Teaching yoga to children can be a very rewarding experience, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions that can prevent people from pursuing this path or limit the effectiveness of their classes:
Myth: Yoga for children is just like yoga for adults.
Fact: While the basic principles of yoga remain the same, teaching yoga to children requires a different approach than teaching yoga to adults. Children have shorter attention spans, limited physical abilities, and different interests and emotional needs than adults. As a result, yoga classes for children should be designed to be interactive, engaging, and fun.
Yoga class for adults in the United States and many other Western countries is often almost exclusively postures (Asana), sometimes with a bit of breath control (Pranayama). Yoga for children typically encompasses the entire practice, and we put a lot of attention on ethics and philosophy (Yamas and Niyamas), sensory awareness and direction (Pratyahara), and relaxation techniques. We incorporate kid-friendly concentration (Dharana), like candle gazing, and meditation (Dhyana) techniques, like mandala coloring and guided visualization. And we never forget that we are committed to being our ideal selves and feeling oneness with the universe (Samadi).
Myth: Teaching yoga to children is easy and doesn’t require any special training.
Fact: While teaching kids yoga can be very fun, it is also hard. Kids will push every button you have and some you didn’t know you had.
Children’s yoga teachers need to understand child development, classroom management, and how to create a safe and nurturing environment for their students. They also need to be able to modify poses for children with different abilities and adapt their lessons to different age groups.
Lesson planning for children is very different than for adult yoga. Teachers need a tool kit of behavior management strategies, games and activities, songs and stories, and more. Without specialized training, yoga teachers can struggle to offer engaging classes or maintain interest or cooperation from their students so that learning can happen.
Myth: Yoga for children is just another form of physical education.
Fact: While yoga does offer physical benefits like improved flexibility and strength, it also provides numerous benefits for children’s mental and emotional health. Studies have shown that yoga can help reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem, and enhance focus and concentration.
The primary focus of most children’s yoga classes is social-emotional learning. The poses and activities are a means to that end. Kids’ classes are typically constructed around a philosophical theme, not a peak posture like many adult classes.
Myth: Children are too young to benefit from yoga.
Fact: Children can benefit greatly from yoga, even at a very young age. From toddlers to teens, Yoga can help children develop body awareness, improve balance and coordination, and increase self-regulation skills.
Yoga can also help children learn mindfulness techniques that they can use to cope with stress and anxiety and an empowering philosophical outlook for life.
Myth: Teaching yoga for children is all about fun and games.
Fact: While it’s true that children’s yoga classes should be engaging and enjoyable, they should also be grounded in the principles of yoga.
One of the common challenges new kids yoga teachers face is how to strike a balance between playfulness and mindfulness in their classes, helping children to learn yoga principles while having fun. Lean too far in either direction and that lack of balance can lead to classroom chaos, as bored students act out or class becomes all about goofing off.
A good yoga teacher training helps trainees make learning fun, which makes teaching fun too.
Teaching yoga to children can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. By seeking specialized training and understanding child development, anyone can help more children reap the benefits of yoga.
About the Author
Jennifer Mueller has been teaching yoga for children and families in Washington DC since 2008. Jen is a Yoga Alliance® Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RTY 200), a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCTY) , and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Jen teaches Breathing Space Baby Yoga & Play classes, Tot, Toddler and Little Families Yoga, afterschool yoga, infant massage, and directs day-off and summer camps . . . in addition to offering lactation support and doing bunch of behind the scenes stuff to keep it all running.