By Elena Brower, via our friends at Mindful Mama
“Do you do yoga with your son?” I’m asked this question pretty consistently. The answer: yes and no. When I was asked to film a class with him for YogaGlo, I wasn’t sure. My work is to serve my students from an educated, experiential place, and I haven’t been trained to teach yoga to kids. Art for kids, yes. Yoga for kids, no.
Our attempts at practicing together essentially consist of me doing two sun salutations and a few standing poses, 4-year-old Jonah walking all over me, transforming my back into a pony ride and holding on for dear life as I lift from up dog back into down dog—both of us laughing all the way. Depending on the day, we may get in a flying angel and some handstands. We just do what we do. Then, once a week, the wonderful JoAnna Ross lights the path for him at New Field Yoga in New York City. He always comes back from JoAnna’s class happy, a bit softer, somehow, and with some new animal pose to show me. And (maybe best of all!) he always sleeps super soundly that night.
Yoga directly empowers children to engage in self-respect and respect for others. Kids who practice enjoy long attention spans, enhanced patience, self-esteem, confidence, refined motor coordination, better balance, more creativity and better concentration. From my own limited experience, my peers who were raised on yoga can claim all of these qualities, and perhaps more importantly, when they do falter emotionally or physically, their practice is there to unconditionally support their healing.
The most lasting impressions we make on our children relate to how we handle the unexpected shifts in our “plans”—how we navigate the terrain of any day with elegance instead of reactivity when things go awry. When we create space for acceptance, no matter what comes, we are practicing yoga. So even if our “plan” for a practice (or any activity) doesn’t quite materialize (an example of which you will see below), our task is to stay in our own hearts, accept what our children need, and try to speak to them where they are. Our intent is to make space for our children to be in their hearts more (sometimes), and to be in the moment—through breathing and enjoying their physicality. This should never feel like a chore. As you’ll see I managed that sometimes, and forgot other times, which is why I can speak about it so clearly (self-deprecating smile here).
To plan my class for filming (I’d hoped to present something more akin to the creative classes offered by the pros), I checked out my favorite kid yoga teachers (listed below, most of whom have graced me with their presence in my class over the years), and then happened upon an article by Sarah Herrington in “New York Yoga Magazine.” Most of what Jonah and I tried to do in our “class” was inspired by her piece.
For parents or educators who would like to incorporate more heart connection into time with their kids, I hope this is remotely useful. It’s just a few minutes; my attempt to share with you some of what resonates with us. So when Jonah begins to literally dart around the room and burn off some energy running and jumping on the very tempting blanket islands, don’t worry, he manages to rein it back in.