7 Simple Pieces of Advice for Teaching Yoga to Kids
I was a newly qualified kids yoga teacher . . . fresh out of my training, with bundles of ideas. Amidst all of my excitement, I agreed to teach my first yoga class. Soon, my commitment sank in and the nerves did as well. I was worried if this was something I could truly facilitate or if it was a huge mistake.
Prior to this, I taught art workshops and belly dance classes in the community. But teaching yoga is very different than teaching art, and all the knowledge I gained from my previous teaching experience went out the window. I had to tap into my intuition and just go with the flow. Que Sera, Sera!
It was my first class, and with my teaching manual in hand I shouted, “OK everyone, take off your socks” to a room full of tweenagers who were busy on their phones. Already I wanted to make a run for it.
But I was able to calm down, remove the “teacher” persona, and embrace my inner child. I tied my hair into pigtails and brought to life my theatrical and quirky side.
Needless to say, the class was a big hit and the kids would not stop talking about yoga. I showed them basic AcroYoga poses and allowed some of the kids to demonstrate poses at the front of the class. By the end, those same kids who were previously glued to their smartphones all sat with me in Padmasana, chanting with their eyes closed. My heart beamed like the sun.
I have grown as a person and teacher, and learned a lot since that first class. I understand more about age-appropriate lesson plans, child development, using creativity as a tool, and positive communication.
Based on my experiences, here are 7 simple steps for teaching yoga to kids:
Step 1: Prepare a flexible lesson plan
Unlike our adult yoga students, kids aren’t as quiet and focused when they enter class, and they usually won’t follow a set sequence. Our well thought-out class may not always go as planned, and that’s OK!
Just have a basic sense of what you’d like to do, and remain open to adapting to the energy of the day. Keep these things in mind, and your kids yoga class will be a success.
Just like any yoga class, read the room and take your lead from your students. Remember it is about giving the children what they need, not what you perfectly planned the night before.
Step 2: Dial in the tempo of your teaching
To keep little minds focused and quiet before class begins, I like to leave art materials by their mats in case kids arrive early. We start class with an introductory “focus activity” to bring everyone together, like a yoga song or name game to introduce new members.
Next, practice a nice warm-up like a Sun Salutation or a dancing game. Then, present the main part of the class such as an age appropriate yoga story, yoga dance or AcroYoga. End the session with a short breathing exercise or mindful meditation. The Tibetan singing bowl is also a huge hit with the kids.
Step 3: Remember – kids are not mini-adults
Their little bodies and expanding minds obviously differ from a grown adult. And whilst most adults want to attend a yoga class, this may not always be the case with children.
Often it is the parent’s idea to send their child to attend a class, and some children may arrive tired, hungry or struggling with personal issues. And whereas adults repress their feelings, children do not.
This can make it tricky to hold a class together. Be patient, compassionate and find something positive to highlight about their practice.
It is also a good idea to have other activities available to fit each student’s need. Offer them the option to participate by observation or maybe color a mandala instead. Remember yoga can be more than physical asanas.
Step 4: Playfulness is key
One thing I love about teaching yoga to kids is that you can bring other elements into the class like drama, art, dance, musical instruments, puppetry, dress-up, and more.
I even know a teacher who taught a yoga-dance choreography to “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele with her tween group.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. It is important to establish a structure to follow, but you need to be prepared for the opportunity for creative expression and plenty of inquisitive questions. Keep it playful and have fun!
Step 5: Use kid-friendly positive feedback
Unlike adults, kids do not respond to “good job” when they achieve something, so you have to mix it up a bit. Try high fives, a happy dance or give feedback like, “Wow! Amazing! You’re a superhero!”
Kids also love competitions and rewards that they can bring home. I like to print out cute certificates and offer lollipops to end a weekend workshop or 6-week program. Allow yourself to be creative and fun with your feedback.
Step 6: Ease up on alignment
Are they having fun? Are they safe? Then that is all that matters. At this age, just showing them what Tree Pose and Mountain Pose are is the main goal. If their practice continues into adulthood, they will then begin to learn about alignment.
At this stage, our aim is to give kids a positive experience of yoga. Our task is to make kids feel brave and strong in Warrior Pose or free to fly in Crow Pose. We are teaching them the basic idea of the asanas and what they represent, so keep it joyful and simple.
Step 7: Grow with them
I have learned that children are very wise, honest, and have an intuition about the world that we adults have largely forgotten. As adults, we become conditioned to hold onto the past and strive for a better future, and in so doing, we forget how to just be in the present moment.
Teaching yoga to children enables you to grow with them, and it’s a truly humbling experience.
When children play, they are living in the now and they are not afraid to fall. From teaching yoga to kids, I’ve grown to accept my flaws and understand that in the grand scheme of things, my imperfections do not matter, and I have realized that we are here on this earth to play, create and love. How simple is that?
Sharing yoga with children is a gift. If teaching yoga to kids is something that you have felt drawn to doing, I highly recommend you take it into consideration. It can be a little intimidating to some, but adding these tips to your toolbox will build your confidence. Do not be afraid to learn a little along the way.
Have you been thinking of becoming a kids yoga teacher? Do you feel a little intimidated or overwhelmed at the idea? Are these tips helpful? If you are a current kid’s yoga teacher, please add some advice or tips in the comments below!
Photographer: Jon Roberts
Location: The Yoga Loft
Yoga Kids: Angel, Melody, Kornelia & Inga