Avery hates Yoga.
Not a helpful mantra, I know, but this thought-pattern ran through my mind on repeat for two summers in a row during a Yoga Camp that I led. Actually, the second summer it went something more like:
Avery STILL hates Yoga! Did she ask to come back to Yoga Camp?
An equally unhelpful mantra.
This happened early on in my days of teaching Yoga to kids, and I had to remind myself of something I already knew well from my experiences as a preschool teacher: even if a child wasn’t following along with class in a way that looked like they were participating, it didn’t mean they weren’t observing and absorbing. The same goes for Yoga.
Participation can look a lot of different ways, and as a teacher it is important to recognize this. I have taught many classes where everything seemed to go magically “right,” where everyone seemed engaged and followed along; the kind of class where you walk away with your Teacher Ego sufficiently bolstered.
On the other hand, I have had plenty of classes where a child does their own thing the whole class, or comes for 5 or more classes before they physically move at all, or – as in the case of Avery – a student sits on their mat the entire time looking bored and maybe vaguely annoyed to be there, but then hops enthusiastically into savasana and releases into relaxation in way that could inspire any grownup.
The beauty of children, and the beautiful reminder in teaching them, is that they naturally follow their impulses. Children connect with their own authentic selves on a moment-to-moment basis, which, when you get down to it, is an awfully good example of Mindfulness and, well, Yoga.
Their participation in Yoga class can look like:
- Watching Yoga from their mat or somewhere else in the room
- Listening, without watching
- Moving all around the mat in creative ways that don’t necessarily mimic the instruction
- Choosing only to participate in certain poses
- A whole entire class of savasana
- Following along enthusiastically with every instruction ?
…or any number of behaviors that I haven’t listed.
Our job is to provide the best teaching and classroom management we are capable of, and then relax into knowing that every student will respond to class differently, which is exactly the way a Kids Yoga class is supposed to go.
As for Avery, somewhere in the middle of her second summer her mother told me that Avery plays Yoga class at home. Avery pretends that she is Miss Devon, asks her parents to lay down in savasana, and rubs their shoulders and feet while they rest.
I almost forgot to mention that sometimes participation comes long after a class has ended, in ways that we never see or expect.
Next Generation Yoga Teacher
Ridley Park, PA
Devon Laudenslager has been working with young children since 2005 – almost her entire adult career. Once she found Next Generation Yoga, she found a way to take her work to a place where her talents, passions, and spirit were united. When she is not teaching NGY classes she is reading, hanging out with her family, connecting with friends, running her small business, reading, taking Yoga classes, going for long walks, writing, listening to music, reading, playing with her niece. (Did she mention reading?) Devon is easily amused and excited daily by big and small things, sharing that happy talent with children. She loves to laugh and has an almost spiritual relationship with silliness which really resonates with kids.