How to Become an Effective Kids or Teens Yoga Teacher. ~ Abby Wills

Via on May 20, 2011

Teach the Children Well.

With yoga for young people on the rise, I receive numerous emails and calls every week from yoga teachers seeking mentorship in becoming a specialist in kid’s yoga. Likewise, as the school yoga movement continues to accelerate, there is a need for qualified, dedicated teachers to serve school communities.

Becoming a kids yoga teacher is a process that can unfold in many different ways.

Start Where You Are

Spend some time reflecting on what inspires you to teach yoga to youth. In that inspiration, you’ll find clues to guide you towards the most powerful learning experiences.

Think about the specific population you wish to work with. Is there a particular age group you are most drawn to? In what environments would you like to teach?

Clarifying your desires will help inform your process. For instance, if you truly desire to work with youth in after school programs, your course of action will be different than the teacher who wants to work predominately with incarcerated youth.

Record your strengths and make note of the aspects of teaching yoga to youth that you may need extra support in. This will help you navigate the available opportunities and identify the ones that will help fill in your knowledge.

If your experience is heavily weighted on the side of yoga, you may consider enrolling in child development courses in addition to gaining kids yoga teacher training. Folks with lots of experience teaching youth, but not yoga, will first need to find an adult yoga teacher training to get up to speed with teaching alignment.

Take the Long Road

Teaching yoga to youth is indeed a specialty. Think about how much time, effort and study goes into becoming a school teacher. Add all of those skills to the set required to teach the subject yoga and you’ve got quite a road ahead!

Take it slow. No one will ever know all there is to know about teaching yoga or teaching kids. Commit to being in process with both and dedicate yourself to learning each step of the way.

Many people ask about certification in kids or teens yoga. The truth is: certifications come in all shapes and sizes. Some certificates are earned over hundreds of hours of training, fieldwork and observation, while others are attained in one day.

Certifications do not necessarily make great kids yoga teachers.  A long term commitment to learning will surely help bring out your teaching talents, though.

Teachers often come to me with the idea that training alone will prepare them to teach and then they experience disappointment when this is not the case. Training is only part of the equation, an important one for sure to be addressed shortly.

Remember: you will know when you are ready to teach.

Choosing a Training

There are far too many wonderful trainings available to mention them all here. I suggest researching as many as possible and feeling what resonates. Some trainings accentuate the applications of yoga most relevantly associated with learning, while others offer a more playful approach.

Choose a training that fills in your knowledge. If you’ve been teaching in a classroom for decades, you may not need lots of coursework on classroom management as a newcomer will. Here’s where your initial reflections will pay off. If you go in looking for what you’ll need, you will find it.

Be sure the training you choose addresses the age range and demographic you wish to work with. Thankfully, there are diverse trainings available for all ages, needs and challenges.

Know that most kids yoga trainings are set up as continuing education for already trained yoga teachers. It is important to enter these trainings with a firm foundation in yoga including alignment, theory and practice.

***I’d love to invite teacher trainers to leave a brief description of your trainings along with a link in the comments section as a resource.

Observe

One of the most effective ways to deepen understanding of the art of teaching yoga to youth is to witness experienced teachers in action. Sit in on several classes with an expert teacher to discover what it takes to lead youth in yoga. Watching classes develop over time is key. Just seeing one class may leave you with more questions than answers. If possible, observe more than one teacher to see different styles.

Consider observing school teachers as well. Especially if you are planning to teach in a particular school, your time spent observing teachers the kids already interact with will pay off. Observing will give you a sense of the schools’ culture.

Seek Mentorship

Once you find an experienced teacher whose style and approach speak to you, offer to take them to tea. Ask for their mentorship and offer your assistance. Many teachers will be delighted to have extra help in the classroom.

Be clear about your expectations and your offering. Is it once a week? Once a month? How often do you wish to communicate with your mentor teacher? Once you start teaching your own classes, will they be willing to come observe you and give feedback?

Volunteer

Sometimes money and yoga mix like water and oil. This doesn’t have to be the case. I suggest sharing your time on a voluntary basis when just getting started (and throughout your journey, if possible). Know for sure that your learning is beyond a fair trade for your time.

Volunteer teaching is incredibly joyful and allows you to focus on yoga and your students. When starting a new class, some teachers experience anxiety about the number of students attending. If the class doesn’t fill up within a certain time period, the studio may cancel the class. The anxiety can certainly get in the way of fluid, effective teaching.

Consider finding a venue, perhaps a yoga studio, willing to offer kids yoga classes free of charge for a semester. This is a wonderful way to build a class and parents will appreciate the financial break.

