Released by the Yoga Service Council, Best Practices for Yoga in Schools involved over 20 experts in children’s yoga to create a first-of-its-kind guidebook for yoga in schools. YD contributor Kelli Love recently chatted with the book’s editors about what it took to put together a book like this, the obstacles involved, its importance in the field of children’s yoga and why it’s so essential to keep asking the tough questions.
Below is Part 2 of the interview with Traci Childress, co-founder of the Children’s Community School in West Philadelphia and a Yoga Service Council advisor, and Jennifer Cohen Harper, founder of Little Flower Yoga, author and Vice President of the Yoga Service Council.
In Part 2, the conversation turns to yoga and body image, top tips for classroom management, and ways for the kid’s yoga teaching community to stay connected.
Kelli: When issues around body image aren’t deliberately addressed through curriculum and instruction, what kind of misconceptions have you seen our youth absorb from the media about yoga?
Traci: Mainstream images of yoga in the media generally and most commonly reflect the mainstream cultural standards of what makes a body healthy and attractive. In the United States, this typically means slender (especially for women) and athletic (especially for men). When yoga programs in schools do not intentionally work to remove language, images, and references that connect yoga to these limited ideas of health and beauty, then these messages about beauty and the “right” type of body become an implicit part of the yoga being shared. This does not support positive youth development or encourage a safe and welcoming environment for youth. For young people, especially adolescents, who are grappling with developmentally appropriate questions about who they are and how they are of value in the world, this can bring pressure to look a certain way to the yoga experience. I’ve explicitly had young people say to me “I can’t do yoga, I am too fat” or I’m not thin or strong enough to do yoga; it’s for skinny people or for strong people.”
Kelli: What are your top three resources for classroom management for a yoga class with children?
Jenn: This is a challenging question, as there are so many good resources out there, and the most important is probably good training and a good mentor. I would encourage all yoga instructors to seek out resources that emphasize relationship rather than control, and that honor the spirit of teaching children self-awareness and self-management rather than relying on compliance. In terms of books, I always feel good about recommending the following: No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson; How to Talk So Kids Can Listen and Listen So Kids Can Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta L. Hammond. And anyone working with adolescents should definitely read Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegel If teachers are interested in an online training, I like the one by Dr. Stuart Abalon at ThinkKids.
Kelli: Can you speak to the pitfalls of “being everything” as a children’s yoga teacher and why it’s so important that professionals bringing yoga to youth in schools deliberately build relationships with other experts?
Traci: Education is an interdisciplinary venture; there is no way one person can understand and provide for the needs of every child they work with. If we want to serve the whole child, we have to maintain relationships across disciplines; we need to engage with people in the fields of education, mindfulness, social and emotional learning, transformative education, and psychology and human development. Having professional supports for advice and to support our own on-going education is essential.
Kelli: What are some ways that instructors bringing yoga to youth can stay connected to the professional community at large?
Jenn: Attending conferences is a great way to build community, meet others instructors and those in related fields, and be introduced to new ideas. The Yoga Service Conference held at Omega each May is one great place to build community, as are the National Kids Yoga Conference and the Yoga in Schools Symposium. Staying connected via email groups and social media groups is great, and of course, cultivating relationships with people who live and work nearby, and making time to meet and share, is the best.
Missed Part 1? Catch up here. And stay tuned for the book giveaway!
Kelli Love, M.Ed is an educator in the field of children’s yoga and mindfulness. She has been teaching in schools for more than 15 years and has practiced yoga for 20. Kelli currently teaches yoga full time at Girls Prep Bronx Elementary in NYC. She is a national presenter at conferences and recently made a short film, Aliza and the Mind Jar, to demonstrate the impact of yoga and mindfulness curriculum on school communities. Read more at her website: http://about.me/kellilove
- More Kids in U.S. Are Practicing Yoga
- Kindergarteners Teach Us A Thing Or Two About Mindfulness In ‘Just Breathe’ Short Film
- Watch ‘Aliza and the Mind Jar’, the Inspiring Story of Yoga and Mindfulness at a Girls School in the Bronx
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This is a great initiative. I have always believed that yoga should be taught in schools. Like you mentioned, the challenge is to find a good mentor. This is especially true for teaching small children. There has to be the perfect balance between maintaining a welcoming environment and encouraging students to go beyond their comfort zones and enjoy a sense of accomplishment.