Teaching yoga to kids is at the same time very rewarding and can be tremendously tiring. My biggest learning and yogic path lies in teaching kids. It challenges my patience, it sharpens my creativity, it demands trust, and love, and self-confidence. And well, it is just so much fun really!!!
I am the only certified Cosmic Kids teacher in Belgium, but I am sure that soon there will be many more to follow. Cosmic Kids brings yoga to children in a unique way – through storytelling and fun activities, and that’s how kids get to experience yoga’s many benefits.
How I do it
I teach yoga to kids (ages 5 to 9) in one hour weekly classes at my own studio, Mano Yoga & Massage. The classes are presented as a series of 5 successive weekly hours. At the end the kids get a certificate. (Grand)parents drop in at the end of the last class and we give them a little show as a ceremony before I hand out the certificates. Handing out certificates is a good way to motivate the kids to enroll for a next series.
During holidays I have a Special Yoga Session that runs for two hours and includes many extra activities like games, crafts, healthy snacks, songs… The Special Sessions are always themed around the holidays, or the season, or something the kids relate to at that specific time of the year. Sessions during the holidays is a good way to attract new kids to the studio.
The reality of teaching yoga to kids
When you start a Kids Yoga training without any previous experience in teaching kids (like me), you expect that it will be great fun! You expect that the kids will love the story and the poses just as much as you do. Kids can be so creative, and fun, and honest. It will be a ball!!
O-oh, but once you start teaching kids, you find yourself in a messy boisterous group that doesn’t feel like doing a cat pose when you say so.
How to deal with kids
1. Make sure that the kid wants to come to yoga, and not being dragged by his/her parent
You will quickly learn how to make this distinction. When a kid constantly challenges you, when a kid is unwilling to work with you at every session, when a kid tells you that they don’t really like yoga – then it becomes clear.
I offer a free first session. If the kid likes it, he/she can enroll for the rest of the series. I try to have an open talk with the parent at the end of the first session to really make sure that it’s the kid who wants to return and he/she is not doing mom a favor.
2. Keep the kids engaged
You will need several tricks to keep the kids alert and present with what you are doing.
Repetition is key. One example is to open and end every session in the same way. We sit on our bottoms, cross our hands at our hearts and say the secret yoga word, which is Namaste. We end with a song or ring the bells and make a wish.
You will need to have three golden rules. For example – raise your hand if you want to say something, stay on your mat unless I tell you to leave and copy the moves I do and have fun!
You will learn to be authoritative very soon. Teaching kids is so different from teaching adults. In the beginning it felt very awkward, like I had to be some kind of dictator, but I soon discovered that kids really need guidance and structure. It is our duty to provide that.
Make them feel like they have something to say in the way the yoga story unfolds. For example, if you travel, let them choose between three things: a car, a hot air balloon or a magic carpet. Ask questions: how do they feel about the story, where do they feel the pose in their body.
Keep the group together
Mind the interaction part though. One of the biggest challenges for me is to not give too much attention to each kid individually. You need to manage the group as a whole. If one kid starts to tell an endless story about his socks, then all the other kids will certainly start jumping off their mats.
Be silly, make jokes, smile, use a lot of facial expressions, use all the voices you have, be sweet, create a welcome and friendly space. Be positive always. Give them attention, tell them that they are great. Empower them.
Don’t think you can have a one-hour session only doing yoga. Kids loose their interest! It always happens, even if your story is the greatest. I start each class with a yoga story and yoga activities; we end our session mostly with talking about the moral of the story, ringing the bells and making a wish. We then all roll up our mats (good concentration exercise) and have a drink. Then we do a drawing, a game, a craft until the parents are back. It’s a good way to keep the kids busy until their parents return.
3. Be over prepared but go with the flow
Make sure you now exactly what and how you are going to do. Know your yoga story and poses by heart, know the rules, keep your structure, try to imagine how each kid in your class is going to react ,and try to prepare your reaction. Have lots of extra games and activities prepared so you always have enough things as a back up.
If you have all these things prepared, then you can just go with a flow and do something completely different. 🙂
Why would one even want to teach yoga to kids – it seems like hard work?
Because there is nothing more rewarding in life!
This is what a kid wrote for me to put on my website after I had asked her (mom) if she felt like writing something about the kids yoga.
“Hi, my name is Emma and I go to kids yoga every Wednesday. I learn tricks to sleep better. It makes me happy because I become calm. I like going to class because Isis is so sweat. Every week she tells a beautiful story and then she shows us how to do the yoga poses so we can do them too. I already have three certificates and I am very proud of them.”
Emiel, a 5 year old boy, never wanted to go to “normal” school again, only to yoga school.
And finally, from a mom: “I am going to have to drop some other activity in my daughter’s schedule, because ever since she stopped coming to yoga, she is more stressed and having frequent leg cramps. It stopped when she came to yoga, so I decided to make sure that she can join your classes again.”
The best way to start is to jump right in!
A sample yoga practice for kids, created by Isis Mulleman. (View PDF file)
You are welcome to use it for your own classes!
I discovered yoga at a time when I was frantically running around feeling stressed and getting massages weekly to find some comfort in my body.
I soon felt the big impact that yoga had on my body, my mind and my general outlook on life, and I wanted to share that with others. So I joined yoga teacher trainings, went on yoga holidays, attended workshops – the whole enchilada – and soon I became a yoga teacher and a massage therapist, feeling that they blend beautifully together to benefit both body and mind.
I also discovered that to me yoga is not something highbrow, fancy, spiritual or exclusive. No, it is something anyone can do, and it can be a very down to earth practice. There is no need for Sanskrit, om chanting and incense to truly feel and embody what it means to do yoga or have a good massage.
Therefore I massage and teach yoga to those who might need it most: expectant mothers going though a huge transformation; kids who are natural yogis and who can easily relate to many principles of yoga; newborns and their moms, connecting and getting to know each other; women and men feeling stressed; people who just want to feel good in their body.
Read more stories about yoga teachers who teach specialty classes