5 tips to teaching youth mindfulness & yoga

I’ve been loving my class at Woodford Family Services through Sea Change Yoga. I have the opportunity to share yoga and mindfulness practices with children with special needs. We have a consistent group of students who show up each week with their parents and/or behavioral health practitioner.

Building each class reminds me to include each of the 5 elements below:

Here are 5 tips when bringing yoga and mindfulness to youth: 

1. Community
Before we dive into any practices we create community by circling up and sharing. I start each class asking the students to share their name and something from the day that made them happy. It is always so rewarding listening to what makes the children and adults happy! “Outdoor recess!” “A warm cup of coffee” “playing legos!” When we create community, students feel safe and heard right away, before diving into practices that could be new for them.

2. Breathe
After we connect to one another we begin to breathe. I’m talkin’ big huge deep belly breaths. If we can teach children what it feels, looks and sounds like to take big beautiful breaths they will have this tool forever! I always like to share that when we take big deep belly breaths we can calm down our bodies and minds. “Does anyone feel like their minds race and move quickly and maybe their heart beats quickly? This is a tool we can use when we want to slow/calm those feelings down”.

3. Consistency
A visual schedule is a great way to let students know what to expect and where you are at in the class structure. This is important when working with all learning styles. Sharing the schedule at the beginning of class lets the students know what to expect, and also leaves room for variation. This helps students feel safe and secure.

4. Variation
Kids love to learn something new! Maybe it’s a new breath, mindful moment, yoga posture or guided imagery. They love to feel challenged with support. Breaking a challenging posture down into 3 simple steps allows them to stay at whatever step is the most comfortable for them. For example,
Step 1: One foot forward
Step 2: Arms behind you
Step 3: Maybe you take your foot off of the ground and hover your torso to fly!

5. Sharing 
The final part of our class is always guided imagery. Sometimes we go on an imagination vacation to the forest (the audio recording I use is below), other times we soar peacefully on a cloud to a place that helps us feel safe.

Last class, we went to a place that made us feel safe. At the end we each shared where we went. They get so excited to share! “I went to my home” “I went to a magical candy land!”. When I run out of time, sharing is the first thing to go. I am realizing that creating more time and space for this is such a beautiful gift. To listen to others share where they go in their mind when they are feeling uncomfortable will give us all new tools to bring with us into our lives.

Each class I am deeply humbled to work with these students and with Sea Change Yoga. Experiencing different personalities and self-expression is contagious! Being in the present moment with students is one of my favorites feels in the entire world 🙂

If you are in Denver we have a teacher training coming up in Wheat Ridge on two Separate Sundays. Lead by the lovely and talented Jennifer Werner!