by Ella Isakov, certified child yoga instructor, Yogaga blog guest editor
The kids start coming in: they set their mats in a circle and greet their friends with a smile. We begin by sitting up tall with hands at the heart to chant “OM” together to unite and open little minds and hearts. The style of yoga the teacher is trained in doesn’t matter. Teaching kids is all about having fun and being creative.
Kids yoga classes look nothing like adult classesthey are more playful, with much less emphasis on alignment or breathing. Adult yoga is about venturing inward. Kids’ yoga can be a very social and interactive activity. Children learn best when they are interested and engaged, classes are built with the children’s involvement through co-creation. Music, singing, animal sounds, dancing and laughter are the order of the day.
And through non-competitive yoga-play, children learn important life skills – appropriate social interaction, cooperation, communication, meditation – in a caring and open environment. There is no judgement on anything done in class. Just praise and more praise, both verbal and non-verbal. The teacher encourages creativity and imagination, focus and teamwork in an environment that is caring and accepting with lots of touch and affection, games, partner yoga and acro yoga. Compassion, inner peace and most importantly self-love are the result.
It's never too late to start
Kiddy yoga can start from the time a child is born. In the beginning it’s mostly about massage and movement of the body to rhymes and music. As toddlers begin to crawl, they are guided in simple yoga moves with props and music.
Classes for ages four to nine start by introducing concepts such as respect, a theme, or an explorative journey. Then there is pranayama (breathing techniques) that are taught in fun ways with postures being brought in as a group to go along with the theme of the day, followed by a game or partner yoga. The class generally ends with massaging toes or shoulders using aromatherapy creams, alone or in pairs, before moving to relaxation with a visualization or meditation.
What have you done to my child?The dreaded teenage years will come and your little darling may transform into a sulky, angry, sobbing mess. This age can be a challenging time for everyone and yoga is a fantastic coping tool. It helps build self-esteem, confidence and teaches teens healthy ways to deal with all these confusing new emotions. With older kids deeper concepts can be explored and more challenging postures can be introduced – with lots of partner work to ease nerves and social interaction, self-esteem and communication skills.
Children with certain types of autism have benefitted from yoga as it allows for the development of coordination, balance and interactive skills. Breathing techniques can increase body awarness and help calm an agitated or stressed child. Similarly, children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)can strengthen attention and stability through breathing and relaxation techniques, thus improving self-esteem, focus, social skills, concentration and mental well-being. There are just so many positives in kids’ yoga – social, emotional and physical – it should be part of every kids’ life.
About Ella IsakovYoga teacher, yoga therapist, wellness coach, published author, and healer. Ella has been teaching yoga since 2008. After graduating with a Psychology undergraduate degree and a Masters in Education she worked overseas where she discovered Ashtanga yoga in 2005. Upon returning to Toronto in 2007, Ella completed Downward Dog Centre’s teacher training and continues to be guided by Ron Reid. Since then she has studied with various master teachers and has become a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist and a Phoenix Rising Group Facilitator. In 2010, Ella left a school teaching career to pursue what filled her heart and gave her immense joy, sharing her love of yoga and the healing arts. Her passion and purpose in life has always been to inspire others to delve deeper to uncover their inner knowing and light within so they can lead a life of courage, balance and peace. In a group setting, Ella takes you on a journey to look within with an inclusive explorative playful sequencing, and attention to alignment while weaving in a connection between body, mind and heart. Whether in a class setting or with a client, Ella taps into her vast knowledge, experience and intuitive sense to cater to individual needs.
To make a greater difference in people’s lives, Ella operates a successful children’s yoga company, Stellar Kids Yoga, spreading the love of yoga to the next generation, and Prana Retreats, leading wellness retreats that include wholesome food, yoga and healing.