Why I teach kids yoga

When I was an undergraduate student studying art history one of my part time jobs was giving tours at the Hammer Museum and the UCLA Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden. I considered this a good way to get experience in my field and make a little money. At first I primarily gave tours to adults. I had the privilege of being able to write my own tours and I had tremendous freedom. I decided the best thing to do was to have a dialog with the viewers and ask them what they thought of the art and what they saw so we could learn and interpret together. I was surprised when this didn’t go well. Firstly, I probably didn’t have the experience to successfully attempt such an advanced form of presenting and also people don’t expect that when they go to a museum tour. Viewers expect the guide to give facts and lecture at them for an hour or so with little to no back and forth. Otherwise pssh why get a tour? I considered myself an Academic and someone who was interested in teaching adults. I wanted to teach at Universities and be an Important Professor. Around this same time I was walking through the sculpture garden with a friend who is an artist. She’s a very talented painter and is trained in very formal and classical techniques. She looked at a Rodin piece The Walking Man which is a bronze sculpture of a headless and armless torso and legs. My friend expressed that she was sorry Rodin didn’t finish the piece. I asked her why she felt he didn’t. She said that the body was incomplete and also that she could see his fingerprints. It was executed so loosely he obviously didn’t complete the work. I disagreed and felt that these were deliberate style choices and that the sculpture was very much finished. Soon after this conversation I was given the task to guide a group of children aged five to seven through the garden. Even though I was told they were familiar with art I was not excited. I had no experience with children and “knew nothing” about teaching youngsters. I wanted to teach college students, not kindergarten! I met the group and they were very sweet and attentive. I took them to the Rodin and started my spiel and was quickly interrupted by a small hand in the air. I invited them to share their question and they wanted to know why the man had no head or arms. I said that was a great question and asked if anyone had an idea. Another small hand went up and the student said, “Because the artist is showing the movement of a body, not just a body.” I wanted to fall right over. Not only was the student totally right but they perfectly articulated the idea that I had wished I could have to my friend who thought the piece wasn’t even done! Cut to about three years later and I was working on my Masters in art history and I got an internship at SITE Santa Fe in the Education Department. Again, I considered it a great way to get more experience in my field but teaching children is still not my thing blah blah. I was trained very well in how to give tours and the staff was very thorough and knowledgable. They taught me a specific philosophy they had been studying about how to engage the viewer in a dialog and get them to give you answers about the artwork. In a sense, the interpretation of the artworks would be a group effort. The method was made applicable to all ages. Finally I was given the tools to do what I had been trying to do earlier! And of course I guided children of all ages and we analysed the pieces together and I learned so much! One thing that I learned was that while you can accumulate a lot of knowledge about a subject, it does not mean you can teach it well. Since becoming a yoga teacher, I have learned that it is no different with yoga. Yoga is the study of the self. I do not have the answers but I can give you ways to learn them. And like when I taught children art analysis, in yoga class I find them so open and unafraid. They don’t just cross their arms and expect you to “yoga” them. They come in with curiosity and excitement and keep it up for the whole class. Kids love to show you what they know. They love to tell you what they have learned. This makes them fabulous students. Yoga is the study of the self. Children don’t need to learn who they are but they need to learn how to keep being curious about who they are. Belly breathing connects your mind and your body. So do yoga poses and playing games and singing songs. The more you know about how to connect your mind and your body the more you know about yourself and the more self-soothing skills you can master. Children today live in a very dynamic world. Some live tough lives already and experience trauma and don’t know how to handle it. I learned yoga in my 20s and I am still unraveling some of my experiences as a child. What a great gift to start them young and to teach them to continue to be unafraid of who they are. I volunteer at the library for preschool story time and I swear the room gets more solid after we do our belly breathing.

I’m teaching a Kids Yoga Camp for ages five to eight this summer. Class starts this Monday June 13th and will be every Monday (except July 4th) through July 25th from 3 to 3:45 PM. We will practice yoga poses, do breathing exercises, sing songs, and play games with the goal of practicing mindfulness. To sign up call (831) 438-3251.