Repeat

Once you’ve clarified your vision, participated in some training, observed, assisted, been mentored and volunteered, you just may be ready to begin building your practice of teaching kids and teens. Even so, keep cultivating your skills with continuing education and networking with other teachers to stay current on what’s developing in the field.

As your practice of teaching takes root and you find yourself growing into a successful kids yoga teacher, consider sharing your expertise with others. Mentor a new teacher or take on an assistant. Write a blog offering your latest and greatest ideas for teaching on specific themes.

The ever-expanding kids and teen yoga teaching community is a delightful place to be! While competition can sometimes dull the bliss in the adult yoga world (not always, but it happens), I’ve found the youth teaching community to be quite cognizant of our interconnectedness and shared mission. We are truly all in this together and the momentum is building just beautifully.

Photo credits: Yoga, Meditation, Circle

Abby Wills

Abby Wills has joyfully spent the past 13 or so years on the yoga and mindfulness playground with kids, teens and teachers at schools and centers across Los Angeles and beyond. She finally found her perfect guru in September 2010, her first son Falken. Abbys’ other baby is Shanti Generation, through which she created “Yoga Skills for Youth Peacemakers” DVD.

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39 Responses to “How to Become an Effective Kids or Teens Yoga Teacher. ~ Abby Wills”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul tanya lee markul says:

    Hi Abby. I really loved this article. Thanks so much.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

  2. Abby – thanks for your clear, insightful, graduated approach to jumping into the world of kids/youth yoga. It truly is a wonderful community.
    http://www.yogainmyschool.com offers a vast number of resources for teaching yoga to kids. With over 300 articles/tips/interview/videos etc and more coming each week our goal is to provide a wealth of information to engage & inspire teachers, parents, yoga instructors, health care professionals & more in sharing the benefits & joys of yoga with children & youth.

    Bob Weisenberg describes the book Once Upon a Pose as "indispensable" for teaching yoga to children. It is a comprehensive guide and is included as required reading for a number of children yoga teaching training courses. http://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Pose-Adventure-Ch

    Yogainmyschool.com has webinar training courses on teaching Yoga to Children, Yoga for Literacy and Yoga for Children with Special Needs starting Fall 2011. If you are interested in learning more contact donna@yogainmyschool.com

  3. Mira Binzen says:

    First, let me say I love your DVD, Shanti Generation. I recommend it to my older students and those in our teacher training program. This is a great article – so true! Teaching Yoga to children can be completely different from teaching adults and it does take time to get the hang of it. Our program, Global Family Yoga, was one of only two schools registered with Yoga Alliance offering a full 200-hour certification focusing on children and families. We still offer this along with the new 95-hour childrens' Yoga specialty. Our mission is to train people to teach children self-awareness, self-regulation and self-mastery through Yoga. Our focus is on sensory integration. Check out our website for resources, articles, links and more info. on learning opportunities.

    • Abby Wills says:

      Thank you, Mira. So glad you like the DVD. We poured so much into it hoping it will continue to be a valuable resource to the community. Thanks for sharing about your program, too. Big Fan!

  4. Amy Haysman says:

    Abby, Thank you for writing such an authentic article and for asking us to share our program. We offer a Get Grounded training to learn the basics of our methodology and an online mentorship course, Stay Grounded, for those seeking certification. For details and video clips of our training go to http://www.gogrounded.com. Grounded teachers learn how to implement our Quest for Elevation program which teaches kids how to deepen their practice on and off the mat by teaching others. We are dedicated to Anusara Inspired instruction for ages 3 and up.

    • shantigeneration says:

      Quest for Elevation sounds aligned with our Youth Peacemakers Training. One summer it would so great to bring our groups for camp!

  5. Amy Landry says:

    excellent article! Thank you!

  6. Thank you, Abby. Great article – clear, concise, informative, insightful…

    As for my trainings, aspiring teachers learn how to teach children yoga, rather than yoga to kids. The trainings are rooted in the teachings of Krishnamacharya and require a minimum 200 hour certification (if teachers are interested in that ultimately) or equivalent.

    More information to be had at http://www.kidsyogacircle.com.

    Om shanti.

