YOGA FOR KIDS AND TEENS
In these three short interviews, ShantiGeneration yoga instructor, Abby Wills, talks about the benefits of yoga for young kids and teenagers and the different kinds of yoga experiences that are appropriate for various age groups. In other words, how would educators engage elementary school students in a yoga experience and what would that look like? How would educators engage high school students in a yoga experience, what would that experience look like and how would it differ from yoga with younger kids?
In this first interview, Abby Wills addresses some of the common misconceptions people may have about yoga in schools and shares stories about the kind of impact yoga has had on students with whom she has worked.
“For us as adults, sometimes we have to take yoga for many many years and practice a lot before we really start to learn how to transfer those skills into our relationships, into our home life. I find that kids just do that super naturally.”
In this second interview, Abby Wills talks specifically about yoga for young children and its ability to help kids learn how to move mindfully, pay attention to their movements, and understand the benefits of that.
“One of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen is young children sitting in a circle, learning to breath and feeling their heart beat; learning how to use their breath to slow down their heartbeat when they are feeling frustrated or just overly excited…We have kids who really just don’t know how to harness their attention, how to calm their bodies. Yoga teaches children how to do that in real time.”
In this third interview, Abby Wills talks specifically about yoga for teenagers and its ability to help young adults cope with the increasing pressures that they face in today’s society filled with constant access to information, high stakes testing, the general anxieties that are part of adolescence, and the physical changes that occur during puberty.
“There is so much pressure on teens these days. To have yoga, to learn how to cope with that stress and pressure is priceless. So, teens learn how to use their breathing, their body, their mindfulness to navigate the challenges in their lives and learn how to take negative stress, harness it, and turn it into power for their lives.”
Reflection Question: Let’s assume you are interested in incorporating yoga into your teaching practice. If you are already familiar with yoga poses and breathing exercises, what from your own knowledge and experience would you incorporate? If you have little to no experience practicing yoga, do a Google search to find a pose (or a series of poses), an established curriculum appropriate for the age group with which you work, or a video demonstrating a yoga experience in the classroom. Share your knowledge or the link in the comment section and tell us why you chose that particular exercise.
- Glynn, Amelia. Yoga in Schools: Pre-Quiz Stretches and Breathing. life.gaiam.com.
- BigHappyDay.com informational videos on yoga.
- Milwaukee Public Schools. Classroom Yoga (video).
I have no personal experience with yoga, but a good friend of mine and fellow educator uses it at the beginning and end of each day with her fourth graders. I think if I were more knowledgeable I might do the same to help kids ready themselves for the day and be more receptive to the new learning planned for the day. I looked a several sites and the two I liked best were http://www.yogajournal.com to which I actually subscribed and http://www.yogabasics.com which I think would be of great assistance in helping me a novice navigate yoga for myself and the put together a series of poses to teach my students.
Fire Log Pose
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Happy Baby Pose
Yoga Journal Sequence Builder, Patent pending
I found the breathe in and breathe out is helpful in my class when kids are out of control. It is a simple act, but takes focus . When we breathe in, we focus on breathe, bringing the peace in. While breathing out takes the negative energy out.
I do not have a whole lot of experience with yoga. So, I had to look up a few of the poses on the web. I found this site that was pretty interesting as it has various poses broken down in to specific categories. I can see yoga working for myself personally, however in a class full of high school students where my classroom might not be all that big remains to be seen. If I were going into health or physical education I could easily see this working.
I have not had much experience with yoga on a personal level. But in my school the kids take yoga and it is offered to the teachers in the morning. I just have not had the opportunity to enjoy the experience because of time. Alternate Nostril Breathing is one of the top five yoga practices I thought would be great used in my school setting because it does not require a lot of movement and each student can perform the activity.
Each student would have to breathe naturally in and out of the left nostril five times, then in and out of the right nostril 5 times. Then breathe through both nostrils 5 times.
I have visited a number of sites on you tube and have not found a yoga activity that I would incorporate in my class. However, the Classroom Yoga Video provided in the Additional Resources section has some ideas that I could incorporate in my class as Icebreaker. For example Ms Wenzel’s yoga activities for her class. However I would not do them all at once as she did; maybe 2 at a time. There was also a few brain teasers that I could use. However, I do not see any way to incorporate a full yoga program in my school curriculum. It could be an extra curricular activity open to the whole school body as a lunch break or after school event.
