Rainbow Serpent Class Plan
by Gopala Amir Yaffa
Rainbow Yoga Founder & Global Teacher Trainer
I’ve been living in Australia for 10 years now. And with many amazing experiences here with my family have seen quite little of this vast country.
I met and I meet many of its unique inhabitants almost on a daily basis. And unique they are!
With pockets to grow their young ones in, egg-laying mammals (platypus and echidnas), hopping mammals, square pooping wombats, huge flightless emu birds, and loads of poisonous reptiles and spiders, there is never a dull moment here!
Australia is the biggest island and the smallest continent in the world and most of its exotic flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Before the arrival of humans here about 50,00 years ago (more or less), Australia was home to megafauna: three-metre tall kangaroos, seven-metre long goannas, horse-sized ducks, and a marsupial lion the size of a leopard. Still today, the Great Barrier Reef is the planet’s largest living structure!
Today, those original custodians of this land, Aboriginal people, are only 1.5% of the population, but they hold with them a depth of Indigenous ‘Dream Time’ stories which is the foundation for tens of thousands of years of spiritual aboriginal art, traditions, legends, myths, folklore and culture.
Dream Time stories explain why things are the way they are, and I even heard a Dream Time story from an elder about how the Sydney Bridge was formed by a kangaroo who jumped and stretched from one side of the river to another to form the bridge! Today’s class I chose to use one of those as well.
There are other one of a kind things about Australia that visitors quickly discover… Swans here are black rather than white, and toilets flushed water spiral the other way around than in the Northern Hemisphere!
Today in our yoga class we will visit a very special country called Australia… It is a vast country with many wonders to explore. And to discover Australia today we will use a very old Australian Story that explains how that land was created so long ago. This is the Rainbow Serpent Dream Time story.
This is an Aboriginal Dream Time story. Dream Time stories explain why and how things became the way they are.
In today’s class, we are going to tell the story and move with it in yoga poses.
At the beginning of the Dreamtime, the earth was flat and dry and empty. There were no trees, no rivers, no animals and no grass. It was a dry and flat land.
One day the Rainbow Serpent woke from his sleep and set off to find his tribe. He crossed Australia from east to west and north to south, stopping to listen for his people. He crossed every part of the dry, flat Australia but found nothing.
Now practice the Wave Sun Dance – Begin by doing a pose and the person on your right follow the same movement. The next person continues and the next until the pose goes around the whole circle. Continue sending poses around the circle inspired by the music. Big movements work best here.
Wriggle in Snake Pose as you tell the next bit of the story –
After searching for a long time, the Rainbow Serpent grew tired and lay down to sleep. The land he lay down to sleep on was not the same land he had set out to search for his people on, though. As he had looked for his people, his big, long body had cut great gouges into the land.
The Rainbow Serpent lay in the sand all alone until he decided to create more life in the world. He called “Frogs, come out!” and frogs rose out of the ground with their bellies full of the water they stored.
He tickled the frogs until the water burst from their mouth and filled the gouges in
the land. These gouges made the rivers and streams we see today.
Practice Swimming In The River – Have all but one of the children lie down on the floor, hands straight over their heads, side-by-side. The single child lies on top of everyone else. Have the whole group roll together in one direction; it is imperative that you coordinate your rolls for the game to work. If you are doing it right, the person on top will be ‘swimming’ down the ‘river’ of all the people that are rolling… so much fun! To help coordinate everyone turning together, I usually dictate the rhythm by saying “1 yoga. 2 Yoga. 3 Yoga. Roll! Roll! Roll!”
As the water flowed over the land, grass and trees began to grow and fill the land with colour.
Now that there was grass to eat and water to drink, the Rainbow Serpent woke the animals, for the first time.
Kookaburras are famous for their call, which sounds like laughter.
The male lyrebird, which is native to Australia, can mimic the calls of over 20 other birds. If that’s not impressive enough, he can also perfectly imitate the sound of a camera, chainsaw and car alarm.
