By Puravi Joshi
Before I embarked on my 200 hours yoga training, I actually already qualified to become a Childrens’ yoga teacher – I knew that the difference I wanted to make in the world however small had to start with kids.
According to The Mental Health Foundation, 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
I truly believe that yoga and mindfulness are great tools to help children deal with stress and anxiety and some of my most memorable moments with my most cherished mini yogis have been when they’ve come up to me after my class and stated the following:
“I feel so calm every day since I did yoga and I can sleep well now”
“It has helped me with my anxiety a lot”
“I’ve become more confident”
“Yoga has helped me be mindful and forget and forgive”
“I can control my anger better, like when I get annoyed, I can just calm down by breathing”
Having spent a year teaching yoga to children – I realise just how much of a mentor I’ve become to them. I’ve become the person they go to and trust in a safe environment. The work I do with children is to offer them the tools they need to carve out their own identities, so they are armed with lifelong skills; weapons of self-preservation; to last them long after they leave me.
Here are a few things I’ve learned (so far) along the way as a kids yoga teacher:
- Be Creative – use their imagination and yours! Tell a story using yoga poses, take a trip around the world using yoga poses to describe how you travel and what you see. Make yoga super fun for kids, and even though you may have a session plan, be flexible and just go with the energy.
I often do 5-10 minutes warming up, 10 minutes of standing poses, 10 minutes of balance poses, 10 minutes of seated poses, and 5-10 minutes of meditation/story time. That way it’s constantly changing so they don’t lose interest.
- When you start to wonder, are they actually taking any of this in? Remember that they really and truly are. Using their mind, they can conjure up the colours, how it looks, how it feels, and who they allow into their own private space – maybe no one, maybe a parent, a sibling, or a friend. I love when the kids come up to me afterwards and tell me about their spaces they have created with their imagination.
Yoga is a great way to introduce meditation to children of all ages, in a way they can understand. If you do it over a period of time, you’re creating a safe place for a child to take themselves to when they feel scared or overwhelmed or just need a little timeout. It’s a practice they can continue as they grow up. I also love when their parents come and tell me the kids have been showing off their yoga moves to their family.
- I read a short meditation story to them as they close their eyes. Do they lie still like us adults in savasana? A few actually do, though most will fidget but just go with the flow!
4. I have 5 go-to poses the kids always love:
Tree pose: Balance is a skill that is learned. Tree pose is brilliant for helping improve balance, and it also helps a child work on their focus and concentration skills too.
Downward facing dog: A great all-over stretch for legs that also strengthens shoulders and arms. Plus they can bark like a dog! Kids love making the animal noises.
Pretzel pose: This seated twist will help keep their digestive system working well and eases stress.
Cobra pose: A great stretch for their backs and they love to make the hissing sound of a snake as they do it.
Childs pose: A great timeout pose. Helps ease the mind and stretches out the lower back.
- No matter what sort of day you are having, teaching children will bring a smile and melt your heart. Their enthusiasm and energy can brighten up your day. Children tend to teach you just as much as you are teaching them!
In the joy of others lies our own and I’ve not found this to be more true than in teaching children!
Puravi is a London based mindfulness and yoga instructor, teaching both Adults and Children. Find out more about her classes here. Puravi works with schools to bring Yoga programs into the curriculum, to work with her on any projects you might be interested, send her a message.