  7. Shamim says:

    Thank you, Abby, for this insightful, inspiring, and informative read! I am currently in a teacher training program and am looking to extending my training to kids in the near future. As a pediatric dentist, I'm looking for ways to incorporate yoga into helping kids with experiences off the mat, empowering them and increasing their quality of life starting from a young age. Thanks, again : )

  8. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  9. Lisa Flynn says:

    Thank you Abby – A wonderful article! ChildLight Yoga offers two programs, both encouraging an early introduction to yoga and mindfulness education with the mission of providing children with tools for building social, emotional and physical strength. All courses are valid for continuing education credits through YA and University of Southern Maine.
    http://www.childlightyoga.com
    http://www.yoga4classrooms.com

  10. Lisa Flynn says:

    ChildLight Yoga's BasicTeacher Training: 3-day training held in many parts of the east coast including locations in PA, NC, MD, MA, NH, and VT. Basic training Includes 17 contact hours, comprehensive manual, CD of Yoga Songs for Children, certification administration and materials, and membership in the CLY Instructor community. http://www.childlightyoga.com/articles.asp?id=146

    Yoga 4 Classrooms focuses on introducing yoga and mindfulness in the educational/classroom setting. Its mission is to transform educational environments through yoga-based wellness training and support, empowering students and educators to create a positive, peaceful, productive classrooms that support exceptional learning and a lifetime of health and wellness. Components include a 1-day teacher workshop, a two-progned program for schools, and an opportunity for ChildLight Yoga Instructors to train to become Y4C Instructors, enabling them to offer the workshops and school programs in their area. http://www.yoga4classrooms.com.

  11. RECESSforhealth says:

    Hello All and Thanks Abby for putting these issues into a very understandable format…I have been teaching children yoga for over 10 years and for every one of those days I see great benefit. The most exciting thing is that while I see children, schools, teachers and counselors benefit, it also gives back to ME everyday.

    Resource Education for Calming, Energizing, Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation (RECESS) is a non-profit that began 6 years ago and sees up to 550 kids in school each week. We have had a hard time keeping up with demand! http://www.recessforhealth.org.

    Additionally, we are now offering a number of trainings in Oklahoma. We offer Yoga Ed. Certification as well as RECESS Certification for a number of hours. http://www.recesstrainings.com

    I love to chat with those considering teaching anytime as I agree it is important to consider how to make your goals come to fruition with joy as well as success…Elizabeth Barlow, barlowsnow@sbcglobal.net phone 918-200-YOGA(9642)

    There is so much we are capable of ….

  12. [...] How to Become an Effective Kids or Teens Yoga Teacher. ~ Abby Wills [...]

  13. Eric says:

    Unbelievable, what an article. Thank you very much.
    Be blessed.

  14. Abby Wills says:

    Thanks so much for noticing the song connection and posting the great link! I love your story of seeing CSNY. Classic!

  15. [...] with practical instruction of modern yoga techniques. The OSU class is just another example of the growing popularity of yoga. About 14.3 million people in the United States practiced yoga in 2010, up from 4.3 million in [...]

  16. Wonderful article Abby and thanks for your invitation to comment on our different kids yoga teacher training.

    the Young Yoga Masters training developed after many years of teaching yoga disguising it as animals or pretending yoga was something else. It got hard for me to teach it that way, it became mind-numbing and I longed to pass on the real yoga that inspired me. So many years ago I switched my style and began testing ways to offer real yoga. It turns out the kids connected with it and kids loved it.

    this 16 hour training includes how to teach the basics of yoga with a focus on Real Yoga and Real Fun. Its very inspiring to teach to children and as we know, when given the chance, children "get it."

    The details are here: http://www.youngyogamasters.com/

    So I totally agree that each person should get what they need and want to move forward in their training in an authentic way. Yoga is like a beautiful diamond, and each course is a different cut that emphasizes that beauty in a special way.

  17. Oh yes, out of this grew a passion to get more boys doing yoga. Yoga Man vs. The Stressor is an action hero who meets boys where they are at (think video games, sports, and action heroes). It's got 10 games that help teach kids about what stress is and how Yoga Man handles stress.

    this training can be downloaded from my website. It's very specialized training that let's boys know that yoga is for them too. I pepper in Yoga Man doing the Sun Salutation in a typical class so boys see images they can relate to and think, "Ya, Yoga IS for boys!"

    Details are here: http://www.youngyogamasters.com/kids-yoga-teacher

    My goal is to get more boys into kids yoga classes!

  18. I'm afraid I'm it for our area for kid yoga teachers. Been reading a bunch though, and do observe how some of our Sunday School teachers are in action!

    Gaileee

  19. [...] yoga at The Walther School pre-kindergarten is all fun and games. We make tunnels, build ships and pretend to be everything under the sun – including the sun. Yet within the jubilation we sometimes stumble upon profound jewels of [...]

  20. There is very little difference between American and British English.

  21. What a resourceful, honest and informative article! I agree that the children's yoga world is a wonderful and supportive community. There are many terrific trainings out there and it really depends upon what fits your specific needs, as you said.

