Teaching is a Lot Like Climbing the Himalayas

Teaching in the classrooms, hallways, and the windowless gymnasium of one school for over a decade has helped me discover what it means to be a yoga teacher to children.  Long term students especially helped.  I think being a teacher is a lot like climbing the Himalayas.  There are many peaks and valleys on the path.  When I find myself in a valley I try to remember that I am making progress.  The valleys on the climb are always at a higher elevation than where you started.

Teaching is filled with peaks and valleys.

I remember the first peak I reached as a new teacher.  Eagerly marching into class, lesson plan in hand, full of excitement.  The students gobbled up all my games and activities. I thought that to teach kids all I needed were some good games and songs in my pocket and I had them. I had teaching all figured out.  Or at least I thought I did.  Those long term students had something else in mind.  The beautiful summit I was on had a great big valley waiting on the other side.

The First Valley I Got Stuck In

After a few years of teaching the same kids I started to hear, “We played that game already”  and “We did that before.”  Its surprising how fast one can descend. Before I knew it  I was in a valley, I’ll call it the valley of boredom.  Anyone who’s ever taught kids knows that boredom means soon kids are talking to each other, daydreaming, or worse, doing things that turn the whole class’s attention to them and away from the teacher.  Boredom means trouble for a teacher.

The kids weren’t the only ones feeling a dullness.  In this valley I felt more like a camp counselor than a yoga teacher.

To get out of this dip I first had to recognize I had a problem.  I was getting tired of the yoga song and dance.  It was hard teaching in that valley.  Every class felt like I was putting on a show and the kids practically throw rotten tomatoes at you if they don’t like it.  They have no filter.  A quiet class can quickly mutiny, filling with shouting, laughing and disregard for authority. I considered quitting at that time because the next peak appeared insurmountable.

I had a choice to make, either go forward or go back, but I couldn’t live in the valley.

Not All Yoga Games are Created Equal

Experimenting I noticed that not all games are created equal.  Some games are just silly fun and when the kids played them they got more silly.  Games with teaching moments got the kids quieter and more centered.  You could play these games more than once because they spoke to the heart of the child.  They led to discussions of real yoga ideas.  As I chose my activities more Consciously teaching yoga became a pleasure again.  Things were looking up.

Then last week I had another realization with the children.  Twenty five kids filled the gym and their voices began bouncing off the walls.  Out of habit I searched my mind for a game to fill the last twenty minutes but these students had heard it all before and nothing seemed to quieten them down.

Instead of a game I began telling the children near me something I was reading in my personal yogic studies, something like this:Focus for children

“If you only knew who you were.  If you only understood how powerful you are.  All the power that ever was or will be is here now.  You can harness that power if you can take control of yourself and learn to focus your attention.  If you can do that you can be whatever you put your mind to.”

A Quiet that Surprised Me

By the time I finished the whole room was quiet, a quiet that surprised me.  The kids were waiting to hear more about who they are, longing to hear about what life could offer them.  The kids wanted to do yoga not play games.

Teaching kids long term comes with its ups and downs. You get to know the kids, their names, their personalities. and help them navigate the stages of learning.  But a teacher also goes through the ups and downs on the path of learning.  When a teacher grows they can connect with students on a deeper level, beyond summer camp, to experience the bliss of yoga.

I’m grateful for the gift of being a kids yoga teacher, especially knowing that the valleys can lead to breathtaking views.

Please share your advice or questions about these peaks and valley on the path of learning in the comments.


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Participants get inspired at the kids yoga teacher training course at Bluebird Montesorri.

This course is held at Bluebird Montessori School another school where I’ve taught kids yoga for over 10 years.  Class size is limited to 15 people – you get lots of personal attention and opportunities to expand your kids yoga repertoire.

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  1. Thanks Lisa and Janet. Its great that experienced teachers and role models like yourselves are learning, reading, and contemplating our lives as teachers. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. Aruna, I love your honesty about the teaching process and for your wisdom in understanding what is really going on “the journey through the mountains”. I think that is what makes an inspirational teacher like yourself – one that understands that by “seeing” the children for who they really are, inspires them to be a better person! Thank you for “Teaching the Teachers to be better too!”

  3. Oh, so well said! Thank you for sharing, as always!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your experience; I agree that it can be a challenge to get past the “camp counselor” role and really appreciate your perspective. Would you mind telling us what some of your favorite games with teaching moments are? I’m very interested in using games to encourage mindfulness. Namaste!

    • Hi Christina. thanks for leaving a comment. There are a few games on the blog if you search “games” on the side bar there is a search box. But I pulled out a couple that may help. I also have a number in my Kids Yoga Teacher Training that I don’t post on my blog.

      Here are a couple to get you started. The first is the hula hoop game you can see at the end of the video on this post. I describe the teaching moment in the video.


      Here’s another I call the Spaghetti Game that helps kids get comfortable with the chaos before things are figured out:


      Part of teaching moments are taking time out to have them. Lately I’ve seen many Halloween yoga classes for kids where all kinds of scary poses are planned. But if the teacher misses the opportunity to discuss how to manage fear that’s where the teacher is more like a camp counselor.

      The yoga teacher will intro the theme of fear. How to overcome it to get the candy or whatever else is on the other side, or sometimes deciding not to do something if the fear alerts you to a danger. How yoga helps us assess fear from a neutral place.

      You’ve inspired me to do a blog post about Teaching Moments! So thanks again for the comment.

  5. Greetings all Children’s Yoga Teachers,
    I remember feeling the rut occassionaly too. Remember that these classes may seem repetitive to you and the same kids. I always remind myself and the class that yoga is a practice and practicing makes us better @ being patient and more flexible in all ways.

    The minute we become more focused, the minute the kids do.

  6. Thanks for this great reminder of how somedays its up and somedays down and just staying the course and trusting ourselves is really the answer.