Kids? Yoga? No Thanks. ~ Mara Colbert

Via on Jan 26, 2012

I do not like kids yoga.

There, I said it. I do not want to do yoga with kids, around kids, or with kids anywhere in the vicinity. I understand that there are some parents who enjoy doing yoga with their children, and some teachers who love teaching them. Good for them, and for the kids who are lucky enough to get to do yoga with them.

I would not mind doing yoga with kids if they could actually do what I say. But my experience has been that children are mostly unable to follow simple instructions such as “stand still” or “bend your knee.” Admittedly, this is a problem for some adults as well. But with kids, what might have been a tranquil and enriching experience can quickly degenerate into utter chaos.

I once agreed to teach a group of kindergarteners. I was dreading it, and I really should have said, “No thanks, I don’t teach kids yoga.” But I did it for the money (which I needed) and I hoped I would be pleasantly surprised by how much I loved teaching 5 year-olds to move and breathe (which I was not). Other yoga teachers encouraged me to sing songs, tell stories, and have the kids make up their own poses. Ick. I had a set of Baron Baptiste’s My Daddy is a Pretzel yoga cards that were sort of cute and fun to use. But when one of the kids puked directly on the cards, I swore off kids yoga forever.

I think that kids yoga is really about playing games and telling stories, and I’m all for games and stories. But for me yoga involves bringing minds and bodies into balance, or practicing acceptance of who we really are in the present moment, and kids already do this.

One of my favorite of the yoga teachings is santosha, or contentment. Acceptance of what is. This includes being okay with who you are and what you are good at, as well as what you are not so good at. I believe that I am pretty good at teaching yoga to adults, but teaching children is just not for me.

And no, I do not do yoga with my own kid. From the moment I announced my pregnancy four years ago people began sweetly asking the question, “Will you do yoga with your baby?” And I would respond, “Oh yes, of course,” while thinking to myself, “Jeez, I hope someone else will watch this baby so I can go to yoga.” Then once the tender young thing was born, blue in the face and screaming, people would inquire with a sparkle in their eye, “Does she do yoga with you?” And I would say with a knowing smile, “She’s a natural!” while cringing inwardly and thinking, “God forbid this succubus should claim my yoga mat, as she has every other area of my physical, mental, and emotional life.”

I love my daughter with all my heart. But my yoga practice is mine. It may be the only corner of my being that is private, quiet, personal, and mine all mine.

No kids allowed.

Mara Colbert is a yoga teacher, mother of a 3 year-old, and graduate student in counseling at the University of Missouri Kansas City. She strives to blend the tools and techniques of yoga practice and theory with more traditional cognitive therapy in order to treat people holistically. She also aspires to survive each day with some measure of grace and dignity, and looks forward to one day having more time to practice yoga and more money to get therapy. Connect with Mara on her website, follow her on twitter, or subscribe to her posts on facebook.

Article prepared by Yoga Assistant Editor: Aminda Courtwright. 

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16 Responses to “Kids? Yoga? No Thanks. ~ Mara Colbert”

  1. Karl Saliter Karl Saliter says:

    Yeah. No. Agreed.

  2. Lorin Arnold Lorin says:

    Posted to Elephant Family on Facebook and Twitter.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at The VeganAsana
    Associate Editor for Elephant Food
    Editor for Elephant Family

  3. Nora says:

    I have to disagree with this article. Children need yoga in their hectic lives as much as we do. I love my own practice and I love to practice with my child. Also I teach children's yoga to 2 and 3 year old children and up. They embrace the teachings and really enjoy and love it. The parents also love it since it has helped their child be able to self soothe when it comes to anger, phobias, self esteem, and a number of other issues that have risen. I know this is your opinion but there is a whole beautiful world of yoga where all people (age not a factor) do belong.

  4. Paula says:

    Mara,

    I hope you will reconsider sharing your yoga with your daughter. It is possible to have your practice just for you to spend time teaching her a few fun postures, sneak in some philosophy, and look at yoga from a total different perspective.

    I have three children, and I understand how you feel, especially when I wake at 5 to practice ALONE and one of them ends up awake and on my mat. Then a solitary practice turns into a giggling gymnastics session. Both good for the soul.

