Yoga often conjures images of tranquil students with eyes closed in deep meditation, or strong, lithe bodies in topsy-turvy poses—quite the opposite of what you would imagine when it comes to kids at work or at play.
Constantly subjected to sensory overload, pressure from school work, and a slew of extra-curriculars, kids can have a tough time easing into a quiet space that helps keep them balanced and steady. Kids Yoga, with its fun mix of play, interaction, arts and crafts, storytelling and circle time, can help.
What kids reap from a yoga class is similar to what adults find in their practice, too—a sense of stillness tempered by some fun play, and always, that incomparable feel-good sensation that comes at the end of every class.
The rewards of bringing even just a smidgen of inner peace to kids are infinite, and many yogis, both experienced and new, delve into teaching yoga not just for what it brings to the kids, but for what the experience brings to their own lives, as well.
Whether you teach professionally and want to incorporate yoga into your grade school class plans, or are a mom looking to find new ways to give your own kids something fun and different to do at home or with their friends, teaching kids yoga can give you a sense of accomplishment not often found in other careers.
If you’re good with kids and want to tap that talent and move onto a new path, or are a yoga student who wants to share your own love for the practice with others by teaching kids, it’ll help to take cues from different professionals who’ve taken their love for both kids and yoga, and used it to forge a new career for themselves.
Rina Nakayama, Travel executive
“I started practicing yoga (Vinyasa Flow) in 2011,” says Rina Nakayama. “My practice started to shift focus after taking my first workshop with teacher trainer David Kim. I learned to recognize the subtleties and depths of yoga. After a few months of regular practice, my teachers began to encourage me to deepen my practice by taking a 200-hour teacher training program.”
Delving even deeper into her practice allowed Nakayama to be exposed to the different programs offered by her home studio, Urban Ashram Manila. “I’d already set my mind on taking the 200-hour in October last year, so taking the Rainbow Kids Yoga (RKY) teacher training beforehand seemed like a nice prelude.”
RKY offers a three-day teacher training internationally. The group, which has flagships in Spain and Japan, espouses building a safe environment for kids, where they can enjoy, release tension, explore, let unprocessed emotions go and learn to interact and communicate with others.
“I went into it with no expectations, just an open mind,” she adds.
Nakayama’s biggest takeaway after three days of intensive training was the realization of yoga’s versatility. “Yoga can be incorporated into kids’ activities in a playful and loving way,” she says.
“It can be challenging for adults to reawaken that passionate, creative and imaginative part of yourself because it’s something you tend to leave behind as you grow up,” she explains. RKY allowed Nakayama to tap into that side of her, giving her the opportunity to relate to kids without any barriers. “RKY helped resuscitate a part of me that’s always been open, fun, passionate, creative and peace-loving.
“It also helped me expand my practice, allowing me to appreciate meditation and pranayama (breath work), aside from asana (physical postures),” says Nakayama. “As I started to adapt the quieting yoga exercises for the kids, I also realized that meditation and breath work can be made fun and accessible for myself, too.”
After taking RKY training, Nakayama went full-on with her kids yoga teaching job, working as a core faculty for Kids Yoga Philippines. “The biggest challenge in teaching kids yoga is demystifying it for parents—making them see that there’s more to it than just stretching and poses,” she adds. “It is most rewarding to see kids enjoy yoga. You see it in their eyes, their smiles, their eagerness for more. To know that yoga not only brightens their day, but also helps combat their anxiety and stress is what keeps me going.”
As a yoga teacher who also maintains her job, Nakayama believes yoga has helped expand her horizons by allowing her to balance office work and yoga work. “I’m envisioning a long-term life plan with yoga,” she says. “It’s really to practice more, teach more and study more.”
Nakayama says that those considering taking kids yoga teacher training just need to keep the students and their overall development the focus of their classes. “Kids Yoga is about ‘working for a cause, not applause,’ so always remember the people you want to teach and offer them gratitude.”
Raissa Paje, Pediatrician
Raissa Paje first got into yoga as a student, but the pressures and tight schedule of med school got the better of her. “It was just around September last year when I started practicing, and I really fell in love with it,” she recounts. “Yoga became my time for myself. It was my way of being kind to my body, empowering me to do something to make myself healthier each day.”
Like Nakayama, Paje came across RKY teacher training as a student at Urban Ashram Manila. “I love yoga and I love kids, so the thought of kids yoga teacher training struck me as interesting,” she says. “I was torn between pursuing my fellowship training for pedia-GIT or pedia-hema-onco, or kids yoga. I realized I wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives by guiding them into health through yoga. It’s really what I want to do.”
Pursuing wellness in children has since become a personal advocacy for Paje, who finds yoga the perfect complement to her practice as a pediatrician. “I went home every day of training with a smile on my face despite the tired muscles. We learned by moving our bodies and doing kids yoga ourselves, which was a lot of fun,” she says. “I learned how to share yoga with kids, how to develop skills needed to handle them, and how to give them tools to help bring yoga into their lifestyle.”
The biggest challenge when going into kids yoga teacher training, she says, is your own doubts.
“Some of my colleagues’ reactions were quite discouraging, especially since I was stepping out of the doctor’s academic path. Fortunately, my friends and family were all very supportive.”
The payoff for Paje was huge, as she developed more passion for her practice and inspired her to make yoga a part of her daily life.
“The hugs and kisses from my students are the biggest perks,” she says. “RKY empowered me to teach children, whose boundless energy and perennial curiosity influence me in a big way. It’s great to play with them, and it’s a beautiful thing to mindfully share yoga with them, too. There are amazing life lessons waiting to be learned from kids, and teaching them just gives you a chance to let your inner child come out and play.”
Interested in teaching kids yoga? Join the Rainbow Kids Yoga Teacher Training at Urban Ashram Manila from Aug. 24-26. Call 661YOGA or 869YOGA for reservations or visit urbanashrammanila.com/events.