I think that the breathing exercises used to begin and end yoga would be beneficial for my students to learn because they bring awareness to your breath, body, mind, and environment. Students can use breathing exercises to help them concentrate and in times of stress when they are feeling frustrated, angry, upset, disappointed, impatient, etc.
After doing a google search, I found an organization called Yoga Ed. that trains teachers to teach yoga to kids in grades K-8. The website, http://www.yogaed.com , gives a description of the program, testimonials, research, examples of lesson plans, and information on trainings. Unfortunately, the program requires that you are a trained yoga instructor. Another website I found, http://kidsyogaacademy.com/, has many webinars, on a variety of yoga topics, which can be purchased. Even though they cost money, the webinars seem like really good resources. The lesson plans on this page, http://childrensyoga.com/training/lesson-plan/, are free and useful. There are documents listed that offer explanations and pictures of yoga positions for kids.
I have little experience in yoga, but know that for my class it would be a great add on. For the kids stretching and breathing is key for my class. My coworker plans on getting certified in teaching yoga that will be a plus. Hey if it goes well in class I might have my football team try it. Here is a YouTube site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ8YkBF1AqU
I have no hands-on familiarity with yoga poses or breathing exercises. I did go to a number of web sites, including youtube, to watch demonstration videos geared to teens (I now better understand why DCPS filters youtube, but that’s another conversation). One video was simple to understand in which a Salt Lake City teacher narrated as a student demonstrated the sun salutation, mountains, downward facing dog and up dog poses. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN_06sXbj4U).
Given my educational area, I do not envision incorporating the practice of yoga into my program. I would provide our library patrons with a display of books about yoga or web links to eBooks, videos, informational text, youth organizations, or local programs through an electronic resource guide.
I echo what others have said. I can see incorporating some of the breathing exercises in a classroom setting. Also, I can see how having students take a break and stretch would be good. Abby is right that some teenagers often seem tired out. Research shows that they should be getting 9 hours of sleep, but many don’t. Sometimes they just put their heads on the desk and want to sleep.
I have a little experience with yoga, but for the sake applying yoga practices in my own classroom (I teach in a computer lab), I really don’t think I could ask students to do more than a couple seated poses for hip and spine stretching and then definitely some quiet meditation and relaxation — maybe a seated version of the corpse pose.
I have taken yoga, hot yoga and regular yoga. The most valuable piece I like is the different types of breathing. This is what I would defintely bring this to my class. I want the students to have a way to release from the world. Yoga is the best mind freeing exercise their is, especially for students. I truly suggest that if you have not tried yoga, do so!!
I participated in yoga throughout high school and didn’t enjoy the experience only because my teacher was very focused on the toning and muscle building aspect of yoga, rather than the calming section. If I were to incorporate yoga into teaching, I would focus on the breathing exercises as it is accesible for everyone and a small and simple task that can have immense impacts.
Maria Schneider: Breathing is key! I have taken several yoga classes both high and low intensity, hot and normal temperature and the MOST important part is breathing. If I were to facilitate a yoga exercise in an educational environment I would make sure that breathing was a part of it. Often as a student leader for my a cappella group I have everyone stop and take a breath to collect our thoughts and regroup. Though it might be silly for some, I think it’s important. Starting with a “quiet time” like the San Francisco school, and moving into more serious breathing exercises would be ideal for me as a facilitator so see how (like Adam said) my students could grow and take risks.
Daniel Knoll – For a brief period in High School I attended a weekly yoga class as a way to help recover from a sports injury. Unfortunately attending Yoga classes never became a part of my routine because I noticed a lot of the benefits that Abby talks about in her interviews happening in my own life. That being said, I’m not entirely sure how I would encorporate yoga into a formal classroom setting. My best idea is to work through a progression of techniques, just like in a yoga class. First, focusing on breath and understanding ones surroundings, and then move through a progression of moves. I found a website called Yoga4Classroom that offers extensive materials about how to introduce yoga into any classroom:
I think opening the day with a short yoga practice could be very beneficial because it can be so energizing. With high schoolers, dressed not for yoga but for every day, the choices are limited but there are some simple stretches that can be done in any type of clothing to help awaken and bring mindfulness to the body. This paired with breathing exercises would be a great 10-15 minute start to the day.