    Shanti,
    Paula

  5. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thank you Mara!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  6. Lisa H says:

    As others have said I am glad you know your limits, because yoga can be wonderful for kids. I was never a believer in yoga, but I have a child with tourettes and anxiety and heard about a local yoga teacher who was great so I gave it a shot because I did not want to medicate my daughter (9). The experience was wonderful not only did she learn yoga, so did I. The most important thing my daughter learned was how to calm herself, and breathe. The poses came a bit later, but I can say she has learned how to have better control over herself and we no longer are pondering the medication need. Her Gastroenterologist was so pleased with the results he is recommending the same for kids with extreme anxiety hoping to reduce their reliance on medication. So while you may not be a good yoga instructor for kids, remember there are many wonderful ones out there.

  7. sanjeev says:

    Whats gonna happen if teachers at school of yr kids also say the same. No school for kids because they cant follow instructions or they don`t sit down when told. Should we keep them off schools by same logic ? Everyone has to begin sometime and some place including kids. Its better in my view they learn early than later.Kids learn fast if you can keep their attention and make it interesting for them.And its not late for you to learn few things too ;)

  8. It takes a special person to be an effective kids yoga instructor. Yesterday on the Yogainmyschool.com Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/YogaInMySchool we discussed the qualities needed. They included: patience, sense of humor, flexibility, ability to connect with & value each child for who they are, authenticity, strong class management skills, ability to be inspiring, joy, creativity, looking through the eyes of a child, organization, knowledge of alignment and child development, an open mind, passion for kids, ability to go with the flow & the energy of the room.

    If you can't bring these to a kids yoga classroom please allow someone else to teach the children who can. There are fabulous #kidsyoga instructors out there. Kids deserve the joy and benefits of yoga and teacher/studios who value them as individuals and worthy of their time and energy.

    I encourage yoga instructors to make sure they receive training specific to kids/teens yoga before they teach a class. It is not simply a playful adult class. There is purpose to it (including the games & stories) and specific skills/attitudes/abilities which will make the experience enjoyable and rewarding for all.

    Donna Freeman
    founder Yogainmyschool.com

    • Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

      Donna, I think you encompassed the point of Mara's article well and make a wondeful point. I am one of those yoga teachers that does not bring the appropriate amount of emotional tools to the table that you so brilliantly outlined. But I am delighted to be affiliated with and know some brilliant yoga teachers who do. I have so much respect for children's yoga teachers because I think they bring something to the mat and teaching that, as of today, I do not have. Great thoughts!!

  9. [...] Kids? Yoga? No Thanks. ~ Mara Colbert [...]

  10. vanessafiola says:

    Oh hahaha! You're awesome, Mara.

  11. Mira Binzen says:

    Children who practice yoga – with a qualified, well-trained teacher – develop lifelong habits for robust health. It's worth it to me to put forth the extra effort in a class to redirect exuberant behavior. The practices in yoga (not just those asanas!) teach children self-regulation, self-awareness and self-mastery. It also addresses the very important issue of sensory integration. I personally have no interest in teaching yoga in a hot room where sweat is flying all over the place and abhor the ubiquitous classes that only focus on the physical poses. Isn't wonderful that yoga is as diverse as the world we live in and the practice can meet so many levels of interest and attention? Ironically, an adult might find herself feeling fidgety in my class when all the young children are sitting in meditation. Our teachers are trained not just to teach classes but to be public educators and advocates to help people understand that yoga is a complete lifestyle – the science of right living. The "yoga" we teach children goes far beyond the mat and I dare say is one of the best ways to build a brighter future for us all.

  12. Mira Binzen says:

    Oh and to your credit, Mara, when people ask me how to teach yoga to toddlers and preschoolers I tell them to teach their parents to meditate! Your own practice is the best yoga for your daughter, and time to yourself – for parents of any age children – is mandatory. It's that "secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others."

  13. I appreciate knowing that I'm not the only one that doesn't want to teach kids yoga —- my children started practicing with me around 8.

  14. [...] yoga to kids is nothing like teaching to adults. It’s ten times harder—but often that much more [...]

  15. Mara Colbert says:

    Yeah, thanks for your comment!

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