by guest author Gopala Amir Yaffe, Rainbow Kids Yoga
When you teach yoga to anybody, remember this:
Open your eyes, your ears, your mind and your heart, and really look. Look at who is standing in front of you and start from where they are.
If you start from where they are, there are no limits to what you can achieve together. If you start from where you expected and planned for them to be, or from where someone told you they are, or from where the book says…man, you’re in trouble! Nothing you’ll do will reach them and they will use this disconnect to make your class, let’s say…challenging.
Yoga for kids is nothing like yoga for adults – it has to be fun! If you are all “Om Shanti” and “Namaste,” you most likely won’t be able to keep up with the kids in your class. Kids classes are, and should be as befits kids, fast and loud and dramatic… and even a bit crazy. In a good, fun way of course!
But even with all of this fun and excitement, there comes a time in your weekly yoga classes where the kids want not just be silly and play yoga, but actually, and gradually, get a bit better at it.
In this article we will explore a variety of creative and practical ways to help kids do poses better:
In general, we do not adjust kids in the poses; rather we demonstrate and let the kids imitate us and do the pose in a way that is comfortable for them. We are all different, and if you’ll try to make everyone do the pose exactly the same way, you are sure to hurt someone.
Of course, if you see a kid doing a pose in a way that may be harmful to them, you should come and help them… slowly and gently. When you deal with more challenging poses, a few deep breaths always help to make it easier and better!
Have you ever tried to teach kids yoga in the same way you teach grownups? I have no doubt it was a total failure. Look, if you want children to do yoga, you must make it fun!
Using Props to Teach Kid’s Yoga
You can have the kids reach farther in the Seated Forward Bend (Sandwich Pose) by luring them to reach towards a toy, or they can back bend farther in the Cobra Pose by stretching toward a puppet with their nose. In the Candle Pose, the kids come into a higher and better pose by reaching toward your hand or a doll with their feet.
Using a Yoga Problem to Stimulate Curiousity and Creativity
Come to the center of the circle and assume a yoga pose in an awkward or wrong way (you can also ask for a volunteer to do it). Then, one at a time, another kid comes to the center, walks around the person who is in the yoga problem, and makes one adjustment. We keep going until the posture is perfect and then we choose a new posture problem. It’s a great way to learn how to do the poses correctly!
The Yoga Sculptor Game
In groups of two, one starts as a lump of clay resting in Child’s Pose while the other moves him and sculpts him, one adjustment at a time, into an amazing yoga pose statue. I usually don’t fix the kids’ creations, but if you want to, you can go around to all the sculptures and suggest to the artist to make small corrections that might make the pose more comfortable and steady.
You can do it in a few ways:
- If the kids are familiar with the poses you can just say a name of a pose for everyone to sculpt.
- You be the model, or have one of the kids be, and do a certain yoga pose for everyone to sculpt their clay into.
- You can give the sculptors a different yoga card each and have them mold their clay accordingly.
- You don’t have to sculpt the clay into poses you know; you can also invent totally new ones just for fun (it is especially fun with poses that require balance) – just make sure that your ‘statue’ is comfortable!
- Instead of sculpting your clay using your hands, attach an imaginary string to different parts of your clay’s body and move him by pulling these strings in different directions.
- Sculpt your clay by using verbal instructions, telling him to move a certain body part in a certain direction until the shape you wanted is created – this is great to improve the ability to articulate clear instructions, but it works only for kids over the age of six.
- Don’t forget to massage and knead the clay before starting to sculpt it!
Create a Sculpture Art Studio
You, the teacher, will be the sculptor in this game! This exercise demonstrates mutual trust and respect, and gives you the opportunity to adjust everyone in their poses.
Ask you students to rest in child pose and become soft like play dough. Go around the classroom and sculpt your students into different poses. You might want to use a theme; you could all be rockets, in the Chair Pose, blasting off to the moon or different animals from the Australian Bush or the African Savanna. You could make them all into cheeky monkeys with their hands covering their eyes, or sticking their fingers in their ears or nose… Make it fun!
The Kids Yoga Workshop
This is the best way to teach kids how to do poses better but it is only suitable for kids over the age of six or so.
Every class, starting after the first 3-4 classes, you can take five minutes of the class to teach the kids how to do a certain pose better. The rest of the class is still totally amazing crazy fun! Only five minutes per class are more serious.
