“Are there any boys taking your yoga class?”
If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked this question by a parent who wants to sign their son up for one of my yoga classes, but wants to make sure there are other boys in the class, I would have about $25! I know that’s not a lot of money, but it is a lot to be asked that question in the 2 ½ years I have been teaching kids yoga. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful that parents are asking this question, and I am even more grateful for my answer. The truth is, I typically have an even amount of boys and girls in my classes. In fact, at one school I teach at, I have more boy yoga students attending than girls!
In America, and the west, there seems to be a stigma that yoga is a women’s/ girls’ activity. The facts are in India, where yoga began over 5000 years ago, young men dominated the yoga scene. I find myself repeating this fact to male students and parents of sons to reassure them. I can go on and on about all of the male professional athletes who practice yoga regularly to build strength, focus, and relieve anxiety. I can state my case for males to take a Kidding Around Yoga (KAY) class, or any yoga class, but I really don’t need to. Once anyone, girls or boys, women or men take a yoga class, they are hooked! The kids’ classes I teach are active, yet they are also calming. Yoga classes keep all yogis engaged & present, while teaching the yoga students the necessary tools to deal with stress, boost confidence & concentration, and build strength.
Kidding Around Yoga (KAY) has a great song that all of the boy yogis in my classes love called “Yoga Makes Me Strong.” They particularly like flexing their muscles & kissing their biceps!
On the flip side, KAY’s meditation technique of Peace Begins With Me (PBWM) really makes an impact. It’s simple. While saying the four words, “Peace begins with me”, you touch each finger pad to the thumb pad. Repeat over and over, getting quieter each time. Eventually the chanting repetition will just be in your head. The first time my oldest son (he was 6 at the time) meditated using the PBWM technique, it brought me to tears, and I’m not a crier! It was such a beautiful moment. Parents of my students will send me photos of their sons and daughters meditating in the car, while doing homework, or before bedtime. These are all beautiful moments.
We also practice the silly Oms! Instead of the traditional monotone chant “Om”, we create silly ways to make the “Om” sound. My middle son (age 5) especially loves to make up silly Oms. Our favorite is the Star Wars Om. We Om to the sound of “The Imperial March” (Om – Om – Om- OmOmOm- OmOmOm).
My youngest son (age 4) loves The Secret Garden (Savasana). This is the best part of class, and he always looks forward to it. The Secret Garden is Yoga Nidra or deep relaxation. The children lie on their mats and imagine riding on their magic carpets to their Secret Garden. In their Secret Garden they can relax and use their imagination to fill their secret garden with flowers, ponds, animals, their family, or anything they want! In their Secret Garden, they imagine they are running around, watching fish swim in the pond, or laying in their garden. This relaxing part of the class is particularly useful to kids who are constantly going and going.
All of these elements of a kids’ yoga class confirms that yoga: improves concentration, builds strength & flexibility, increases focus, and relieves stress, and is suitable for both GIRLS AND BOYS. Yoga is an activity that boys and girls can do together. It seems that our children’s activities are often separated by gender. Whether it be cheerleading, soccer, volleyball, football, or basketball, the teams are typically made up of either all boys or all girls. When boys and girls practice yoga together in the same class, it builds community and strengthens friendships. In yoga, children are allowed to be themselves. There is no judgment, no competition, no desire to be the best student or athlete. In a yoga class, we are all joined as one, which coincidentally is the definition of yoga.
While it is wonderful and necessary to have goals that you want to strive to be your best at, but we must also find balance. When we make everything a competition, our lives can become extremely stressful. My sons are very active in sports, and I love, love, love to watch my their games. However, yoga is their balance, their safe place, their Secret Garden.