Teaching yoga to children in French: it was definitely in my stretch zone but I agreed to do it anyway. I’m glad I did as the experience has changed my expectations around what’s involved in teaching a yoga class to any age group.
Play is important
I know trying to connect to our higher selves can be a serious, introspective business and it is important to savour every carefully observed breath in a slow paced adult yoga class. But kids naturally have a shorter attention span so added entertainment is vital for keeping them engaged. I find myself being more playful, experimental and light-hearted in their classes. I enjoy making the hissing sound of a snake in Cobra pose, sticking my tongue out in Lion pose or throwing in some unofficial dancefloor shapes in a Vinyasa flow. So I wonder if maybe I could, sometimes, lighten up my adult classes a little more. After all, if we’re going to connect to ourselves we need to embrace our childlike fun-loving spirit too, don’t we?
But silence is golden
When it came to the chance to be silent and still in relaxation, I faced a challenge. The kids in my class thought this was as exciting as a giant sleepover. They drew their mats closer to each other and huddled up to whisper jokes, giggling and fidgeting at a time that is sacred to yoga practitioners. I really believe it is important to end a class for any age with a few moments of silent contemplation so I couldn’t have this. I quickly made a rule that ‘La Relaxation est Silencieuse’ and explained to them why this is so important for everyone. Since then, they’ve pretty much got the hang of the silent stage. I think they secretly enjoy it.
When you teach children yoga, one of the best way to keep their attention is through storytelling. I took inspiration from another teacher in the village, Claudia Porta, who has written her own book of children’s yoga poses, which contains some great analogies from daily life and the animal kingdom to help children do the poses and breathing, One of my favourite instructions is imagining you are breathing on a bowl of hot chocolate and trying to cool it down. This instruction gets much better results than the dull command “inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth.”
Support each other
Unlike in adult classes, where students often want to keep themselves to themselves, kids are used to working as a group and love doing poses in pairs. As well as being fun to try, this brings a supportive element to the class, with older students helping younger ones. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more collaborative adult classes out there where advanced students were encouraged to (literally) support the beginners?
No pose too tough
Finally I praise the efforts of these spirited young yoginis to try any pose I throw at them, even if it means they end up in a crumpled heap on their mat. As we get older it can be tempting to write off the more adventurous balances, inversions and backbends as simply not right for us. But practically any pose can be adapted to less limber bodies. By trying them out (safely, with a teacher) you might be surprised at what your body is capable of. These girls CAN, so we can too.
I teach yoga to kids once a week at 17h00 in the Salle Marie Mauron, Plan de la Tour.