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May 20, 2011

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

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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