August 12, 2011

The Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about teaching kids yoga

Kids yoga teachers are a special breed of yogis. They are amazingly patient and uber positive. They are playful and kind, funny and fun, and they are always flexible and always smiling.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that folks can be so awesomely awesome!

Don’t they know about the dark side of teaching yoga to kids? Am I the only one? Are their superhuman yogi powers impervious to the kids’ kryptonite?

The truly good ones are.

So for the rest of us, here it is, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about teaching yoga to kids:

  1. 45 minute classes can feel like a life time. Sometimes a yoga class can feel like the last 45 minutes of school before summer vacation. Eternal.
  2. Kids are loud. Even when they are trying to be quiet and still–they are still loud.
  3. Kids cry. You can see it happening. The child pauses, contemplates whether or not they should cry and then slowly, timidly at first, the tears begin to fall. And the moment attention is called to the crying kid–BRING ON THE WATER WORKS!!!!! Nothing makes a yogi feel worse that a crying kid. Believe me.
  4. Kids point out all your mistakes and flaws. There’s nothing like a kid to keep us humble. Forgot to wax your upper lip? They’ll remind you. Forgot to bring the bubbles you promised? They’ll call you out on it.
  5. Kids interrupt. They want to tell you about their classroom hamster or their new toy dinosaur at the exact same time you want to start teaching. Funny how that always happens.
  6. Kids toot in yoga.
  7. Kids like Spongebob Square Pants and Dora the Explorer and so should you!
  8. If kids aren’t having fun you’ll have a mutiny on your hands. You’ll be waving the white flag of surrender while they run wild through the studio.
  9. The saying, “the more the merrier” doesn’t necessarily apply to kids yoga. Sometimes more is scarier! Taking on more kids than you can handle can be incredibly overwhelming and send you running for the hills.
  10. Kids love, love, love yoga props. Schlepping feathers and fuzz balls, bubbles and bells, puppets and hula hoops makes us glorified prop sherpas. Trying to avoid draging bags full of toys from your car to class by declaring that “our imagination will be our prop of choice” rarely works.

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Aug 27, 2013 11:48am

I posted a piece today about kids and yoga. Some of the "deeper" moments. They all get something out of it, some more than others. I had a boy last year who clearly disliked being there. He kept looking longingly out at the kids on the soccer field…

Amy Haysman Aug 15, 2011 8:27pm

This is good to know. I totally agree that laughter is important and a gateway to elevation. There are a lot of people reading this blog and I felt it was important to let them know a perspective that reflects my experiences which are quite different than what you wrote in your article. The fact that we are discussing teaching yoga to kids in the first place is a wonderful thing and as it becomes more and more mainstream our responsibility as kids' yoga teachers to be clear in our message will only grow more important. Thank you for being open to the feedback.

laurie Aug 15, 2011 4:57pm

Wow. I truly didn't expect all these responses. I wrote this article with my tongue firmly planted in cheek… I thought the tone was clear. I have been working with kids for 15 years–as a social worker and as a yoga teacher–and having a sense of humor has been a life saver. Being able to laugh through some pretty awful moments makes everyhting more palatable and it makes me a better teacher, a better advocate and a better cheerleader for these kids.
And please let me be clear, I have the highest expectations for the kids I teach. I believe it is our job to raise them up. But I also believe that it is imperative that we start from where they are, be flexible and open to following their energy. Kids are way too stuctured and stressed. Yoga does not need to join the ranks of their other over scheduled activities. I appreciate your feedback.

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Laurie Jordan

Laurie Jordan is the author of YAWNING YOGA: A GOODNIGHT BOOK FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP based on her successful bedtime yoga series, Yawning Yoga and the creator of Little Sprouts Yoga for kids. She has a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work and is a certified yoga instructor for children and adults. Find her yoga practice here.

Laurie took her first yoga class when she was 15 but the experience left a nasty taste in her mouth. She was kicked out for laughing at the instructors mantra, “feel the honey golden light in your…unmentionables” Eeww.

Who would have thought that all these years later, that “honey golden” moment would be the one that influences her teaching the most? (Or at the very least, that it serves as a reminder to never say anything as hippy- dippy and dorky as that–and to always, always keep it real.)