Today was the last day of my yoga series in my daughter's Grade 4 class during their gym time on Wednesdays. It went really well. We only have about 20 minutes so there's not a lot we can do, but it seems to be enough. Today they were graded again (yikes) and I think they all did well. We did some partner poses, as I had promised last week that we'd do today. It was a laugh.
I've had a few adult student-yoga teachers say they want to talk to me about teaching kids. I'm not sure what to say. I don't necessarily have special training in teaching yoga to kids, what I have now is plenty of experience. The thing with teaching kids is that quite often they are in a non-optional yoga class setting, in which case they almost have more to do with groups that are suffering non-optional yoga than in being a group of kids. That being said, different aged kids will be able to do different things with yoga.
Really young kids are mostly just playing. They are constantly moving as long as they're awake and they love routine. So if you have them regularly, once you figure out what's going to work with them keep doing that. They'll come to count on it. Adults are like that too in general :) You can get little kids to participate by asking them lots of questions and having the poses be things they can relate to like animals and other objects. I also found having someone else with the kids like their teacher, was critical to the class going well. If I was by myself with a bunch of kids I hardly knew it was much more difficult and would end quickly. I also learned a lot about engaging with kids by watching their day care teacher work with them.
Older kids can balance and begin to be more steady and actually look like they're "doing" some of the poses. They may be able to connect their movements with their breath and are usually quite impressed with themselves and each other when they can get into more challenging poses. Again, the presence of another teacher is often really useful and helps keep them on track and feel safe.
Teenagers are a special bunch depending on who's with them when they're doing yoga. The context people are doing yoga in is so important and will alter their experience so much. You can get people really into being in their bodies but at the same time, really afraid to do that. A teenaged body can be a super-scary place, so just beginning to encourage people to consider that they are a safe place is a good place to start. They also appreciate the challenging poses but have often discovered what cool things they can do in other settings like gymnastics or dance or whatever other class.
That's just a general run down. Today the Grade 4s did a full body relaxation. It was quicker than what I teach out in the grown up world but much longer than they've ever been able to do before. With the really little guys, if they could lie still for a few seconds as a group, we'd done well. These 9-10 year olds were really steady and able to concentrate. I mentioned to them that as Grade 3s this wasn't something they were able to do. It's neat watching this group grow up...