by Lauren Chaitoff
Incorporating partner poses in your kids’ yoga classes is an excellent way to teach concepts of teamwork, trust and communication. I’ll be the first to admit that when I am in a yoga class and the teacher asks us to find a partner my initial reaction is to tense up and think, “Oh man, really?” Yet, once I open myself to the experience I find myself playing like a kid and I am able to connect with a person I may otherwise never have spoken to.
Lucky for us kids yoga teachers, children are much more open and receptive to working in pairs than adults typically are. In my classes, when I tell the beans we are going to work on partner poses, they become ecstatic and an explosion of jumping and happy cheers fill up the studio! Partner poses are so well received in our classes that we dedicate an entire segment in Yogi Beans’ 25-hour teacher training on how to teach partner poses to kids, as well as some of the pitfalls an instructor may encounter. Below are the cornerstones of what we believe constitute an effective partner experience. (These tips are useful when partner posing with beans or adults.)
Tips for teaching partner poses in your kids’ yoga classes:
1. Communication. It is essential to communicate with your partner. (Another example of yoga mirroring life!) Ask questions such as, does this feel okay? Do you want more pressure? Is this stretch too intense? Remind your students that communication can also be nonverbal. Is your partner holding their breath? Does their body and face look tense? Open and honest communication is the foundation for a positive partner experience.
2. Trust. When we allow another person, whether 9 or 98 years old, to touch, manipulate or support our body, it is essential that we trust them. Many partner poses require that one person support their partner’s body weight and in other poses you may be facing back-to-back unable to see your partner’s eyes. Both instances can open us up to fear and vulnerability. In order to have a favorable experience trust in your partner is essential.
3. Inclusivity. This one may be more specific to kids yoga. It is so important that as the instructor you make sure all kids feel included and no one experiences rejection or embarrassment when you begin teaching partner poses. I usually recommend waiting a few weeks into your classes before you work on partner poses. This gives you time to notice any class “cliques” or children who intentionally may be left out. I often choose to partner the kids myself to avoid any hurt feelings or exclusion. If you prefer to allow kids to choose their own partners, one of my favorite little tricks is to ask the kids to pick a partner (they will all run over to their BFF) and then tell them to pick a second partner (begrudgingly they do), and then finally have them choose a third person. The third person may not have been their initial choice, however, now they have an experience of working with someone new and perhaps making a new friend!
This video will guide you through three basic partner poses. I generally recommend these poses for children ages five and up, though, you know the kids in your life or your class best so use your judgment. Be safe and have fun!
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.