Here is an interview with the author of Creative Yoga for Children by Adrienne Rawlinson. I’ve seen yoga in primary classrooms as particularly effective in helping young children develop fine motor skills, self awareness, calm, and focus. I’m eager to review this book which shares lessons, poses and activities for a wide range of ages. Teachers, parents, and yoga teachers will find it useful for developing regular yoga practice with children. I’ll post a book review soon, but in the meantime, check out this interview with the author.
1. Your book is broken down into three age groups (4–6, 7–9, 10–12). What is the significance of starting at age 4? Is there a benefit to starting earlier or is this the earliest age for kids to become actively engaged with yoga?
The program offered in my book is quite structured and I have observed that children under the age of four benefit more from a yoga routine that is more playful, and they are developmentally often not ready for a structured one hour class.
However, they are not too young to be introduced to the world of yoga. I have two and a half year olds in my Montessori class who love to do a few minutes of yoga every day, choosing pose cards from a basket to do on a mat by themselves or with a friend. Babies and toddlers can reap the benefits of yoga and there are many age appropriate programs out there. Setting the stage for a lifetime of yoga benefits really starts at birth.
2. Are there certain yoga styles (Vinyasa, Hatha, Bikram) that you find easier or harder to teach to children? For instance, I would imagine that Bikram would be slightly more challenging …
My yoga classes do not follow a particular style, but are designed to give the children a taste of many yoga styles (Vinyasa flow, Iyengar, Ashtanga, etc.) with a huge emphasis on fun and education and simple body awareness.
We aren’t teaching a style, we are just planting seeds of curiosity. The children are simply there for an experience, from which we hope that they will go on to engage in the world of yoga and will grow up to pursue styles of yoga that appeal to them personally.
3. How is yoga beneficial to classroom learning? What do you tell parents who might think it’s a distraction?
It is important for parents to see that yoga in school can only promote lifetime wellness. It will give their children a tool that they can use to help them focus in all academic subjects, so it can really be seen as a subject in and of itself. Yoga will improve their capacity for retention of information and will give them the capacity to later handle the stresses of life. The idea that it may be a distraction is hard to imagine.
4. In Creative Yoga for Children you mention that part of your inspiration for writing the book came from your own teaching experience at a Montessori school. How does Montessori education complement yoga? What are the challenges in bringing yoga into non-Montessori schools?
I observed so many similarities between yoga and Montessori that I incorporated it into my classroom curriculum as soon as I had finished my yoga training. Both are completely noncompetitive and concern themselves with an ever evolving process, and not any end product. Both are personal, and are there to further the development of the person, and not for “producing” something for someone else.
Also they are both philosophies that increase self-esteem, concentration, and self-awareness. It is easy to add yoga to a Montessori classroom, as it just becomes a piece of material that the child can choose to do when they prefer, but adding it to the routine of a traditional classroom does not have to be difficult.
Yoga can simply be a three- or four-minute activity added on to the day, practiced in between subjects, as a sort of “warm down,” or “warm up” to the next activity. Guided meditations and relaxations can be added into a class just before tests, in order to further focus the children’s minds. Teachers can use yoga as a tool throughout their daily routines.