When I was in elementary school, there were two options: go out to the playground or stay in and do art. I enjoyed the dynamic energy of playgrounds but the solitude of art. No activity provided me a balance that satisfied both aspects.
Which is why when I was introduced to yoga and meditation through my mother, I felt an instant connection. I joined her with the eagerness to immerse myself in the entire experience, and that meant “swaying with the wind” while in the Tree Pose and hissing while in the Cobra Pose. I enjoyed the experience because I felt like yoga was so flexible to all personality types and athletic abilities.
The turning point for me deciding to train as a kids yoga teacher was when I realized how uncommon of an activity yoga was among the younger population compared to sports or art or dance. Yoga has largely been advertised by adults, for adults as an activity to bring balance to a hectic lifestyle. And once I compared how many recreational activities were adaptable to children’s needs and diverse personalities, I realized that yoga could be revolutionary if it was better adapted to kids.
There is a reason why I’m an advocate of kids yoga. My theory is that if yoga has the power to instill, it should also have the power to prevent. Focusing on wellness and mental health will help children maintain a balanced life before any health issues arise. Beyond just a list of health benefits, though, yoga can be engaging, dynamic, and inclusive for kids. Moving beyond the static, philosophical shell of yoga lies an inner scope for creativity. And immersing myself in that creative potential was what drew my interest in yoga as a child in the first place.
So when I decided my initiative to promote yoga as a wellness activity for kids, I had to keep in mind that lessons needed variation and reinventing to capture the interest of younger learners. I was inspired by Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, suggesting that intelligence comes in multiple forms. This principle is what guides my planning for leading yoga sessions with Elementary school students: from mythical stories that contextualize the yoga poses to team-building activities that require communication and creativity to interactive sounds that bring the yoga poses to life. The most memorable lessons balance both the vibrant and the calm in children.
But most importantly, the most memorable lessons allow them to take charge of their learning style. When I led yoga lessons with my 6 year old twin siblings, I noticed how when I controlled the entire agenda, they viewed each aspect as a typical instructional class rather than a period of self-exploration. I then tweaked the next lesson and started off by asking whether they wanted to learn, say, twist poses or inverted poses and also let them brainstorm what follow-up activity they wanted that particular day.
Teaching kids yoga was an empowering initiative for me, as a teenager, to be able to implement what I learned from my interest in yoga. And by allowing kids to take charge of aspects of the session and incorporating their inputs, I want to be able to stand by their voice and encourage them to explore how they derive their wellness. It isn’t too early to introduce yoga to kids in ways that are tailored to them.
Vainavi Gambhir is a certified kids yoga teacher studying at Walter Johnson High. With a passion for child health and wellness, Vainavi strives to reinvent the perspective on yoga and make it more inclusive for the younger community.