By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
While it might seem contradictory to some adults to find the words “children” and “Yoga” in the same sentence, kids classes can actually be quite effective. Children can gain many of the same benefits from Yoga as adults, including stress relief, strengthening and lengthening of the muscles, and improved focus. Of course, there is a catch. Kids Yoga classes must follow a slightly different format than adult classes, in order to capture their attention. There are many different methods to use when teaching a kids Yoga class.
Yoga instructors can engage children by keeping classes fast-paced and interactive. It is fine for kids Yoga instructors to let go of any “traditional” formats of a Yoga class and think outside of the box a bit. When given the opportunity, kids are amazingly creative and innovative because they are not bound by the same rules of society, which many adults have come to be. Give children the space and freedom to express emotions, thoughts, and feelings, through Yoga, and they will most likely amaze you.
Kids Yoga instructors can tell stories through series of poses, explore visualization exercises, and let the children interpret Yoga poses in unique ways. The more a Yoga instructor is able to let go, the easier it will be for the children to express themselves.
Props and visual aids, such as Yoga cards, are extremely helpful when teaching a kids Yoga class. Instructors can play interactive games using Yoga cards. Begin by setting the scene for a story. Then, ask each child to choose a card, perform the pose; then add another line or two to the story. Perhaps the story will not make perfect sense, but the kids will have fun developing and celebrating their own ideas. Props, like hats, scarves, feathers, or masks can also be a fun way to teach animal or nature poses and allow the kids to have fun with it.
Yoga instructors can also encourage children to use their imaginations through visualization exercises, which lead to deep relaxation. Ask children to get into a comfortable Yoga pose, such as corpse pose. Then, talk them through a warm, relaxing scene, such as lying on a beach. Ask children to imagine how the sand would feel against their skin, or the sun on their faces. Lead them deeper, by asking them to imagine three things on the beach with them. Engage all of the senses, by asking them to imagine the smells and sounds, as well. After the exercise, allow children to share their individual beach imaginings. Highlight the fact that everyone’s beach is different, because everyone has their own unique ideas.
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