It's summer break for College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur where I've been teaching Pre-Grounded Yoga classes to the entire school, ages 1 - 4. Being the official yoga teacher is an honor, very rewarding, and a whole lot of work. Stephany Fair (co-creator of Pre-Grounded) and I agree that being the very first person to introduce yoga to someone is a priveledge we hope more people will experience. Here are some practical pointers based on my time teaching little ones to breathe, meditate and move their bodies in such a way that they are grounded, connected and peaceful.
If you like to teach the little ones go to where they already are, in Pre-Schools. It is by far the best way to teach a lot of kids during the day.
The ideal situation is for a school to have an in house yoga teacher teach for 15 – 20 minutes in each class during the week. Not only are the kids in a familiar space ready to learn, the teachers can see how to do yoga in the classroom. After only a few lessons, we find that teachers and kids practice yoga even when the yoga teacher isn’t in the room! In order to make the most of your time, be mindful of a few challenges.
Even though classrooms are large, every corner is filled with stuff such as reading time pillows, special display tables, toys, children’s desks or tables. Most likely you will all need to fit on one carpet. The size and shape depends on the room but Pre-School carpets always have different shapes and colors that are useful for delineating personal space. When directing the children, use phrases such as “sit on the red square, stay behind the blue line, don’t go over the yellow line” and so on.
Since you are in such a tight space, being at eye level when speaking to the students reinforces cooperation and makes it easier for them to pay attention to you instead of other kids or all the potential distractions in the room. Instead of doing poses like Warrior II Decide and Breath of Joy as a whole group, take turns to avoid bumping into one another. Taking turns also makes it easier to check alignment and gives kids the opportunity to learn poses by watching. A simple effective way to split the group is to have the girls preform a pose or flow as the boys wait in heel sitting position and then switch. Besides the space, another challenge of teaching in a classroom is having the teacher in the room. Be clear from the start that you are the authority during yoga class and you will ask for help if needed. Most of the time the teachers are very interested in what’s going on. Invite them to participate as a student or quietly observe. Classroom yoga time is anywhere from 15 minutes to 25 minutes. Typically kids leave their shoes on, which saves time. Even in the shortest class, it is important to follow the Pre-Grounded class structure. If there is no space to lie down for Savasana, have students go into Dark Seat Light and rest for at least a minute.
When teaching in the classroom you may have one or more students with special needs. Most likely a second teacher is there to work with the student(s) and will stay for yoga. A little bit of time spent with the classroom teachers and paraprofessionals discussing the students, ideas for lessons and expectations will go a long way.
Always remember, no matter how young - keep it yoga and keep it fun. I'm so looking forward to starting a new school year with these kids - a little older, a little wiser - and teaching new children that yoga is just a part of life.