I first found yoga and meditation whilst living and travelling through Europe in my 20’s. As soon as I took my first Body Balance (mix of Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates) I was hooked! I used my time overseas to immerse myself in the practice and attended yoga festivals and retreats across the UK. At first I just enjoyed my own personal practice, but soon began to think that everyone should be practicing yoga to experience the ease and calm it can bring to your daily life. One summer’s day when I was in Glastonbury, the spiritual heart of the UK – I had a lightbulb moment – why is this sense of ease and calm just limited to adults, yoga should be taught from a young age to help children better navigate their way into adulthood.
So I thought why not combine my love for working with kids and yoga; I could teach yoga to children! Suddenly it all started making sense. I had always loved working with children, and was amazed by their sponge-like brains, soaking up loads of new information every day; but had never felt that being a school teacher was the right fit for me. Finally, I had found a way to teach children that felt right in every single way.
Once I had the idea, I could not stop thinking about it. I wrapped up my work in the UK and moved home to turn my idea into a reality. I completed my first Yoga Teacher Training in April 2017 with Rainbow Kids Yoga, a life-changing month living in beautiful Byron Bay surrounded by like-minded people who like me, were also passionate about changing the lives of children.
Soon after my return from Byron Bay, Star Yoga For Kids was born, and I began teaching yoga and mindfulness to children in the Sutherland Shire. Whilst the physical benefits of yoga alone are very important for the healthy development of children; I am most passionate about the social and emotional support that I can offer children during class. I hope to help children build a “tool box” of useful ways to reduce stress or frustration levels by teaching self-calming techniques through breathing, mindful activities and supporting and encouraging children to enjoy quiet time.
Adults are often worried about what’s coming up ahead of time, or stuck on something that has happened in the past. So they go to yoga to help them focus on the present moment. Kids – especially the younger ones – are already naturally very present. If they don’t get their own way, they cry, release the tension, then can move on and be happy. As pressure increases over time, either at school or with other activities, children shift from living in the moment, to worrying about the past and future. I have a ‘leave your worries at the door’ policy and uses yoga to help bring children back to the present moment.
One last thing I am very passionate about teaching children, is the ability to stop, and listen to their bodies. Kids often run around on a hot day with a jumper on, not stopping to realize that they are hot, because they are having too much fun playing. But it’s important to listen to our bodies; if we’re tired, we should rest. If we’re hungry we should eat. If we’re cold and bored, maybe it’s time to move our bodies. When children can stop and check in with their bodies, they will be able to better understand and be able to verbalise their needs. And maybe as grown ups we will be able to help them tend to their needs before their bad moods and behavior kick in.
The great thing about teaching these tools through yoga, is that it can be taught in a fun and engaging way. There is no lecturing the kids on how to listen to their bodies. It’s all done through songs, games, or mindful games which all encourage self-exploration. Sometimes I wonder if kids are even taking in the underlying lessons that I am trying to teach, but then I’ll see a child get frustrated during class, and instead of an outburst, they will sit and do some heavy breathing, or tension release – without any prompting! It’s very heartwarming to see this happen – that’s one less meltdown that that child has to go through!!
So even if you’re just interested in the physical benefits of yoga: increased strength, flexibility, range of movement, balance, co-ordination and control – your child will still get a full body workout. But it is my hope that your child will leave class each week feeling a little bit more prepared to tackle difficult situations that life may throw their way. These tools are not only helpful for children navigating their way through childhood, they can be used throughout high school and into their adult lives too.
Michelle has taught yoga in pre-schools, schools, vacation care and she is looking forward to bringing children’s yoga and meditation to Active Mind Body.
Active Mind Body Kid’s Yoga is on Wednesday’s for Term 4 and will run through the school terms and break for holidays. These classes are after school at 4.30pm for 1 hour at Level 1, shop 3, 324 Kingsway Caringbah Studios, ages ranging from Kindergarten to year 6.
blog written by Michelle McDonald