By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Teaching Yoga to children can be a challenging and fun experience. Although first-time instructors might feel overwhelmed by the incredible amount of energy one room can hold, preparing ahead of time can make the kids’ Yoga class a lot less intimidating for the teacher.
Stories as a Method for Focusing
One excellent way to tame active, energetic children is to use Yoga stories as a tool to guide students throughout the session. Stories can serve a variety of purposes, including getting a child’s attention, correcting misbehavior, teaching an important moral or character lesson, pacing the class, and giving young minds interesting material to latch on to.
How to Tell Stories
Some Yoga instructors tell stories, in the beginning of the class, to serve as an attention-getter, or at the end of class, as a call to relaxation; other instructors prefer to weave stories into the entire session. The method a Yoga teacher chooses will probably reflect how long the class is, how energetic the instructor is, the average age of the youth, and how engaged the students are.
Stories should be tailored to the age of the class, as younger children will benefit from simpler, more interactive stories, and older children will prefer more detailed stories that they can apply to their own lives.
One of the best things a Yoga instructor can do with stories is to use props. Kids love practical, tactile helpers, such as bolsters, blankets, and Hoberman Spheres. They can also have a wonderful time with less practical props, like hats, costume jewelry, feather boas, flowers, leaves, and branches. One smart way to utilize these items is to pass them out and have each student demonstrate the use of the prop during a certain point in the story.
Most young people have no problem following the instructor’s lead into asanas during story telling, but visual aids can also be a great resource for keeping kids’ attention. One easy way to do this is to bring in books with colorful illustrations to display, reserving one page of the story for each pose.
Creating Incentives As Positive Reinforcement
Another fun way to enhance the story is to find a felt board, which are available at any teacher supply store, and enlarge pictures of some of the students in their asanas. Then create alternative, fun names for the poses and display the new names, which correspond to the story, on the story board, along with a picture of different children performing a variety of Yogic techniques. Children will feel proud about getting their pictures on the story board and will enjoy the task of coming up with new names to go with the stories you tell.
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