Parents often contact us asking for family classes for their older children (8+) and one of the first questions we always ask is: “Does your daughter/son WANT to take a yoga class with you?”
We get that your child has outgrown pretending to be a frog or barking in down dog, but that doesn’t mean they are ready for an adult class and it doesn’t make family yoga the right class either.
While you might have a very close relationship with your tween, upper-elementary through the teen years marks a time when peer influence increases dramatically and fear of peer judgement can be intense. While an older child or teen might be very happy to practice yoga with parents in to comfort of home, there aren’t many who want to take a weekly class making funny (aka vulnerable) postures in the presence of both their parents and their peers (oh yeah, and their peers’ parents – awk-ward!)
In spite of that, we’ve actually had pretty good luck with the occasional tween/parent family yoga workshop – so long as the teacher is super understanding of the inherent weirdness of the situation for the younger partners in the family pairs and helps them get past that and on to having fun. Those workshops are less of a yoga practice and more fun, team-building activities, movement games, and relaxation in the context of yoga.
Does that mean your child should attend your weekly vinyasa practice? Maybe, maybe not. Some children respond to attending regular classes with their parents and there are a couple neighborhood studios that allow that. Many older children and tweens/teens find adult yoga . . . boring.
Because yoga is best when practiced regularly, occasional workshops don’t have the lasting self-regulatory skill and physical conditioning benefits of a weekly class. Series commitment is best for building a rapport and trust between teacher and students and between the students as well. Finally, learning is best when the instructor can build on previous lessons because the same students attend every week.
While older children are often ready for more complex poses and sequences, the reality is that most (but not all) students younger than mid-teens do not have the physical endurance and body awareness for an adult class. Vinyasa classes move too fast and Hatha classes hold poses way too long. Older kids and young teens do best in short bursts of high effort alternating with rest and that’s just not what most adult yoga classes offer.
What’s more, adult classes are kind of boring to many young yogis. We don’t play games. We don’t even talk. We just silently do pose after pose after pose.
Kids and teens tend to process out loud. That was definitely an adjustment when I (Jen) began teaching upper elementary and teen classes. Tween/teen classes might look a bit more like adult yoga, but that’s only if you turn the sound off. Wow . . . so much talking.
A good tween/teen yoga instructor will challenge the class to find quiet, concentration, and focus, but the expectations are different than in an adult class. Overall, there is much more interaction between students and the result is a nice sense of community.
Tween/teen yoga is also much more playful than adult yoga. Youth 8-15 are still kids in many ways, but their lives expect much more work and much less play than it did when they were littler. They still need playtime. No, we don’t play pretend the way we do in preschooler classes, but we do lots of partner poses and games chosen specifically to appeal to the age range. Tween/teen yoga games focus on team-building, learning about poses and physical, body awareness, focus, or concentration challenges.
Finally, tween and teen classes also incorporate more discussion than your average adult class. Yoga is not just a physical practice. It’s a philosophy for engaging in the world with integrity and compassion. Breathing Space tween and teen classes offer opportunities to reflect on the core ethics of yoga and how we can take our practice off the mat.
Check our kids and teen yoga page for current opportunities.
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) and Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCTY) as well as a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM), a Certified Baby Signing Time Instructor, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Jen teaches Breathing Space Baby Yoga & Play classes, Tot, Toddler and Little Families Yoga, afterschool yoga, Baby & Toddler Signing Time, 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.