Is Your Yoga Class Out of Control?

Via on Nov 16, 2010

Over the past few weeks I’ve read a variety of blogs and articles about Children’s Yoga including various teacher’s cries for help as they search in desperation for support on how to deal with a disruptive child/children in class. It takes one child in a class situation to create uproar and mayhem then all h*ll breaks loose. As Children’s Yoga teacher’s we not only need to know the art of Yoga in depth but we also need to put it into practice through our own daily Sadhana. Patience is one of the major attributes to being a teacher especially when you’re dealing with children who may be determined that they just don’t want to co-operate in class. I personal don’t believe in the label naughty children, in fact such a statement frustrates me beyond belief. Every child I have had the pleasure of teaching has taught me at least one lesson and without these lessons I wouldn’t be teaching today. Children are inquisitive, curious and busy beings full of love and life and the majority of the time when dealing with children they communicate from a need to know basis, children need to know, this is certainly what I have learnt throughout my teaching experience. So what’s the answer? Below is a rough guide to helping you through sticky situations during class time. Remember nothings perfect and there’s no point expecting it to be. By teaching children to hold on to their free spirits and for us as teachers to expect the unexpected and free ourselves from ideals will automatically set us free from stress and allow us all to have fun, and isn’t that what it’s all about? So as a teacher Smile and you’ll shine!!

  • Freedom to choose - It’s simple, establish first of all whether the child wants to be in the class or if it’s their parents choice that they come to Yoga. It may sound crazy but not every child feels comfortable within Yoga class. It may be that another activity or project is more up their street. If that’s the case then encourage it and set them free.

  • Get to know whose in your class -Talk to the children you teach and get to know their likes and dislikes, listen carefully, this is vital, the more you listen the more they will be prepared to share and open up to you.

  • Respect for the other members of the class -It’s important that all the children in the class have respect for one another and if one child is misbehaving then this is disrespecting the rest of the class and the teacher. Important lessons can be discussed here. Asteya means non-stealing and it is a vital part of the Yoga Sutras/Yamas and Niyamas. Stealing attention and stealing of time can fall into this category.

  • Listening -When the class can listen attentively then not only do they learn the importance of Yoga practice and it’s benefits but it also stops anyone from getting hurt or injured either through careless asana practice or running and jumping around the class room and believe me running and jumping is a common one. A good Pranayama practice is called for here ladies and gentlemen for both teacher and students.

  • Mantras and songs with actions -Personally I’ve found this the most elevating way to grasp a child’s attention. The majority of children love to sing. When you add actions to music then Voila! you have lift off. If you haven’t tried it already give it a go, it will certainly help you release your own fears and inhibitions too so what is there to loose?

  • Rowing boat in the sea -If you’re having problems keeping a child or a number of children on the mat how about this game? During my Yoga sessions I ask the children to visualise the mat as their rowing boat and the floor space as the sea. The only way to get to the shore is through practicing good strong asana’s and listening to instructions. If we don’t listen then we get stranded at sea. I promise It works!

  • Sound the bell -Thich Nhat Hanh gives lessons and teachings on listening to the bell during his talks at his residence in Plum Village France. This is such a wonderful practice to adopted at any age, although the earlier the better. When the bell sounds it’s important to stop everything. Teaching children this will bring them a true sense of silence and awareness especially if the atmosphere is over charged and maybe slightly uncontrollable. The vibration of the bell has a profound effect on the whole being. First try it at home and see, it’s a wonderful way to cleanse your space and auric field.

  • Stickers and I’m (not) sticking to it -Ok, I can see the benefits of stickers during a class situation and I’m certainly not here to disrespect any method that may work for you. However my view is that not only do the stickers have to become a weekly event once introduced to the class and a major focus for the children but they also bring an air of competitiveness to the Yoga practice itself and as Yoga teachers is that what we really want to encourage?

  • Control -If you’re having difficulty with one particular child how about giving them a 2 minute slot of control. Ask them if they would like to help teach an asana with your help. This will encourage the child’s self esteem and help communication between teacher and student.

  • Praise praise praise -We all thrive off praise this is such a vital part of being a Yoga teacher or any teacher for that matter. So when a child performs well it’s important to tell them so.

  • Use of language -Through my years of teaching Yoga to children I have worked out the importance of language. This might sound like common sense but it’s a skill that we all need to adopt not just when dealing with children but in our own everyday lives. Quite often we have to monitor what we say and construct a sentence in a way that a child understands and feels comfortable with and at the same time being direct and to the point. Examples of these sentences include:
  • Show me who can stand tall like a tree.”
  • ” Know that I am here for you.”
  • ” When you are listening then we will begin our mantra.”

  • Comfort and Compassion -If a child is sad or in distress make sure you sit down on their level, face them and place your hand on their knee or shoulder. Children react to the sense of positive touch, let them know you are there and willing to support and help them. We can’t possibly know all that our students are bringing to class with them. It could be a variety of feelings and emotions from anxiety to anger or a sense of feeling out of control, all these often play a major part in challenging behaviour during a class situation. As teachers, remaining centred, focused, loving and kind will bring great results, not forgetting to be consistent and firm. Children respond to a sense of authority, if ground rules are not established then this can lead to a riot and that is NOT what we want, unless you enjoy feeling permanently exhausted.

  • Final straw if all else fails -It’s rare but some children aren’t always suited for a class situations. So if this is the case speak to the parents and encourage one on one tuition with an incentive that in time the child can be encouraged back into the class.

