Many years ago, when I was a very new yoga teacher, I asked a mentor about teaching yoga to kids. “I don’t know why people do that,” she said. “Teaching kids yoga…it’s just babysitting.” I was startled to hear this, but I was so new to teaching that I didn’t argue.
Fast forward more than a decade, and I am firmly convinced of the opposite! I can’t believe what I’ve seen in SMY kids yoga classes over the years. Last week, during our free trial class, I was particularly impressed with our teachers, Melissa Haft and Caro Marr. These talented educators meet the kids where they are, come in with a concrete plan for what they’re going to do with them, but stay super flexible.
After class, I asked Caro about how she had managed to get seven five- to six-year-olds to do pranayama (yogic breath work) and meditation. “That was remarkable!” I told her. She laughed and said, “The truth is, they want to go down. Just like us grown ups.”
I thought that was so brilliant. And it certainly matches what I see in kids yoga classes. The kids come in and they are both hyper…and tired. Because they’re hyper, it doesn’t really work to start by asking them to be mellow. Because they’re tired, they genuinely benefit from peace and quiet. Melissa and Caro start them with physical movement to “work out the sillies” and then slowly coax them toward turning inward. There are plenty of detours along the way, of course. But over time, the kids start to learn how to relax.
Studies are stacking up showing the effectiveness of these practices for kids. Check out this excerpt from an article in The Atlantic:
“Schools have also begun experimenting with the practice and discovering that its techniques can help its students. When a school in New Haven, Connecticut, required yoga and meditation classes three times a week for its incoming freshman, studies found that after each class, students had significantly reduced levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their bodies. In San Francisco, schools that participated in Quiet Time, a Transcendental Meditation program, had twice as many students score proficient in English on the California Achievement Test than in similar schools where the program didn’t exist. Visitacion Valley Middle School specifically reduced suspensions by 45 percent during the program’s first year. Attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, grade point averages improved, and the school recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco on the annual California Healthy Kids Survey. Other studies have shown that mindfulness education programs improved students’ self-control, attentiveness and respect for other classmates, enhanced the school climate, and improved teachers’ moods.”
This week our 8-week kids session starts. Is there a child in your life who you think could benefit from yoga? Send them over–it’s not just babysitting. Click here for details!