nataly Nitsche, is held each year. The camp is also open to children from the local community, where they can learn not only Kumar Kumari but also experience creative activities  in a healthy space, in the beautiful tropical gardens of the Gar. The camp has presented an opportunity for Dzamling Gar to connect with the local community, where working parents wanted alternatives for their children in summer months free from school.

In other centers of the Dzogchen Community, such as Phendeling in the Czech Republic, summer camps for children have been successfully held for several years in which Kumar Kumari is one of the many activities.

 Due to the popularity and diffusion of yoga for children there is an increasing need for new teachers.  The training and supervision for Kumar Kumari teachers is under the guidance of Laura Evangelisti, Yantra Yoga senior instructor.  The teacher training courses focus on the correct use of the 10 sounds combined with the breathing and learning the 16 exercises while also taking into account how to teach children considering their physical and emotional condition.     

In November 2016, at the Teachers’ Training in Dzamling Gar, 20 Kumar Kumari candidates demonstrated and explained all the Kumar Kumari movements in front of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and received diplomas, becoming the first Kumar Kumari Yantra Yoga Teachers.   

For many years, Laura Evangelisti has organzed various training courses for teachers of this form of children’s yoga, at Namgyalgar, Australia, at Merigar West, Italy on many different occasions, at Dzamling Gar in Tenerife, Tsegyalgar East in Massachusetts, USA, as well as at Kunsangar North near Moscow, Russia. The most recent teacher training took place at Dzamling Gar in January, 2023 with 14 participants. The next teacher training will be given at Merigar West August 7-10, 2024.         

May more and more children benefit from this precious teaching, a yoga created specifically for them. Working with children, who give us joy, can teach us about ourselves as part of our adult experience.   The ‘Garland of Lotus Flowers’ is expanding, hopefully encircling the whole world. Once again, we are immensely grateful to Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, for creating this precious gift for our children.

Laura Evangelisti, Constance Soehnlen and Letizia Pizzetti

May 2024   

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