So you want to be a kids’ yoga teacher? Good choice. It’s the BEST way to change the world. Check it out:
- Kids are honest and open – you know what they really think about the class
As a teacher that started out leading adult yoga classes, I’ve sometimes walked away from a class feeling as if I had taught people who were only halfway present. Adults are often so stoic, reserved and distracted by so much internal stress. Kids have stress too, and that’s why they benefit from yoga as much as adults do. However when kids are stressed, they often share it with you and it becomes much easier to work with it on the spot.
Sometimes the stress comes out in unexpected ways: a kid will do everything really fast or just lay around on the ground and act uninterested and tired. They usually won’t tell you in words, but in the way they do or don’t engage in the class.
On the other hand, kids very willingly comment on what they like. In my experience, kids have expressed how much they look forward to Secret Garden (our guided meditation time), Yogi Says (a version of Simon Says) and other activities. Sometimes kids have so much to say that it takes away from the flow of the class, I remind them to save it for closing circle or for when they line up for stamps or stickers at the end of class.
- It keeps you on your toes
When I told someone that I taught kids’ yoga and creative movement, they responded that it must be somewhat like herding cats. I have to admit that it is indeed a little bit like that at times. But that’s because of what I talked about in #1 above: that kids are very open about what they do and don’t want to do. That means that no matter how much you plan the class, you often deviate from some of the steps in the plan and that makes your bag of tricks so important. Be ready to switch whatever song or activity you might have planned due to many possible reasons: the kids are tired, or they’re wired, or they’ve already done it and they want to try something new. Or someone keeps cutting in to tell you how much they already know about the activity, in which case you can nominate that person as a helper to demonstrate, explain, or facilitate the activity.
- It’s more creative than adults’ yoga
I don’t know about you but most adults I know don’t want to take a yoga class where they’re going to do silly oms, tell stories, play games, and sing songs but that’s okay! For those of us adventurous teachers who are kids/artists/singers/dancers at heart, kids’ yoga is a dream come true because it means that when you do yoga, you get to engage in so many other creative activities. Not only that, the structure of the class is more interactive; once they have done yoga a few times, you can occasionally let them jump in and teach their peers.
- It’s often more holistic than adults’ yoga (includes Meditation, Pranayama & Philosophy).
Yoga has become more mainstream and more and more people know what mantras, chakras, meditation and mindfulness are, but there are still tons of classes, especially in gyms that mostly focus on postures. There’s nothing wrong with that, since it is still a gateway into the wider range of yoga practices, but it also means that many people might come away from a yoga class without the chance to experience the depth of the practice. A good kids’ class offers a well-rounded class structure that includes with postures, breathing, singing/chanting, meditation, and Savasana (Secret Garden).
- You get to sing, dance, play games and tell stories
I know I already mentioned this, but it’s worth bringing up again if you like to do these things but feel very inhibited in doing them because you’re no longer a child. This means that as a kids’ yoga teacher you get to reserve the space and time (and have the excuse) to do these things. Better yet, you have the exuberance of children backing you up so you don’t have to sing solo! That always helps me when I feel shy about singing.
Not only do you get to sing, dance, play games and tell stories – you help kids to do the same and to practice yoga at the same time. I hope you realize just how nifty that is!
- You see the results (kids respond and show what they know)
One of my favorite things to do once I’ve taught a group a few times is to let some of the kids lead the sun salutation. They are very good at it and it gives them a feeling of accomplishment. It also gives you a sense of how much they are retaining it. Encourage them to practice at home. Remind them of the simple things they can do and you will often hear about how they share it with their families.
It’s nice to see a group get comfortable with the ritual of class so that each time you come back to them, they know how to stay quiet after they recite “Peace begins with me,” or they enjoy Secret Garden more because they know how relaxed they’ll feel after.
- You don’t have to be super nitpicky about alignments.
It’s not that alignments aren’t important, but postures are generally held for much shorter periods in a kids class. Combine that with the fact that kids are so much more flexible and resilient than adults, so the risk of injury is low. In my time teaching, I’ve seen that kids are more likely to get hurt from a room that is not set up safely or another kid who is moving without spatial awareness. Prioritize those aspects of safety and you can help kids develop awareness of themselves, others and their surroundings. Finer alignments will come when they get older.
- It’s comic relief.
Let me just preface this by saying that kids are comic relief without even doing yoga but it’s pretty uplifting to see that you can teach them something as profound and useful as yoga while still letting them unleash their inner goofball. It’s also easy to insert a short laughing yoga activity into class to let the kids burn off steam or practice creative ways of deepening their breath.
- You get to help kids de-stress and develop healthy coping habits.
This generation of kids is so much busier than when I was growing up. If you were lucky like me and so many others, you had so much free time as a kid. Now kids are overscheduled, over-parented and overly pressured to be the best at all they do. If their parents are going to sign them up for yet another class, hopefully it’s yoga, so that they can learn to slow down and be present, relaxed and joyful at all the other thousand things they do!
In teaching kids, it might seem ridiculous or pointless to get them to meditate for 30 seconds or a minute. You might wonder if that has any effect at all, but it’s the frequency of meditation that will make the impression. Maybe it only lasted 20 seconds before one of the kids laughed or farted. The more times they have the chance to sit quietly, if even for just a moment, the more natural it will become and the more likely they will be to try it on their own spontaneously in times of stress.
- It gives you a chance to put your own yoga into practice in ways you might have never imagined
This is possibly the most rewarding and challenging aspect of teaching kids yoga. I have said for years that teaching yoga is part of my own personal yoga practice because it compels me to ‘walk the walk.’ However, once I started teaching kids, I learned in a very intense way what it means to practice patience in all situations. Kids are cute, funny, creative, and inspiring…sometimes very difficult to deal with! I’m always a better teacher when I keep up my own practice so that when one of the kids refuses to do anything or keeps picking on another kid or interrupting class, I can take a deep breath and keep the class atmosphere focused and relatively calm.