I have been to a lot of trainings. Like a lot a lot. If you don’t believe me, read my bio! My resume includes certifications in AcroYoga, CircusYoga, two 200-hour RYTs, Waldorf, etc etc.
I recently joined the Next Generation Yoga Teacher Trainer team and became the Director of NGY Teachers because after experiencing several NGY Teacher Trainings and working with the amazing NGY Teachers, I can tell you, these gals have got it all. I am delighted to welcome this new role to my career and excited to share some of the things I value so deeply about the NGY philosophy.
Child. Centered. Classes.
If you’ve worked with children, you already know the benefits of “child-centered” learning. When it comes to Yoga, we can get pretty particular about what a class is supposed to look like. Some people shy away from Yoga for kids because they imagine a classroom chanting “Om Namah Shivaya” and doing synchronized Sun Salutations. Next Generation Yoga’s child-centered approach lets Yoga fit kids, rather than asking kids to imitate adult yogis.
As a Waldorf Teacher, I am a huge proponent of meeting children where they are, and teaching them in developmentally appropriate ways. Children are sometimes made to learn too much too soon – something reflected in the phrase “Kindergarten is the new first grade.” Next Generation Yoga highlights the importance of developmental stages and crafting Yoga classes to suit the age group in each class.
The beauty of NGY is the recognition that children are natural yogis, and that a mindful attitude is what turns ordinary movement into Yoga. As a teacher, this means that I can always stay open to the energy and enthusiasm of the group. I encourage creativity in my students, I improv and add Yoga whenever possible, and I have a blast in the process! I can never run out of teaching ideas because every group and every child offers thousands of new possibilities.
AND – wink wink to the teachers – letting the kids be involved, included, and creative keeps THEM engaged too! That means I spend less time managing behavior and more time practicing Yoga. And because classes don’t have to look any particular way, I am also free to teach anywhere to anyone. Yoga outdoors? At the zoo? At a daycare? In someone’s home? NGY Teachers use what they’ve got and make it Yoga, and that makes us truly flexible!
Perhaps you’ve experienced something like this before. A presenter might say, “Punctuality is of the utmost importance,” but arrive 15 minutes late to the next session. You’ve got to practice what you preach! And in fact, your students will take away much more about how you presented yourself than the words you say.
Children, especially young children, learn primarily through modeling and imitation. In Waldorf education, early childhood teachers strive to be “worthy of imitation.” And guess what? Adults learn a great deal from modeling and imitation as well! What I love about Next Generation Yoga is that the Trainers and Teachers consistently embody the characteristics they want students to gain. Trainees experience how good it feels to be encouraged, to be spoken to with inclusive language, and to be given clear directions and choices. They learn to emulate their Trainers and incorporate these skills into their own teaching.
Whether it’s Yoga, grade school, or an office meeting, effective leaders lead by example. NGY uses this tool fluidly to empower their teachers, and to ensure that trainees learn A TON in a short amount of time.
Commitment to the Teacher Community
In the Yoga business, Teacher Trainings are everywhere, for everything. It has, in some cases, become the core moneymaker for studios and teachers nationwide. In-depth training is a fabulous way to deepen your practice as an individual. When it comes to supporting your growth as a Teacher, an entrepreneur, or someone who wants to commit to teaching Kids Yoga without sacrificing their livelihood, NGY has stepped up in powerful and unprecedented ways.
When you’re on a teaching path, you know there is always more to learn. Next Generation Yoga offers courses like Every Kids Yoga, The Biz of Kids Yoga, and the Advanced Teacher Training, specifically to meet those needs for its Teachers. There are Facebook groups and mentorship opportunities and every licensed NGY Teacher is featured on this gorgeous website. As an NGY Teacher, you are treated like a valued asset to the whole Kids Yoga movement. Not only is this rare from a Yoga business, but it keeps people pursuing their dreams, sometimes in isolated communities. NGY is truly committed to supporting the life’s work of its Teachers and furthering the Kids Yoga movement. I can get behind that, 100%.
Big World Ideas, and Kids World Ideas
We all know it: the world is a huge, scary, beautiful, messy place these days. Children feel it too, and Yoga absolutely can make a difference. The diverse content of NGY Lesson Plans connects to children’s daily lives, while also helping them experience the big magic and spiritual potential in Yoga.
What does that all mean in practice? There are NGY Lesson Plans about A Day at the Beach, or animals that live in the desert. NGY encourages teachers to try out Harry Potter Yoga, Star Wars Yoga, or Pokemon Yoga. Anything can become fuel for a Yoga class!
At the same time, other NGY Lesson Plans like Kindness Matters, Water is Life, and Peace Begins with Me give us opportunities to introduce children to the big, meaningful life stuff in a way that is appropriate, positive, and empowering. NGY doesn’t shy away from the hard parts. We all recognize that the power of Yoga is the power to face the world and choose to be kind, loving, and wise. I think many of us choose to teach Kids Yoga precisely so we can support the creation of a kinder, more loving future.
In short, Next Generation Yoga has got it going on. Take it from this seasoned yogi, this company is a gem and I am thrilled to be a part of it!
Kelli Mae Willis is a master Kids Yoga Teacher and has been working with children since 1999. After training in Hatha Yoga in India in 2007, Kelli Mae developed her skills in Kids Yoga with a CircusYoga certification in 2009. She also has teaching certifications in AcroYoga (2011), Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga (2015), Vinyasa and Restorative Yoga (2016), AcroYoga Fit (2016), and has completed the 2-7 yr. old and Advanced NGY Teacher Trainings. Kelli Mae is also a certified Waldorf grades teacher and has spent several years integrating yoga elements into Waldorf early childhood and middle school classrooms. She now leads the Next Generation Yoga Teacher Training for 2-7 yr. olds, and is collaborating in the development of AcroYoga Family.
Kelli Mae’s range of experience allows her to tailor her classes to audiences of many ages and abilities. She loves helping children develop into healthy adults, reminding adults how to play like children, and supporting loving communication across generations. Her classes invite students to feel strong, listen to their inner wisdom, and never take life too seriously. She enjoys teaching children and families, and she also relishes opportunities to share her skills with teachers and parents.