In these five minutes you take one pose and you teach the kids how to do that one pose better. Teach them how to:
- Go into and out of the pose
- Do the pose better
- Variations in the pose
- Do it in pairs and a group…
For example – the headstand (it shouldn’t be the first pose you workshop of course):
- How to fall/ roll out of the pose
- Do the pose with feet on the wall
- Do the pose with a friend making a protective circle around your feet with their hands
- Do leg, and even hand variations of the pose
- Headless Headstand in groups of three: One child comes into the Crab Pose (Table Top). The second child puts her head between his thighs, holds his ankles with her hands, and lifts up into a headstand with her shoulders resting on the first child’s legs. The third child is the Mini Teacher; he stands over the first child, and he makes sure that the child in the headless headstand is safe at all times by supporting her with his hands if she wobbles.
You can have a discussion about poses and ask if there’s a certain pose that anyone would like to learn or improve on; use that as the topic for the day’s five minutes workshop.
The Yoga Picture and Art Gallery
Take photos of your students doing their favorite poses and proudly display them in your studio. Use them as a guide to remind the group how to do the poses. You could even hang them in fun sequences for the group to practice, and let the students rearrange them once in a while.
If you want, you can have pictures or drawings of the poses done really “correctly”, and use it as a reference for how to do the poses better. Or alternatively, the kids can provide their own artwork of their favorite pose or a fun and crazy invented pose that they would like to achieve.
Pose of the Month
Choose one pose to work on for a whole month. Explore the pose from every angle, using your body, your friends and your imagination – Celebrate it!
- How many different animals can this pose be?
- Can this pose move in some way and become a traveling pose?
- Draw pictures of the pose
- Invent partner poses and group poses based on this pose
- Make up and sing songs about this special pose
- Explore variations of the pose
- Make special sequences using these variations
- Teach the older children all of the cool benefits of this pose
Yoga World Records
It sounds competitive, but it doesn’t have to be. Focus on the students’ strengths, and find something that everyone is good at. You can be as silly and creative as you like! You can even invent group records and try to break them together! Your students are sure to make a greater effort than they usually do and improve their poses.
Make your Yoga World Record Chart, and proudly display it in your classroom. It may look similar to this:
YOGA WORLD RECORDS
The Talent | The Winner | The Record
Jumping the most times in frog pose | Oli | 10,000 jumps!
Most convincing monkey behavior | Gopala | Non stop!
Longest standing Yoga Tree | Eliza | Six Minutes!
Largest Human Pyramid | Class Four | 15 people!
Staying still the longest | Emily | 10 min (Starfish pose)
Tallest tower of ice cream scoops | Emma, Meika, Kelby, | 5 YEAH!
Most convincing animal sound | Gopala | The Monkey
Make up your own yoga challenges and get your students to add their ideas too.
Using the Instruction, ‘Make it Beautiful’
This is an instruction I use a lot with kids. When I tell the kids “Make it Beautiful”, it helps them move through the poses with more awareness. Instead of jumping in and out of poses and flinging our legs and arms all over, which is ok in a kids yoga class to start with, we move in an attentive and careful way… we learn to appreciate our body and the magic that makes all of its movements, and yoga, so beautiful.
Good luck! And Rainbow Kids Yoga is always here for you if you need some more ideas on how to be the most fun, super popular and coolest kid yoga teacher in the universe!
Interested in learning more about how to teach yoga to children?
Rainbow Kids Yoga is running a 3 day “Yoga for Kids and Families” Teacher Training in Auckland from November 9th -11th. Find out more here.
Gopala Amir Yaffe is the founder and owner of Rainbow Kids Yoga
Gopala has been teaching Yoga for children and adults, as well as meditation and Yoga philosophy, since 1995. He was a monk in the Sivananda Yoga Centers in Israel and the Bahamas for ten years, from 1994-2004.
In 2007, Gopala founded the studio Yoga LeShalom (Hebrew for “Yoga for Peace”) in Tel Aviv, Gopala’s hometown. Yoga LeShalom is a studio for the whole family, where the daily schedule included Drop-in Yoga classes for adults, Yoga for kids, Ma and Baby, and Family Yoga.
That same year, Gopala began focusing on training Yoga teachers for kids, and Rainbow Kids Yoga was born! Seeing the need to bring all of this fun to adults as well, Gopala founded Sun Moon Partner Yoga in 2009, to train Partner Yoga teachers and to enrich the Yoga world with his concept of Community Yoga.
In 2010, Gopala created our unique 200 Hour Teacher Training, focusing on Family and Community Yoga, and is the director and head teacher trainer. Today, Gopala keeps training Yoga teachers and directing family Yoga holidays worldwide, while writing books and traveling with Angel, his partner, and their three children, Emily, Oliver and Delphin. His playful, patient and warm teaching style has been applauded by graduates as “magical”, “inspiring”, “transformative”, and “an unforgettable journey.”