A few years ago Angel and I were lying in bed while our then 3-year-old daughter Delphin was examining our ears and our hearts and giving us injections with a syringe from her Doctor playset. A bit more into the game Angel asked Delphin “so would you like to be a Doctor when you grows up?”
We found Delphin’s answer quite inspiring… “Don’t be silly Mum, I’m just playing. When I grow up I want to be a Unicorn.”
We take our work so seriously, sometimes too seriously, and that can make our work stop being fun. Sometimes we are so serious that we get burnt out!
Isn’t life about happiness though? Aren’t we supposed to enjoy the work we do? Isn’t yoga about taking pleasure at every moment and every step we take?
Look, children can be challenging, even annoying at times… but with the right attitude, you as well as them can have more fun while playing yoga.
Here are a few ways to help you lighten up when you go and spread the yoga love with children of all ages:
- Come to class to play not to work. Doing yoga with kids is the most fun and liberating thing ever, and a great way to pull out of your own darkness at times.
- Change your expectations. Remember that it’s just kids and that chatting, playing around, wandering away for bit and not always being perfect is part of being human and especially a human child. If your expectations are not realistic you are going to get upset…
Most adults forgot how it was to be kids and they therefore expect kids to listen and participate and do what they are told to all the time… but kids are kids; they play and laugh and explore and test boundaries and express their emotions and their needs whenever they feel like – Things that we adult should learn to do more!
- Let yourself be a bit wild and crazy! By loosening up you will enjoy the class more, but the best benefit of this is that it will make the kids more focused on you. I call it “The Law of the Jungle”; the loudest and most dramatic person in the tribe becomes the natural leader that everyone follows.
- Change the way you see things! The exact same actions can be seen as creative or as disturbing depending on how you look at it. Incorporate the kids seemingly disturbing actions into your class. For example, if one of the kids is starting to jump up and down on one leg while you are telling everyone to do the tree pose, make the whole class practice jumping trees. Who said that jumping trees are less good for you than standing trees? Jumping trees will make your legs strong!
- Never stick to your plan! If everything went exactly according to your plan it means that something went terribly wrong in your class! You probably looked more at your plan than at the kids. Go with the flow; be flexible and inventive, and willing to recreate the class at any moment according to the children needs.
- Don’t worry too much about yoga! It is OK to do other things in between. Dancing, drama, acrobatics, juggling, clowning, even soccer… anything can be yoga by inserting a few yoga poses there and with the right attitude!
- Don’t insist on anything! Move to another pose or game if the kids lose interest or if they don’t quiet get it… it’s always next next next – Don’t stop even for a second!
- Never fight with a kid! Go with what they want… need and want is the same thing when you meet the kids just for a couple of hours every week. Parenting and teaching are very different and in the short span of time you spend with the kids you can only teach by personal example. Going against the grain just wastes precious time of your class and ruins the atmosphere.
Fighting, shouting and getting angry is definitely not yoga – but adapting and adjusting is!
- Give what you want to get! Being a teacher is having a sort of relationship with your students. And like in any relationship, we are mirrors of each other and we get back whatever we give. So if you respect the kids, they will respect you; if you listen to the kids, they will listen to you; if you give them control, if you give them choices, if you let them be the leaders, they will let you lead too.
- Bond with each kid in a personal way! Come to class 15 minutes before and stay after. Listen to their stories and get to know them. Make them your friends – It is your best bet for leading a successful and fun class and a much more pleasant and useful way than reprimanding to create a relationship of trust between you.
Those little guys are awesome people, and at the end of the day your heart can be full of wonderful memories of playing yoga with all of your new little friends.
So what do you want to be when you grow up? Maybe we grew up too much and it’s time to take things more lightly again and play life like a child… or a Unicorn!