by Lauren Chaitoff
If you’re a yogi and you know it, clap your hands!
I hear a lot of e-claps out there, as I do when I sing this song to the beans at my kids yoga studio. I am Lauren Chaitoff, the Founder and Co-Owner of Yogi Beans, a children’s yoga program based in New York City. Since 2007, I have been teaching yoga to kids of all ages – from baby beans to teens – and have trained hundreds of adults to become kids yoga instructors. I am a kid at heart, a momma to my baby yogi bean and, now, I’m thrilled to be writing to all the YogaDorks out there on everything and anything related to kids yoga.
For today’s introductory post, I thought I would offer my thoughts on how to know if teaching kids yoga is for you. I’m also going to share my top 3 tips for how to be a successful kid’s yoga teacher.
The question, “Is teaching kids yoga something I can do?” is actually quite simple to answer. In order to teach yoga to kids you need to be passionate about two things: KIDS and YOGA. Unfortunately, just being passionate about yoga won’t cut it. Some of the top adult yoga teachers in the world would never want to teach a room full of high energy, noisy three-year-olds. I have witnessed many people complete kids yoga trainings, and then, after trying it out for a few months, pursue a 200-hour adult yoga training. I’ve also seen trainees with zero experience teaching yoga (or even practicing yoga) find their new career path by connecting with their inner yogi bean.
If you have both the passion for kids and for yoga, I encourage you to explore the world of kids yoga. Take a teacher training. Roll out your mat when your kids, grandkids, nieces/nephews, godchildren, or even the neighbors’ kids are around and see what happens.
To help you get the ball rolling, below are my top 3 tips on how to become a successful children’s yoga instructor:
1. IMAGINATION. Kids are open and expansive. Ask a class of 4-year-olds what color their hearts are shining, and they’ll say: “purple sparkles with rainbows and unicorns,” “the Mets,” and “radishes.” Beans embrace free-flowing imaginations without limiting or restricting what is possible. Adults lose that freedom – we censor ourselves all too often in the “grown-up” world of work, responsibilities and expectations. Teaching yoga to kids requires you to connect with the potential of a child-like, expansive imagination. You get to open your mind, be creative and PLAY.
2. LET IT GO! All year long, the Yogi Beans Studio has been filled with little voices belting out: “Let it go! Let it go! Can’t hold it back anymore!” While Idina Menzel may be covering her ears, I heard exactly what these kids were connecting to. Sometimes, adults cling strongly to an idea, intention or, in the case of kids’ yoga, lesson plans. But kids are inherently open to the flow of life. They literally go with the flow of whatever energetic or emotional response they feel. As an instructor, it’s important to be present in the moment and willing to go where the students take you. For example, if you were planning on beginning class with a mindfulness meditation, and then walk into a room of kids playing tag, you may need to shift gears. While it is wise to prepare for any class you teach, don’t forget that sometimes you just have to LET IT GO!
3. BE COURAGEOUS. Have you ever noticed how easy it is for children to fly into a backbend or jump off the monkey bars? Kids are perfect examples of how to live in the moment and not be scared of the unknown. Children are fearless because their hearts are open; adults often learn to block their hearts out of fear. When you teach your first (or fiftieth) kids yoga class, you will likely walk in with anxiety, fears, self-doubt. It’s normal. I encourage you to connect with your inner child and brightly shine your individual light. Lead with your heart. As we tell the beans, there are no wrong answers, poses or feelings in yoga. It’s true for us too. Keep a courageous attitude threaded throughout each class you teach, and you’re guaranteed to walk out with a full, open heart.
I look forward to sharing more tools, tips and exercises for teaching yoga to kids. If you have specific interests you want to me write about, please leave comments below. In the meantime, shine bright and perhaps even try barking in downdog the next time you practice yoga…best suited for a home practice!
Yogi Beans is the brainchild of mind-body-fitness expert Lauren Chaitoff. In 2005, after training in theater and working in Los Angeles as an actor, Lauren decided to shift her career towards positively impacting children’s lives through fitness and wellness. In 2007, Lauren created Yogi Beans, a company devoted solely to teaching yoga to children of all ages in and around New York City. In 2010, she fortuitously met Alexa Klein, Yogi Beans’ CEO & Co-Owner, and the two united to open Yogi Beans Kids Yoga Studio in NYC. Lauren currently oversees and trains the stellar Yogi Beans Instructor team, leads regular Yogi Beans’ public teacher trainings, and teaches weekly classes to beans of all ages. Lauren continuously evolves Yogi Beans’ programming from her extensive experiences in the classroom, on her mat and through her love and nurturing of her own baby bean, Vivienne Bell. Find Yogi Beans on facebook and twitter @YogiBeans.