Teaching the Youth Yoga class at The Hot Yoga Factory is one of the most gratifying things I do every week.
Kids come to class for a variety of reasons. Some are curious about their parents’ yoga practices. Some are wrestling with anxiety and other adolescent emotional turbulence and have heard that yoga might help. Some have tried yoga at school and want to do more. Some are athletes who would like to build more strength and flexibility to support them on the playing field.
Some kids, refreshingly honest, let me know right away, “My mom made me come. She thinks it will be good for me.”
My first thought when I hear this? “I wish my mom had made me go to yoga when I was 11!”
When kids first get to the studio, they are often awkward and tentative. One or two might sit silently while others are giggling and silly, sitting in front of that gigantic mirror, glancing at themselves and readjusting their mats while waiting for class to start.
To smooth over some of the initial discomfort of trying something new in a room full of strangers, we spend a little bit of time getting to know one another and discussing what will happen during class. Just like in the adult classes, I emphasize that the goal is to do the best you can with the brain and body you have on that exact day. I emphasize effort and incremental progress and being curious and finding enjoyment and fun in the midst of hard work.
And then, just like in the adult classes, we stand up, come to the middle of our mats, and begin with Pranayama Deep Breathing. New kids take a while to figure out the mechanics, but after a few classes, they are inhaling and exhaling, moving their arms and heads like champs.
This is true for all the postures, and watching self-conscious awkwardness settle into determined focus is nothing short of magnificent, even if it only happens for a few moments at a time.
We do all 26 postures, plus some bonus postures mixed in to work on a specific skill or body part.
When a kid experiences success in class, finding new flexibility or balance, it’s thrilling. Faces light up, and optimism soars. Maybe their mom will still need to to convince them to put down their phone and come to class next week, but they’ll come a little more willingly.
And when a room full of young yogis relaxes into final savasana, their bodies still and their faces serene? Even if there are parents waiting out in the lobby, I pause to allow the sweetness of the quiet, the calm, the simple “being” without phones and jokes and distractions and worries to last for a few extra minutes.
If you have a child between the ages of 11 (by the end of the year) and 17 who would like to experience the challenge, fun, and growth of developing a yoga practice, I would love to have them in class. The next 8-week session of Youth Yoga begins Sunday, September 9. You can register for the entire series (and there is a discounted rate if you sign up by August 31!), or come to class as a drop-in for $15 per class.
The summer session runs for 2 more weeks, August 19 and 26 from 1:15 to 2:30, and drop-ins are also welcome!
And if you’d like to read more about our Youth Yoga program, here’s a blog post from last year!
Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford