5 Surprising things I learned from Kids Yoga
Honestly, when I started working with kids through Yoga, I didn't know what to expect. I was really ready for anything but what I learned was more than I could even imagine.
I'd been working with adults for over a decade at this point. Many times, after a class an adult student will talk to me about their life. One day after a Yoga practice an adult asked if I would work with her children. I was first a bit surprised but honestly kind of excited. I thought, I really LOVE Yoga and I really enjoy children. So, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share the benefits of Yoga to a young population. That's where our journey started. At the time there really wasn't a Kids Yoga Teacher curriculum. So, I sat down with my Yoga books and designed my own curriculum. I really wanted these classes to be as life changing as adult yoga classes are. I wanted kids to leave our Yoga practice feeling empowered, heard and of course respected. For this I took an adult class plan and suited it for kids. That meant including pose's, meditation, breath work, discussions and savasana. Check out the 5 things I've learned below.
1) Kids Crave Calmness
SURPRISED-is an understatement. Many of our kid’s classes are taught right after school. So, I thought kids would come to the studio with tons of energy and they would just want to move. I really thought it would be playtime with some asana (poses) sprinkled in. But wow was I surprised during our practice when kids would ask for savasana (rest time). I remember this moment after the kids came out of savasana and class was coming to an end, one little girl stated, "so this is what relaxed feels like"!
2) Kids can take on heavy subjects
During my adult classes I always tie in readings. I've read stories about compassion, empathy, courage, truthfulness, anger, sadness, letting go ect. So I thought why not talk about these subjects with kids. I choose readings that kids could relate too and I opened the class for discussion. I thought for sure no one would want to talk. But once again I was taken back. Kids not only wanted to talk about these subjects they could really relate. These topics seem to bring there own experience as a child into our own yoga practice. It seemed to invite them to make yoga their own.
3) Kids enjoy talking about their feelings.
I was for sure no child would want to talk about their feelings. Even as a 30 something year old adult I have a rough time talking about my feelings. However, kids really wanted to talk about feelings. I think the key to starting this discussion was creating a safe space. On the very first day we talk about how our Yoga practice is our own. It is a safe place to talk about anything and share our emotions. It was always safe to share or safe to not share as well. The choice was always up to the kids.
4) Kids LOVE structure.
We quickly learned Kids need structure. In our early classes we had some behavioral issues pop up. The studio does not have the support that a school has. There are no other teachers, guidance counselor or principles. There is just me and one assistant. So, we are not only the front lines we are the only line. So, if a meltdown arises, we need to defuse the situation and move on quickly and respectfully. Talking with one of my good friends who is a therapist she suggested having the kids come up with some rules for our practice. Wow, what a HUGE difference this made. Giving the power to the children and allowing them to create rules for our practice transformed how we dealt with tough behavioral issues. It showed the children how to act during practice and gave them true guidelines. This really created a more open space which gave children control of themselves. I guess we all do better when we clearly know what is expected from us.
5) Kids are so worried.
This was probably the biggest surprise to me. One day our class theme was gratitude and worry. For half the class we spoke about people we are grateful for in our lives and we tied in poses and we dedicated our practice to those people. Then the other half of the class we spoke about worrying. The effects of worry on the body and how we can physically and mentally combat that stress. To help release these feelings we created a worry tree. Kids were asked to write down on a paper ornament something they may worry about and leave in on the worry tree, so it is no longer just kept inside the child. I was shocked and a bit saddened because these little kids worry about everything adults worry about. They are stressed about homework. They are stressed about bullies. They are stressed about their parent’s health. They are stressed about being fat. One child was even worried about losing a parent to a heart attack because the parent was unhealthy. I know myself included have thought "what do you have to worry about". Let me tell you...everything. After this class I will never say or think that again.
I've had one basic rule for myself from the start. No matter how challenging a child was I would never give up on them. Because honestly, we all need hope. We all need that special someone who truly believes in us. That hears us. That will without a doubt listen even when we are yelling. Will provide sympathy even when we are prickly. Those kids have always believed in me and yoga and for that I will always believe in them. I think I went into this practice as the teacher but really, I've learned so much from the kids. They really taught me so much more. They became my teacher. Young teachers of humanity.