The Australian Thorny Devil is one of the longest-lived lizards of its size in the world, with a lifespan of up to 20 years.
There have been no deaths in Australia from a spider bite since 1979. Australia is home to around 1,500 types of spiders, 4,000 types of ants and 350 types of termites
A kangaroo is only one centimetre long when it is born. The record jump recorded by a kangaroo is a whopping 9 metres (30 feet) in a single leap!
Koalas sleep for about 20 hours per day. This is a Koala holding on to a eucalyptus branch.
The male platypus has strong enough venom to kill a small dog. Two native Australian animals, Platypus and Echidnas, are the only two mammals in the world that lay eggs to give birth. When Europeans first brought a platypus back to England, the people there thought that it was a hoax and that they stitched a duckbill onto a rat!
For a Platypus Pose I usually have a partner pose where the base is in Cat Pose (with flat back) and the flyer is lying on top with their belly on the base’s back, stretching their arms forward to form the platypus beak.
Saltwater crocodiles, aka ‘salties’, are enormous creatures and the world’s largest living reptiles. The largest males can be up to 7m in length!
The Box jellyfish has killed more people in Australia than stonefish, sharks and crocodiles combined.
You can let the kids choose the poses if they are from Australia because they will know them, or you can present them one after the other.
Some animals lived in the sea, swimming back and forward. Some animals lived in the sky, flying with their friends to distant places. Some animals lived on the land, digging and playing in the sand.
They were happy and gathered food and water to bring back to their own tribes.
One day, it started to rain. And it rained like it had never rained before. Rain fell for days and days and the world was becoming flooded with water.
Two young men had no shelter and they came to the Rainbow Serpent. They asked for help sheltering from the rain.
The rainbow serpent was hungry and tricked the young men “I have no shelter, but you can hide in my mouth. You’ll be safe from the rain in there.” The young men climbed into the Rainbow Serpent’s mouth and he closed it shut, swallowing both men.
He soon realised that people would notice the young men missing and come looking for them. He knew they would find their track leading right into his mouth. He didn’t want to be caught and so decided to hide in the only place he knew he would be safe: the sky.
He hid in the sky away from the people chasing him and he saw their sadness at losing these two young men. He decided to try and make them happy again, so he turned his body into a big arc of beautiful colours.
Now, every time, just after it rains, you can see the Rainbow Serpent sharing his beautiful colours with the people on the ground as his way of saying sorry for taking those brothers.
Inhale Sunshine, Exhale Rainbows – Raise hands straight up over your head and Exhale a Rainbow: Slowly draw your hands down on both sides of your body to create a rainbow shape.
Rainbow Serpent Breath – Spread one hand out like a star. Look at the mountains and valleys your fingers create. Use the index finger on your other hand to move like a serpent along your fingers and trace the outline of your star hand. When your serpent finger goes up the mountain you breathe in and when it goes down a valley you breath out.
Take a deep breath in as you move to the top of your thumb. Breathe out as you move down between your thumb and first finger. Take another breath in as you move to the top of your first finger. Breathe out as you move down between your first and second finger. Repeat until you have taken five slow, deep breaths. And if you are up for it, you can also trace the valleys and mountains back taking another five deep breaths.
Relax, close your eyes and turn within. Slow down your breath and follow it… allow yourself to sigh a few times, ahhhhhh… become loose and melt toward the mat. Imagine that you are walking down a beautiful path. The sky is clearing up and you see a beautiful big rainbow. Stand underneath it and let its warm and bright colourful rays fill you with joy. You are connected to the whole of nature… you are the rainbow now.
Red: you are strong and safe
Orange: you are happy and playful
Yellow: you are proud and full of self-confidence
Green: you are kind and generous
Blue: you are sincere and truthful
Indigo: you are wise and creative
Purple: you are a good friend
by Gopala Amir Yaffa
Rainbow Yoga Founder & Global Teacher Trainer