Om shanti, sunshine, vegans and essential oils: some of the common stereotypes of a Yoga teacher. As a dedicated Next Generation Yoga Teacher, I am experiencing another stereotype. “Oh, that’s so cute you teach Kids Yoga, how fun!” I can’t help but giggle at the one-dimensional picture that people often paint when they think of Kids Yoga. Here is an actual photo that a studio I work with posted to promote my classes.I don’t know about you but, that is NOT what my NGY classes look like. Often, they look a little more like this…
Of course I love essential oils and cute children. But it’s not all sunshine and smiles. Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I am brought to tears by the challenges this work brings. Sure, there are traditional Yoga poses with silly names. But teaching Kids Yoga also requires knowledge of child development, psychology, bucket loads of patience, and more.
One my greatest challenges as an NGY Teacher has always been behavior management. After much reflection, I am happy to share my commitments to managing classes based on the 1st limb of Yoga: the yamas. Yama means to take a vow. Although I may fall short, I trust that with continued practice, I can build up tapas (self-discipline), and begin to close the gap between who I strive to be and who I am.
The 5 Yamas of NGY Behavior Management
I promise to invest my interest in you. I will listen to your stories. I will call you by name. I will pay attention to you. I will notice your likes and dislikes. I will be kind. I will be generous with my kindness. I will assume the best. I will trust that you want to be good and kind. If you struggle with this I won’t take it personally. I understand that it is my responsibility to guide, coach and model courtesy in a gentle and loving way that does not single you out.
I will be honest with you. I understand that my words are empowered by consistency, yet sometimes flexibility is required. If there is an exception to a rule, I will let you know why. I will have the courage to show up and be my true, authentic self. I will be open and allow for different styles of learning. I will be realistic and reliable.
I honor you as an individual. I honor myself and am aware of my limits. I will take the time to observe my mind and emotions throughout class. I will breathe deeply to notice the truth of what is happening around us. I will remember to connect with the breath and detach from judgment. I give you the gift of autonomy and the opportunity to experience your own failures and successes.
I will conserve my energy by knowing my role. I will remember my purpose as a teacher. I will direct my energy towards something positive rather than entertaining negativity. I will continue to ask myself: Am I clear? Am I open? Am I doing my best?
I understand it is not about the destination, but the journey. I will give you the freedom to enjoy your practice without worrying about the outcome. I will take the time to process each class. I will notice if anything comes up for me, I will acknowledge this and then, let it go. I will not hold onto any of the energy you may be releasing. I will call upon my support system (my loved ones, my teachers, my NGY mentors) and ask for help when I need it. I understand that I am not alone.
Children are wonderful gurus and I know I have a lot to learn. Finding balance in my work is just as much of a practice as a headstand or tree pose. How about you? How do you want to show up for children? Where would you like to direct your energy? Please share your personal affirmations around the 5 yamas below!
Melissa Hawkins has been working with young children for 16 years with over 10 years of experience as a kindergarten teacher in public schools. As a practicing yogini for the past 12 years and a registered Children’s Yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance and Next Generation Yoga, she works to share Yoga as a tool for educators, parents and children. She believes that mindfulness combined with movement helps lay the foundation for a lifetime of success. Melissa’s Yoga classes playfully weave mind, body, and community with music and interactive storytelling, and convey lessons in self-expression, healthy body image, social skills, positive thinking, and environmental awareness.
Through her own practice, Melissa has found Yoga to be the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. “Yoga teaches me to stay connected and fully engaged with every moment. Noticing and finding beauty in the seemingly mundane, and ordinary moments is like the cherry on top of my ice cream.” When Melissa is not teaching, you might find her dancing in the kitchen. She also enjoys spending quality time with her family, reading, hiking, traveling, and lounging in hammocks.