This summer, I’ve spent three afternoons each week guiding kids ranging from age 4-14 through yoga class. The class was part of a kid’s summer camp at a local rock climbing gym, Mesa Rim. Teaching yoga to kids has taught me to look at yoga differently so I want to share my experience with you and/or anyone who may want to teach yoga to kids.
The main lesson I learned was one of patience.
Each child is different and each needs unique attention. Some kids need to be guided along step by step, while others are confident enough to jump into a handstand without giving it a second thought. Some of the kids were good listeners while others; let’s just say I’m not even sure they had ears! Sometimes there would be a 5-year old that could sit in meditation without even being told to do so and other weeks there were older kids that acted like they were too cool for yoga and just sat in the back of the room doing other things during class.
My job was challenging because I had a new group of kids every week and the age range was big. What works for a 4-year-old is a little different than what will work for a 14-year-old. But I did my best, and thankfully some of the older kids actually helped the little ones, which was really sweet.
I am a fairly soft-spoken person, and I absolutely hate yelling, so I often had a hard time getting the kids attention. I wanted SO badly for them to just listen to me as I spoke calmly but often times that didn’t work. I ended up using chimes and the other camp counselors’ help to get the room to focus when they started to drift.
I learned to love, and to hate, yoga props.
Some props worked wonders with the kids and others made my life even more difficult. For example, I used a ball (like this one) to teach the kids to control their breath. It was a hit! The kids loved it. By focusing on the ball and their breath they were able to calm themselves down. This was great for them and even better for me! Other props, like yoga blocks, didn’t work for us (although I love them and use these ones). The kids enjoyed playing with the blocks but would rather use them to build thrones or towers than as an assist in yoga poses.
We also used yoga blankets and bolsters. I found that if I gave these to the kids at the beginning of class they got distracted with playing with them or wound up trying to nap instead of doing yoga. Once I realized this I kept the blankets and bolsters on the shelf until right before Savasana. At that point in class, I would tell the kids to go pick out what they wanted to use to get comfortable and the props helped them get to a restful state.
Essential oils were also a big hit with the kids. At the beginning of class I would pass around something citrusy or minty and at the end of class, I used lavender. My favorite essential oil sprays are made by Quinntessentials. I also often make my own.
My classes also used two songs from Kidding Around Yoga; Sargent Salutations and Secret Garden. Sargent Salutations is a fun way to break the ice and teach the kids some simple poses and Secret Garden gives them something to tune into during savasana.
Lastly, kids are smart!
They enjoyed learning about the purpose of each pose and the parts of the body it targeted. They especially liked to work on balancing and to go upside-down. I would ask them about where they were sore or tight and we would work on those places. I think that helped them feel like they were part of the process and that they were being heard.
Kids also have no filter and will always speak their mind. They were very surprised that their yoga teacher couldn’t do the splits. “How can you be a yoga teacher if you can’t do the splits” “You’re already a grown up, you’ll never be able to learn the splits now” – Thanks for believing in me, kids!
Regardless of the ups & downs – I would highly recommend teaching yoga to kids.
If you teach yoga to adults you should try to teach to a group of kids at least once in your life. It will likely be a humbling experience. It taught me to look at yoga in a more playful way. Practicing yoga gives us a chance to explore our bodies and be curious about what is happening within. Kids may sometimes be a handful but they definitely know how to be in the moment and how to have fun. It’s quite bitter-sweet that camp ended this week but I definitely plan to teach yoga to kids in the future!
It will likely be a humbling experience. It taught me to look at yoga in a more playful way. Practicing yoga gives us a chance to explore our bodies and be curious about what is happening within. Kids may sometimes be a handful but they definitely know how to be in the moment and how to have fun. It’s quite bitter-sweet that camp ended this week but I definitely plan to teach yoga to kids in the future!