The Value of Teaching Yoga to Children in our Western Culture
Having taught yoga to children for over fourteen years, I wish to share my perspective on the cultural differences that I have observed between students in India and Canada, as well as highlight some of the changes that I have witnessed over time. Just prior to launching the YogaBuds for Kids program in 1997, I began my mentorship with Geetaji in Pune, and have been most fortunate to have her guidance and blessing.
One of the earliest surprising discoveries was that the most frequently requested and favored pose was, and continues to be Savasana! Geetaji felt strongly that Savasana goes against children’s nature, but ultimately I followed the children’s guidance. Perhaps our over-programmed Canadian children’s desire for Savasana indicates a need to learn relaxation skills, and this may reflect a cultural difference. At RIMYI, children’s classes are taught in a very fast-paced, dynamic fashion. Though our children enjoy this, I have found that they respond equally well to a focused and slower class. Another difference is in the student-teacher relationship. In India, students demonstrate reverence towards their teacher, whereas on occasion, I have had to address a child’s lack of respect and their attitude of entitlement.
Children are an absolute delight to teach albeit being a very challenging population to work with. Their infectious joy, love of movement and body, and their unlimited potential for change and growth result in wonderful experiences for all. The double blessings of being able to share yoga with these young students combined with being an intrinsic part of their maturation process is a true gift of teaching yoga to children. I am extremely gratified to have taught several children who have transitioned through the Children’s’ and Teen classes and have then become regular members of my adult classes!
The detrimental impact of technology on these young bodies has been evidenced in my students. Since initiating kids and teen classes, there has sadly been an increase of complaints of headaches, back and neck pain, from children as young as five years of age. I have observed tighter hamstrings, and less flexibility in general, and an increase in symptoms of generalized anxiety and psychosomatic issues. It is likely that the decrease of activity/mobility and the increase in hand-held devices (teens toting their Blackberries into class) have contributed to the worsened posture in young people. Thankfully, the yoga process addresses these concerns and many improvements are made over time.
It is my fervent hope that more children not only find their way to class but develop a lifelong commitment to yoga. It is only over time that the invaluable life skills, self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-management, improved posture and other transformational effects can be truly learned.
Note: to watch a recent Global TV news spotlight on Temmi’s YogaBuds class, go to: