Thoughts on yoga for children, yoga and parenting, family, health, our community, mom-owned businesses, and other things we love.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Finding the Right Yoga Teacher for Your Child

by Lisa Flynn
A few days ago, I got a phone call from a parent seeking a yoga class for her son. She asked me a lot of questions such as, "How would you describe your teaching style?", "Do you use visual props?" and "How do you handle shy children?". Admittedly, it took me a little off-guard. Though these were all very good questions, I realized that no one had ever asked them of me before. Why not? We hand our children over to virtual strangers each time we send them to a class or lesson - shouldn't we all be asking such questions? As I thought back, I realized that though I don't ask these questions of my children's teachers, dance instructors, or coaches outright, the answers do present themselves soon enough.

Whether it's from my observations, comments from my kids, or from interactions with the various adults with whom I entrust my children, it soon becomes clear what the teaching style is, and how well (or not) these adults understand and have an ability to relate to children. Here is what I have observed through training others to share yoga with children, and through my observations of my own children's teachers and coaches (almost all of whom have been wonderful, by the way):

1) Teaching children comes more naturally for some than others. You either 'get' kids, or you don't. Typically, a willingness to be silly, play and not take oneself too seriously is the key here.

2) Great teachers are balanced in their demeanor and energy. The energy you emit gets sent back to you tenfold, so a balanced presence is a must. Have you ever noticed how your child is seemingly drawn to this type of teacher? There is a sense of safety created which enables your child to be his/her true self - trust is created, facilitating the learning process.

3) An understanding of, and ability to adapt to, student's varied learning styles is essential. There is a nice reference to how this relates to teaching kids yoga in an article titled, Doing Yoga With Kids, found at

...choosing the right teacher for you and/or your child is essential.

One of the things to consider is whether or not your potential teacher is aware of Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory. This theory states that there are various categories of intelligence that human beings have, and that each one of these areas should be nurtured to help children reach their full potential. Every person has intelligence in the following areas: intrapersonal, naturalistic, interpersonal, musical, visual, linguistic, kinesthetic, and logical. Yoga can be a strong tool to help children cultivate each of these areas and it is therefore important to know whether your child’s teacher knows how to use these ideas and apply them to the practice of yoga.

In a nutshell, we all typically have a dominant learning style or 'intelligence.' So, in a yoga class of say 8 students, it's a sure thing there will be more than one way that everyone learns best. One child may learn best by listening closely to instructions, another by watching a demonstration, and yet another by jumping right in to try something out. A good children's yoga instructor will have the ability to address each student's dominant intelligence, while also cultivating and encouraging development of those that are less dominant.

So, the next time you are looking for a kids yoga instructor for your child, don't be afraid to ask, "What is your teaching style?". If they are worth their salt, they will make it a point to discuss their teaching technique as addressing various learning styles.

For good reason, an understanding of multiple intelligences is at the foundation of ChildLight Yoga's Kids Yoga Teacher Training and many other reputable programs as well. Find a Certified ChildLight Yoga Instructor near you. Other recommended programs:

Karma Kids Yoga
Next Generation Yoga
Itsy Bitsy Yoga (for children 0-4 yrs)

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Blogger Nichole said...

Great posting! Those points are absolutely true and parents *should* be asking those questions. Some points of being a good teacher can be taught by a good training program (like Childlight, I'm sure!), but a lot of it is a natural ability to teach. MI Theory and knowledge of learning styles is A MUST. I put this into practice in my adult classes also.

I'm glad I found your through Twitter! I'll be reading along.

Radiant Heart Yoga

August 21, 2009 at 9:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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August 25, 2009 at 7:36 AM

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September 4, 2009 at 7:52 AM

Blogger thepranamama said...

These are great points, Lisa. I have noticed myself much more critical, and appreciative, of my own kids' teachers in activitiies since becoming a ChildLight teacher. I am in awe of how one gymnastics coach can keep a group of four-year-olds' attention, leading them in one single line through a huge gym full of distracting equipment, all the while giggling at his hilarious antics. I am less than impressed with others who don't understand a toddler's natural tendency to explore his environment and cannot sit in a circle for longer than a few minutes. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of finding the right teachers for our unique children.

September 4, 2009 at 9:39 PM

Blogger Karen said...

Very insightful post! Another great resource is Little Flower Yoga - - based out of NYC.

October 30, 2009 at 3:27 PM

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