Young Yoga Masters interviews Janet Williams, a certified primary/junior teacher and registered yoga instructor about yoga in the classroom.
These 5 Tips give you the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of kids yoga.
1: Why do Yoga with Kids?
Young Yoga Masters: Janet. You’ve been a school teacher and a yoga instructor for almost 20 years so you know what’s up with yoga in the classroom. What is your experience of the benefit of bringing yoga into the classroom? Give us one of your favorite stories of how children change after doing yoga.
Janet: One of my favorite stories is one I received in an e-mail – unsolicited. Here’s what she wrote me:
As an experienced Supply Teacher, I know that it can be a challenge to get children to listen during Physical Education because of the less structured format and the high excitement level. The first class that I tried “What I See, I Can Be” with, were a notorious Grade 2/3 split. They were known as a difficult class to control and all morning they acted up. When we got to Gym Class, I put on the CD and had the children follow along with the yoga book. The results were amazing! To my delight, the yoga book and CD captured their interest and attention. The children who had been uncooperative all morning settled down and remained settled down for the rest of the day.
This letter from this teacher came right after I wrote my book, and confirmed my mission to bring yoga to children. She so clearly describes the benefits of bringing yoga into the classroom, to settle kids down and bring them health at the same time.
2: Who can Teach Kid’s Yoga?
Young Yoga Masters: Can anyone bring yoga into the classroom? A lot of people think you need to be “really into yoga.” Do you?
Janet: No, not at all. You don’t have to be really into yoga or a yoga teacher to bring yoga to children, although it can help in providing confidence in teaching. With the right resources and training, you can learn a number of routines that pretty much all kids love, routines that motivate children to do yoga. I’ve had many people, like one Phys Ed Consultant at a School Board, who didn’t know about yoga but was sold after just one yoga class after seeing how much the kids loved it. Teachers can pick up a few good routines and start with those in the classroom.
3: When to do Yoga with Children?
Young Yoga Masters: Teachers are already overloaded! What can teachers do to get kids doing yoga when they already have so much curriculum to cover?
Janet: Its true, teachers are overloaded. There’s not enough time in the day to do all the things they are expected to do. So I suggest two things, the first is what I call “2 for 1.” Any time a teacher can teach two things at once, it is a good thing.
So for example, in math, when the kids are learning angles, one child measures the angles of another child’s arms using a protractor. It is a great physical, hands on, healthy 2 for 1. I also think it helps kids better remember the lesson.
The second way is for a teacher to bring a Children’s Yoga Teacher into the classroom. This way the teacher can do some prep or marking while they keep an eye on the yoga class. If they get a kids yoga teacher who knows how to handle children it gives them a break from teaching. That’s why the practicum is so important in Kids Yoga Teacher Training, so the kids yoga teachers can deliver a good class.
4: Where to hold a Yoga Class at School?
Young Yoga Masters: How can a teacher find space for yoga at school?
Janet: Being able to do yoga in the classroom means choosing the right yoga poses. I chose the poses that can be done beside a desk. Of course when you have a gym or playground you have less restrictions, but when I developed the yoga flow in my book, I made sure all the poses can be done anywhere.
For example, in the worst case scenario, when the desks can’t be moved and there is no carpeted area we just go ahead and do yoga right beside the desk. Even a pose like the final relaxation, we do on the floor beside the desk. Kids don’t care about it, they are all over the playground anyway. But if the floor is really unsuitable, we just lay our head on the desk. All 13 yoga poses in my book were very purposefully chosen for classrooms, so kids could do all the yoga beside the desk.
5: What gets kids motivated to do yoga?
Young Yoga Masters: What is the best way to get kids who are new to yoga to give it a try?
Janet: If I’m going into a new class I make sure I go in with visual aids. As all good teachers know you want children to HEAR the instructions and SEE the instructions. This helps all the different types of learners. I bring in my book and my poster to every class, so the children can see and do.
Over the weeks I incorporate other props to engage their imagination. This helps them hold each yoga pose for longer times. Plus I am fully engaged as a teacher, by walking around the room and providing positive feedback to boost their self-confidence and self-esteem. Yoga is a time to empower children. Of course I make corrections when the children could potentially hurt themselves, but I encourage the effort that they put in, rather than criticizing them for not being perfect.
Young Yoga Masters: Do you have one final tip for a new teacher who wants to bring yoga to kids.
Janet: Kids get bored of stuff very quickly, so as a kid’s yoga teacher you need to have a very large treasure chest of visual aids and props. Having a lot of training and resources means you have back-up ideas when something isn’t working.
I’ve thought up many ideas on my own, but it was also really nice to just get ideas that work by taking Kids Yoga Teacher Training. That’s what I want to give teachers in our Registered Children’s Yoga School, so teachers don’t have to come up with everything on their own. That can be exhausting, plus you don’t know if it will work until you try it. So it helps to have experienced mentors to guide you when you’re filling your treasure chest.
Young Yoga Masters: Thank you Janet for these wonderful tips for bringing yoga to children. We highly recommend the What I See, I Can Be Guided Yoga Flow for Children!
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