I am often faced with an amused expression when I tell people I teach yoga to children… Many people question ‘how does that work?!’ Well if you have ever been to an adult’s yoga class then it is probably hard to imagine how we get children to partake in such a class… Well the simple answer to this is that we don’t!! I love my yoga practice and still attend many yoga classes as well as doing my own home practice… but adult yoga classes are rather serious in essence, you come into class, there is possibly some nice relaxing yoga music being played, you all set out your own mats, get any props you need and are ready to start the class. Which will most probably include time to enjoy breathing exercises, practice yoga postures and enjoy a time for relaxation. Needless to say children’s yoga classes are a little bit more ‘chaotic’ than this!!
I have worked in the early year’s sector for a number of years and first found Baby Massage and Baby Yoga when I had my first baby boy, after attending regular classes and experiencing the endless benefits I trained to become a Baby Massage and Baby Yoga Instructor. During my second pregnancy I joined a Pregnancy Yoga class, this become one of the most enjoyable times of my week and I soon started practising at home every day. After having my second little boy we went to Postnatal Yoga classes together, it was great to be able to have him with me whilst I worked on rebuilding my fitness. I soon decided that I wanted to train to become a Yoga Teacher. Through my training I was introduced to Children’s Yoga, which given my background, I was really interested in. I was incredibly excited when I realised I could put my two passions, working with children and yoga, together and look to make a career out of this.
It was at this point that I set up Raven Child Yoga with the aim to offer Yoga to all children from newborn’s to teenagers.
At the moment I spend most of my week working with young children in preschools and nurseries as well as running private classes. I also run Family Yoga classes for children from 3 years to teenagers, where the whole family can come along and enjoy yoga together.
Teaching yoga to preschool aged children (usually around 2-4 years) has been one of the biggest learning curves of my life. When I embarked on this journey I had worked in Early Years Settings for almost 10 years and had two young children of my own… ‘How hard could this be?!’ I asked myself… very hard is the answer to that question!! Children of this age group have rather short attention spans and aren’t always able to hold their focus for any length of time… so the idea of going in and having a group of preschoolers follow your lead and move nicely in and out of postures, such as downward dog, was soon a vision I had to forget!
Children of this age group like to be free, they like to feel they are making their own decisions, they need to be able to explore and experiment with new concepts. With this knowledge and my experience in mind I quickly realised that my classes needed to be fun, expressive and creative, there needed to be repetition to help the children make the necessary connections in their brains, but there also needed to be an element of surprise to keep them interested and engaged.
My yoga classes always start off with a Yoga Hello Song and a Warm Up, we always do a few rounds of Sun Salutations (adapted for children). I then use a lot of yoga music which has been specifically made for children’s yoga classes. I also include different yoga games to keep it fun. We always do breathing exercises, I am a massive fan of using props, such as feathers to help children learn and understand how to use their breath correctly. As with all yoga classes we always finish with a relaxation… not always that easy to get 2 and 3 year old children to be still!! We encourage children to relax by providing scented eye pillows and blankets. This is a lovely time to reinforce any positive message which have been explored in the class.
To some the classes may seem rather hectic at times, especially when they have the tranquil image of an adults yoga class in their minds, but children need space to move and experiment with their bodies, there may also be times when they just need to ‘let their sillies out’ and then re-join the class. The aim is to have all the children participating fully throughout the class, but this is something that has to be worked on over a long period of time, and children will always have good and bad days, just as us adults do, and it’s for us as teachers to acknowledge this and roll with it.
Teaching children’s yoga classes is the best job I could ask for and I feel privileged to be able to work with so many fantastic children, long may it continue!!