Having practiced yoga on and off for several years, we always open with the same thing: sitting cross-legged, or kneeling, for a couple minutes with our backs straight, concentrating on our breath. From there, moving slowly into some simple arm and upper back stretches by putting both arms straight up, grabbing one wrist with the other hand and leaning to the side is a great way to incorporate movement with breath. Another option, depending on the clothing the kids are wearing and the flooring of the room, is getting onto hands and knees and doing a series of back stretches following your own breath, first arching the back, then rounding it, then stretching back into child’s pose and repeating the sequence. Finally we could end with shavasana, or corpse pose. This is always done at the end of yoga practice and is a time where you let every muscle in your body relax and meditate for a few minutes in complete relaxation. Though this might seem like you would fall sleep, its actually very energizing and can make you ready for the day ahead.
I have no experience with yoga. I think it could be a great way to bring a class to a relaxed and calmer state. I found a few easy poses for beginners ‘to beat a bad day’.
I have no experience practicing yoga, so I did a Google search and found a series of poses (there is a lot on the internet). The link is http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/finfer/browse_categories
I chose a standing exercise as this seemed to be one of the simpler ones which I can perform at my level of flexibility.
I agree with Emily that I would focus on breathing exercises. Our health teacher used to teach yoga to our students in the mornings and she had nothing but positive things to say about the effects on the well-being of the students – we unfortunately bumped our start time up an hour and a half and she can no longer do it, but she said that for our students who are coming from very unstable situations, she really saw benefits.
Very often, I have students walk in and looking for a fight because they don’t have other mechanisms of dealing with the stress and frustration their body is feeling, very often from something going on at home. I think that breathing exercises would really help give them another mechanism to deal with whatever emotions they are feeling.
I agree with what Beth said about incorporating the idea of flow into the classroom. Not only does it feel good to observe your body working in a fluid and adroit manner, I like the idea that I could extend this notion to other areas of the classroom: transitions, communication, writing, etc.
When I think personally of my experience with yoga and what works for me, I think of the ‘flow’ of yoga. I benefit from learning a routine and learning how to breathe in relation to the movements, gradually speeding up and slowing the pace but getting into a rhythm. From my (not very extensive) yoga practices, I think that perhaps Vinyasa Flow is the best example of that kind of yoga.
I found this video as an example of vinyasa flow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEDlkBi8uwI As the woman in the video states, the flow keeps your mind focused because you’re moving all the time which seems appropriate for young learners. The first exercise in the video is the cat stretch, and then as the title implies, it flows into downward facing dog, to child’s pose, back to downward facing dog etc. You can adjust this to make it faster or slower depending on the students and adjust the difficulty level. It provides a large amount of variety to keep students interested and keeps the mind concentrated on breathing through the flow of it all.
I have participated in yoga classes throughout high school and college and love the idea of teaching children yoga. If I were to incorporate yoga into a classroom for young people I would want to include breathing exercises. It is really cool to learn how to break from different parts of your body. Based on what Abby said about children doing breathing exercises during stressful situations, I think that increased awareness of the breath would be helpful for children who live in stressful environments. I wish that I had practiced yoga as a child!
During undergrad I took yoga as my PE course for one semester. I took it because I had no prior experience with yoga but was interested in learning the techniques and poses. A major component of the course was keeping a yoga journal – and this is something I would definitely incorporate if I was to use yoga in my teaching practice. As part of the journal each week we would 1}write the name of the yoga pose we learned during that class (helpful for beginners to familiarize themselves with yoga pose names) 2} describe the pose (the physical nature of the pose so that you can replicate it) 3} write about how it made you feel to do the pose and then 4} practice the pose that week and write about your experience. I think a yoga journal would be beneficial for teens because it is a reflective process that allows students to learn and familiarize themselves with the practice and keep a log of their progress.
If I were to integrate a yoga program into my classes, I would want to get students comfortable enough to take chances. I think a triangle pose, with the necessary poses to get in position, would be beneficial. It is difficult enough that most students would not be able to master it on a first try, but simple enough that they could strive towards it. It focuses on core as well as leg muscles, which might help combat desk fatigue.
My experiences with yoga convince me that the periods of rest before, after, and sometimes during yoga routines (Abby mentioned this in the third video) can be a very simple and effective introduction to practices for increased self-awareness. As an adult, when I’m tired or overwhelmed, I have the self-control to stop and take such a rest, focusing on my breathing or just sitting in the quiet. But teenagers do need to be prompted to “get into their bodies.” At the Girl Scout camp where I worked, the campers always requested “tent time,” free time that they could spend reading, napping, writing a letter home and just taking a break from the busy pace of the day. The Girl Scouts do a good job of recognizing that even fun, engaging learning activities can’t be sustained for a full day without pausing to let participants soak it all in on an individual level, and refresh their minds.