Kids yoga classes are different from adult yoga classes. Before you decide to become a kids yoga instructor, or start doing yoga with your class at school, you’ll want to become familiar with these 8 dirty truths about teaching yoga to kids.
1. There will be tears – The trigger could be being overtired, or not getting to lead the game, or feeling overwhelmed, or that somebody ran into them during Yoga Tag, or they are frustrated at not being able to do their favourite pose precisely when they wanted. Tears are part and parcel of kids learning about their emotions and how to handle life. After school yoga classes are especially prone to this response as kids have already put in a full day of learning, may not have had an adequate after school snack (low-blood sugar often causes emotional melt-downs), or may simply need a little TLC whereas the rest of the class wants to burn off excess energy.
2. Classes are noisy – Laughter, chatting, roaring, barking, singing, energetic chanting and more are part of a yoga class for kids. Once a Grade 5 teacher asked me how to get her students to be quiet during yoga. My response: “Don’t.” Kids need to express themselves using all their senses and they will at every opportunity. I believe that happy noise is productive to learning. One rule, however, when the instructor talks everyone else listens. That way explanations and instruction can be given, and then activities can be fully interactive. So have fun, make some noise!
3. You will be interrupted – Imagine half the adults in your yoga class expressing out loud the first thought that comes to mind every time the teacher begins to explain a pose or activity. Imagine being half way through a story only to be asked, “Can I go to the bathroom?” Imagine hearing all about someone’s fish that died on the weekend, a favourite TV show, the type of cake that was served at a friend’s birthday party, or the nasty comment that Mommy said to Daddy when he came home late from work…again. Now you are at a kids yoga class.
4. Classroom management is an essential skill – You will need to possess some classroom management skills to keep Bobby from constantly playing with the gong, Sue from cuddling with her best friend, Joey on task, and Beth from using her yoga mat like a sled. Kids generally know how to behave but will take advantage of any opportunity for chaos. Every kids yoga instructor needs to find their own style of classroom management so that the environment stays conducive to learning and growth. Remember you are in charge.
5. When you mess up, you’ll be told – Adults are generally rather polite when instructors make minor mistakes, stumble over their words, or fall flat on their faces. Kids – not so much! They love pointing out your shortcomings, faux pas, and inconsistencies. Instructors have two options: 1) achieve perfection 2) develop a sense of humour. Since perfection is a far way off for me, I find laughing about my blunders a lot more fun. In addition, the way in which adults respond to error helps kids to see how to handle their own mistakes in positive, life affirming ways.
6. Classes are similar to herding cats – Each group has a variety of ages, physical, mental and emotional abilities, and maturity levels. Add to that the fact that kids’ attention spans can be measured in minutes and you have an interesting challenge on your hands. Establishing a class routine and making sure the themes are kid friendly will lengthen the amount of time kids will spend on any one given activity. Kids yoga instructors, however, had better always have a few fall back activities & yoga games in mind to keep everyone engaged and having fun.
7. It’s not about you – Kids love classes which focus on THEIR interests. WebKinz, Hannah Montana, Star Wars, Creepy Crawlies, Princesses, Spiderman, and more all come to yoga class. When the instructor incorporates a yoga inspired activity which plays off the students’ favourite things then you know you’ve got a great thing going. As well, each holiday from Valentine’s to Halloween provides fodder for fun. So don’t be surprised if you spend time wondering how to incorporate leprechauns or superheros into your next yoga class.
8. Props, props, & more props – For an adult yoga class most instructors use a mat, an mp3 player, and if you are lucky an eye pillow. Iyengar classes will add a strap, a block, a blanket, and possibly a chair. For any given kids yoga class, take that basic list and add books, puppets, feathers, scarves, pompoms, parachutes, stuffed animals, musical instruments, hula hoops, card decks, hoberman spheres, rocks, balls, bean bags, craft supplies, colouring sheets, and more. Be sure to have some storage space available.
So there you have it: the inconveniences, traumas & reality of teaching yoga to kids.
There is a flip side however. If you take pleasure in providing tools for kids to be happy and healthy the rest of their lives, enjoy genuine sharing, approach life with curiosity and creativity, want to end each class with a sense of satisfaction, and love to receive spontaneous hugs, then teaching yoga to kids is for you.