A couple years ago, I had gained my fitness for children qualification. I had taught a few classes, and they had gone well. Then last year, I stumbled across a yoga for kids qualification! I love yoga and when I found this course, I just had delightful daydreams of being like a calming pied piper for mini yogis. Running calm and serene yoga classes, children would float out an aura of calm and serenity surrounding them.
I taught my practice session, it went really well. Then I taught my first “proper” class: Screeechhhh—that was the brakes put on my daydreams of calm and serenity—hello, REALITY CHECK.
Parents were dropping their kids at class and then hurrying for freedom out the door as fast as lightning. Kids were running amok around the studio and I was like, yikes! I took a few deep breaths, summoned my inner Mary Poppins, and took my first steps on an incredible journey I’m still traveling on.
Here are a few things I’ve learned (so far) along the way as a kids yoga teacher…
1. Be Creative—use their imagination and yours! Most of us grown ups come from a generation before mobile phones, tablets and games consoles. We read books and played made up games—so rediscover your own imagination. Tell a story using yoga poses, take a trip around the world using yoga poses to describe how you travel and what you see. Kids have very short attention spans, so make it super fun, and even though you may have a session plan, be flexible and just go with the energy.
We often do 5-10 minutes warming up, 10 minutes of standing poses, 10 minutes of balance poses, 10 minutes of seated poses, and 5-10 minutes of nap/story time. That way it’s constantly changing so the little ones don’t lose interest.
2. When you start to wonder, are they actually taking any of this in? remember that they really and truly are. Toward the end of class before nap time, I often get the little ones to sit cross-legged, close their eyes, and imagine the space around them. Using their mind, they can conjure up the colors, how it looks, how it feels, and who they allow in to their own private space—maybe no one, maybe mom and/or dad, a sibling, or a friend. I love when the kids come up to me afterward and tell me about their spaces they have created with their imagination.
It’s a great way to introduce meditation to little ones, in a way they can understand. If you do it over a period of time, you’re creating a safe place for a child to take themselves to when they feel scared or overwhelmed or just need a little timeout. It’s a practice they can continue as they grow up. I also love when their moms and dads come and tell me the kids have been showing off their yoga moves to their family.
3. Kids LOVE to nap and be read to. No matter what ages I teach and the fun games we play, the most popular and well-loved section of my kids yoga classes is nap and story time! I get them to bring their blankets and they snuggle down, some on their backs but more on their tummies or sides. I read a short meditation story to them as they close their eyes. Do they lie still like us adults in savasana? A few actually do, though most most will fidget but just go with the flow. If you’re at home—maybe make this a part of bedtime routine?—try it for even just a few minutes. Over time, it will help relax your little one after a busy day and ease them into sleep—hopefully for the whole night! 🙂
4. I have 5 go-to poses the kids always love:
Tree pose: Balance is a skill that is learned. Tree pose is brilliant for helping improve balance, and it also helps a child work on their focus and concentration skills too.
Downward facing dog: A great all-over stretch for legs that also strengthens shoulders and arms. Plus they can bark like a dog! Kids love making the animal noises.
Pretzel pose: This seated twist will help keep their digestive system working well and eases stress.
Cobra pose: A great stretch for their backs and they love to make the hissing sound of a snake as they do it.
Childs pose: A great timeout pose. Helps ease the mind and stretches out the lower back.
5. No matter what sort of day you are having, teaching children will bring a smile and melt your heart. Their enthusiasm and energy can brighten up your day like a rainbow. You may teach them a lot, but they can teach you so much too—like how to find the joy and fun in the every day. As Mary Poppins herself said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun, find the fun and the job’s a game.”
Have you ever taught yoga to kids, or practice at home with your little ones? What have you learned from doing yoga with kiddos? Share in the comments!