Dear little ones, let us sit very quietly.
Listen
Listen to the wind.
Listen to the birds.
Listen to the crickets and the frogs.
Listen very quietly to your breathing.
Let us put our hand on our tummy and feel our breathing.
Our tummy goes out and then it goes in.
Breathing in and breathing out.
Our tummy goes out and then it goes in.
Breathing in and breathing out.
I close my eyes and stay with my breathing in.
I close my eyes and stay with my breathing out.
Breathing in, I calm my whole body.
Breathing out, my whole body is calm.
Breathing in I am blooming like a flower.
Breathing out, I feel fresh.
Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.
Breathing out, I feel solid.
Breathing in I see myself as space.
Breathing out, I feel free.
Breathing in, I come back to myself.
Breathing out, I smile.
Breathing in, the world is so beautiful.
Breathing out, I smile.
The blade of grass is so green.
The sky is so blue.
I see that Mummy is lovely.
I see that Daddy is wonderful.
I see that my sister is so kind.
I see that my brother is so playful.
I see that my grandma and my grandpa are so sweet and gentle.
I see that my class mates and my teacher make me so happy.
We listen and we see that all life is breathing with us.”
(Story by Sister Susan, Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh)

About Indra Singh

Indra Singh loves to write anything from Yoga Articles to Creative Writing works. She is a full time mother and works predominantly in the world of addiction therapy, helping individuals with their journey through recovery by assisting them with Yoga techniques to help support their daily lives. She runs general classes and workshops too and is an experienced Children's Yoga teacher. She's studied Aura Soma, reflexology, aromatherapy and is heavily into flower essences and vibrational healing. She also loves to knit. For more about Indra, visit her website, Facebook or Twitter.

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19 Responses to “Is Your Yoga Class Out of Control?”

  1. Alamgir says:

    A great article. Although I have limited experience teaching children what you say is so true.The child being in the class does not mean they will necessary like it- are they there for themselves or for their parents.
    All the other points are important and you have made me think of adding these( or stealing from you!) to my martial arts and yoga teaching especially when advising children but also with adults too.
    A very informative article- especially when we realise that the children practising yoga when young may be the ambassadors of yoga in the future.

  2. Thanks for the tips – especially like the breathing meditation. Will use it with my Garden Themed classes for sure. I'll add my two cents to the discussion later this week.

  3. indrasingh says:

    Alamgir thank you too
    This can also work with the Martial arts too, it's not JUST restricted to Yoga.
    Children are our future, as you so rightly put it
    Thank you for your input

  4. Fabwithniceeyes says:

    A really nice touch. Your articles are always informative and always look on delicate or difficult issues which people can experience whilst teaching or practising yoga.

  5. indrasingh says:

    thank you
    much appreciated

  6. verveclicbaby says:

    I have had problems with disruptive kids in class, I can really relate to this article.I have had to exclude children from my class because of bad behavior.
    Have you ever had to exclude anyone from your classes?

  7. Great article, Indra. Much appreciated. Clearly the voice of experience!

    Bob W.

  8. verveclicbaby says:

    Hi Indra,
    Thank you for your reply. I will send you an email at some point and explain the reasons for exclusion.
    Kind Regards
    Verve

  9. jellybean says:

    I think the above can be applied not just to disruptive chilldren but to adults too.No one can deny that there are a number of awkward adult students who may have to be "handled" or "treated" in another way differnt from the rest of the class.Perhaps this is because we are all children deep down!!

  10. indrasingh says:

    Im sure this is the case in some situations and a lot has to do with how the teacher handles it.
    As Yogi Bhajan said we are vessels for the teachings, we are not there to get emotionally involved, although i admit this is often easier said than done.
    Than you Jellybean for the comment and view point

  11. mayobapwithsalt says:

    Some real lessons can be learnt from your article.Thank you for this.Hope others can can heed of the advice on your when figuring out how to handle the next class of disruptive kids.
    Would love to hear if any progress has been made after following the advice given here by Ms Indra Singh

  12. Ameer says:

    As per the previous posts children need to be respected and if needs be want to be in the class.It has to come from within. The problem if one could use such a word lies with the younger children who may be unsure as to what to do and why there are doing yoga? Was it parental pressure? Peer pressure( as age can not limit peer pressure) or a desire to do something to keep fit and healthy?
    All these things do need to be considered when looking at the reasons behind disruptive kids/children/pupils/students.

  13. Alamgir says:

    Just saw this. Children are indeed our future..

  14. Here is a follow up article http://yogainmyschool.com/2010/11/18/5-ways-to-el… – with links back (of course)

  15. [...] to be irritated. Yet something happened in my head and heart when I saw her physical abnormality. None of her wrong doing mattered anymore. In the scheme of things, who cares if i got sprayed and stepped on? It obviously was an accident. [...]

  16. ARCreated says:

    I think some people aren't meant to teach kids…well I have been doing family yoga…and I am about to do my last session, because I have a contract…but I so don't want to …it drains me…I am in awe and rejoice with those that can teach the children— it just isn't me :) I need some thanksgiving practice ideas….le sigh

  17. Eva says:

    Thank you for the great article. It was, among many other things, good to be reminded the importance of my own Sadhana and the practise of patience..Also for my own kids at home. Love:-)

  18. greateacher says:

    really good article but it should be WH IS instead of 'whose'

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