I have facilitated a dozen yoga classes so far, some focused on strengthening and others on hip opening to invite the creative/creation energy as we transition with nature to a colder season. Each and every class had its own flavor and intuition. So I thought it might be a good idea to experiment a little more and facilitate a class for kindergarten kids. Here are some things I never knew before today:
1- Kindergarten kids do not listen in attention.... at all
Of course I should have known that coming in but, I suppose, I was naive or hopeful or both. There are kids who do what you suggest, some who do not, some who walk away, some who do Asanas so fast they almost hurt themselves and on and on. Their teacher was there to help me out but I felt I almost needed him to repeat everything I say to have it realized, sloppy or otherwise. It was a challenge but I am glad I had a full breakfast to keep up with their formidable contagious energy.
2- Mixed Kindergarten can mean a combination of 3, 4 or 5 years old
And boy is that developmentally different. So I decided to start off by borrowing “pop corn making” from Mai Meret. The idea is to point to a body part, squeeze it and release, or in the case of a joint, bend and straighten it. I originally thought I would use this exercise to identify the kids who could not name or identify body parts as they would benefit greatly from adjustments and demonstrations. This was especially important in an inner city class with new migrants and diverse language abilities. However, there were 21 of them rugrats and I could not notice let alone remember who was doing what and when. In their world however, Popcorn was fun.
3- Kids with behavioral challenges
Yes you love them just as much if not more because they are so special but they are so distracting. This is especially so because the teacher informed me that there are two who ought never be paired or even come close to one another. I did not get a synopsis on why that is the case but my imagination traveled quite far. In a nutshell, I imagined the two toppling mountains, cracking the earth and ushering a volcano on everyone else’s rainbow bridge. Yoga teachers are not taught how to ignore their students and in this case I should have but I found myself lacking in that department and the two particularly distracting.
4- They are friends
They are friends and friends play, bite, hit and scream together. Oh, they scream together. This is not a problem if you are running a class in your studio with kids who are not familiar with one another. It also ought not to be a problem generally. The problem was my own expectations of what a yoga class ought to sound like; quiet. I really thought I could calm them down and I really did not. The only moves that somewhat came close to a quiet practice is... read carefully here.... Savasana with minor kiddy moves like raising a hand, finger or foot.
I partly blame my expectations on this video (click here) that I watched earlier in the day:
5- They are not just made of rubber they are slippery too
You think you got one kid in a pose and you turn for one second, she’s not there anymore; Kazaam, they vanish like that. I do not think I will do a kids yoga class in a circle again.
6- Opposing ebbs and flows
When I first met these kids they were so excited about doing yoga that I should have started with calming postures first. They were so energized that the act of sitting down was too much to ask for, let alone be in table or cat/cow. I am not sure about this but kids who have been running around for hours may not need to awaken their spine like the rest of the slouching adult population. For my next kids’ class, I will focus on reclined options and then move to seated ones. This is especially true because there is something about being seated among them from the outset that deprived me of adult deference and while I love to destabilize power and disorganize oppressive modes of knowledge exchange, I still need to at least minimally appear like I am running a “yoga” class, right?
7- If you use cute animal names, they will make the respective sounds
Not a problem but mooing on your inhale in cow is an exhale and do not get me started on downward dog. By the way, the children-exclusive Lizard and Rock movement totally did not work because everyone wanted to be Lizard.
8- If you use cute animal names, they will interpret the moves differently
They have creative spirits for sure but some started to run in Superman, slither around in Snake and flap their arms in Butterfly. So, I think I am making up my own names for these Asanas that limit the interpretive domain for next time.
All in all, I would say it will take more than one class to give children of that age range some of the benefits of yoga. Further, smaller classes are better, always! However, I left the school with so much energy despite the exhausting session with the kindergartners. They are truly loving, open and unattached; true yogis no doubt.