    The Yogi Beans teacher training – http://www.yogibeans.com/teachertraining – is a 3-day Basic Teacher Training. Our 25–hour course will teach you how to translate the practice of yoga into a language kids understand and enjoy, which sometimes can seem like a daunting feat. Our curriculum and training makes it easy and accessible to teach yoga to any children ages 2 to 10. We have yoga instructors, mothers, guidance counselors, teachers and corporate types that take our trainings; all are looking to transition their lives and incorporate children's yoga. To see what people are saying about the training, visit http://www.yogibeans.com/whatpeoplearesaying. For more information please shoot us an email at teachertraining@yogibeans.com.

    Om Shanti and thanks for sharing Abby!

  22. OMazing Kids Yoga says:

    Amazing article Abby! I had someone contact me today asking advice. I was able to share this article with her. I would also highly recommend kids yoga teachers get info about the kids and any special needs or health conditions they may have in advance to help them plan. Some kids may need modifications to poses or may have contraindications for certain poses based on medical conditions or physical needs. Some kids may need visual supports in order to participate in a meaningful way.

    Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP, IAYT, RCYP-2
    Founder of OMazing Kids Yoga, LLC – inclusive yoga for kids & teens of all abilities in Norman, Oklahoma
    Radiant Child Yoga Certified – Levels 1 & 2
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsYoga
    YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/amoorad1
    Blog: http://omazingkidsyoga.com/

  23. Jenny Smith says:

    Wonderful article Abby! Thanks for all you do and all you have shared here. Gecko Yoga for Kids http://www.geckoyoga.com here in Hong Kong offers kids yoga teacher training, specialist workshops on children's anatomy and development, adaptive yoga courses and kids yoga classes. We also host wonderful teachers to the region including Jodi Komitor from Next Generation Yoga who will be coming to teach for 10 days here in Hong Kong in June 2012. We are partnering with Rainbow Kids yoga and Karma Kids Yoga to help share the love of kids yoga throughout Asia.
    Great to share and be a part of this wonderful specialist community globally.

  24. [...] of School Yoga and Mindfulness, ChildLight Yoga, Yoga in My Schools, Little Flower Yoga and Shanti Generation, to name but only a few—provide support, training and techniques for teachers, faculty, staff and [...]

  25. Hi Gail. We've found that many people are held back in their teaching because the classroom and behavior management challenge. For the last few years we have been offering a course called The Compassionate Classroom as a stand alone workshop, and this material is integrated into our certification program. I've attached the description from our website (www.littlefloweryoga.com) below. We offer this workshop every few months in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Maybe it could be helpful for you. Happy Teaching, Jenn

    Are you ever frustrated by the behavior of your students? Ever frustrated by your own reaction to their behavior? Feel like you don’t want to yell but don’t know what else to do? Wish you could spend more time on content and less on classroom management?

    The Compassionate Classroom workshop will give you tools and techniques to keep your students engaged through cooperation rather than control. You will learn to teach classes in a way that shows compassion and respect for all children, and use powerful communication strategies to create an environment of mutual trust.

    Our goal is to provide all children with a sense of internal discipline, and offer teachers alternatives to punishment methods that serve to re-orient students to activities rather than ostracize them. Avoid unnecessary conflict and power struggles with your students and you will be amazed at how much time you can dedicate to learning!

  26. shantigeneration says:

    Gaileee, sounds like you have a great toolbox to work with. You've engaged in lots of training which has led you down a creative path.

    From the information yo have shared, my suggestion is to try going in to teach a class with NO PLAN! Scary, huh?! Try this: Gather your students in a circle, start the way you always do that feels familiar to all. Then, go around the circle and let each student choose a pose or practice. Write each choice on an index card. Once everyone's made their choices, sequence on the spot by placing the cards in the most appropriate order. You can get creative by hanging a beautiful rainbow string across the room and attach the cards in order with clothes pins.

    The reason why I am suggesting this is so that you experience a shift from thinking about your themes and curriculum to listening to the needs of your students.

    When we really listen to childrens needs from the moment we enter their presence, we can meet their needs with the practice, so very little classroom "management" is needed. In other words, the yoga practice itself helps to balance behaviors.

    SO, rather than us as teachers trying to manage students behaviors so that they can get with our plan, we let their behaviors inform the choices we make in terms of practices. Does that make sense? Simply put, choose practices that harmonize the group.

    Nothing wrong with using stories and books for teaching, as long as their content is relevant to who the kids are that very day.

    Place kids needs above all. This is the idea behind child centered education.

    I know you will continue to grow as a teacher because you are engaged in one of the most critical processes for doing so; self reflection. Thank you for sharing with us.

    love
    abby

  27. My daughter and her new husband live in NYC. So I'll just have to come visit them sometime and also take some training, eh?

    Gail

  28. Abby Wills says:

    Congratulations on completing your trainings, Christina. Glad you found some inspiration in the article.

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