So, children have been a strong part of my professional and personal life for as long as I can remember. After I graduated as an RN in the 80’s (I know, I am really that old), I had the opportunity to take a post-grad certification in Pediatric Nursing. I felt like I had found my life’s calling and have been immersed in taking care of small people for the past 25 years or so. Then I had my own children - two amazing boys - so those tiny people became a fixture in my life at home and work.
Fast forward to yoga training where I met a girl who was teaching yoga to children. She explained to me exactly what she did and how it worked. How absolutely amazing, I thought, I could do that, I would love to do that. I found a small company called The Mindfulness Project who specialize in teaching yoga and meditation to preschoolers and guess what? They hired me.
Knowing child development and how to achieve milestones and being a yoga nerd is a perfect fit for this job, but I realized very quickly that teaching yoga to children is a thin line between control and chaos. Preschoolers are natural yogis, they have energy and flexibility, they love to learn new things, they soak up new information like a sponge and want to please and will do (almost) anything you ask of them. But they are also super wiggly, have very short attention spans and therefore, need to be kept engaged. Otherwise you could have a revolt on your hands.
The list of benefits of teaching yoga and meditation to preschoolers is so long I do not have enough blog space to touch most of it. Yoga increases self-awareness and confidence in this age group. It increases motor skills, flexibility and balance. Breathing exercises enhance breathing endurance and helps children learn how to relax their bodies. And boy, don’t we all need to learn how to relax our bodies. If I had learned how to do that when I was 3 or 4 years old, it could have saved me a whole lot of trouble throughout life.
Teachers report that after preschoolers have done a short (30 minutes max) session of meditation and yoga, children’s behavior and concentration improves. Heck, I know a lot of grown-ups that could do with a good dose of that!
Crowd control can be an issue. One preschool aged group I teach just did not get the memo on how to sit on your spot and stay there. Within 10 seconds of starting the class 15 little bodies were competing to sit on my knee. So, I went to a bargain store and bought really cheap yoga mats and cut them in half. The next time I taught this wiggly cohort I gave them each their own mat and said to them in my most scary “British” voice.
“Pretend we are floating on a swamp and if you leave your mat you will be eaten by the crocodiles and alligators!”
I know, I know not very yogini of me but it worked like a dream and I am not above veiled threats to gain some control.
Things I have learned while teaching yoga to children:
- They love props. I have a breathing ball (bought it on Amazon) and even the youngest ones can do the deep breathing exercises with a strong visual component.
- 2-year olds don’t really do yoga, they sit and stare at you with their mouths open and their noses running. You are teaching to an audience of one.
- 4-year-old boys will say the words “fart” and “poop” whenever they can.
- Adventure stories like “Going on A Bear Hunt” are a big hit.
- Incorporating poses such as Warrior 1, 2 and 3 into a story really make sense to them and they can do it!
- Preschoolers love Savasana. Who knew?! The first time I tried floating on a cloud with a guided meditation I thought they would not last 30 seconds. 5 minutes later we were still going strong!
I have to admit - after teaching yoga to children for a whole morning, I sometimes stagger out of the preschool looking for a cocktail. But it's so much fun and so endearing when a kid recognizes me and greets me with “Miss Angie, the yoga lady." They have an endless supply of hugs and kisses and snotty noses. They are eager to learn and the sheer joy of moving their bodies and learning to slow down their minds with meditation makes me feel good about investing in the next generation of yogis!
Until next time -