November 16, 2010

Is Your Yoga Class Out of Control?

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 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)

Read 19 Comments and Reply

Read 19 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Indra Singh  |  Contribution: 3,720