Updated: Jul 17
Believe it or not, it's never too early for children to start to practise yoga. I interviewed yoga teacher, Jen Scott, to find out more.
S: Jen, you have a wealth of experience working with children - would you share with us what inspired you to train to teach yoga?
J: I was a secondary teacher for 13 years before I decided to retrain to teach yoga. I love teaching and sharing knowledge with young people, but over the course of my career, I found there was a rise in young people struggling with their mental health. There was no time to talk and offer support to these young people in lessons because of the curriculum content and time restraints. So I decided to retrain with the intention of teaching children coping strategies to deal with current issues in their lives through yoga and mindfulness. I also had my 3 children in these 13 years and realised how important it was to have the time to listen and connect with children.
S: From your experience teaching in a classroom environment to being a mum of young children and of course now teaching yoga - what do you feel are the most common issues that seem to affect children today?
J: Every bit of time is scheduled for our children, they have full days at school, then they have clubs, classes after school. They don’t seem to have a lot if any down time and do not know how to relax and rest. That is why a number of children find it difficult to sleep. Social media also has had a massive impact on our young people in so many different ways. One issue is the lack of physical connection with each other. This can have a massive impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Lack of communication and connection with their mind, body and with their peers and adults can result in vulnerable and very lonely young people.
Working on New Year's resolutions, the children discussed what they were good at on and of the mat.
S: You are known for the creative way you engage children. What does a typical yoga session for children look like with you?
J: The children have an opportunity to talk about their week, to share experiences, either positive or negative. They can freely share worries, difficulties with their feelings and emotions, friendships, exam, test pressures through to bigger life issues. There is always a focus for each lesson, often related to what might have been discussing previously or relevant current topics.
We then use different breathing techniques to focus the mind and connect to the body, followed by a warm up and moving through different yoga poses and do a mindful art/craft activity. Ending the session with a summary of what we have discussed and learnt in the session and then ending with relaxation, using lavender eye bags and blankets and we then close the session with Namaste.
Mindful hand sewing
S: What are the benefits for the child in doing yoga?
J: There are so many benefits for their mental health and their wellbeing. Children gain confidence, focus, concentration, patience, empathy, resilience. Physically children build strength, flexibility, better posture and balance. They learn coping and breathing techniques for dealing with overwhelming emotions, stress and tension which they can use in all aspects of their lives.
S: Are there any long term benefits from children starting a yoga practice at a young age?
J: All of the above!
Exploring new challenges, working as a team and building trust.
S: Could you suggest a couple of simple yoga postures that children (and maybe their parents too) can do at home?
J: Child’s Pose/Rock Pose, this dissolves feelings of anxiety. Please see the Yoga Pretzel card, for instructions and guidance.
Tree Pose, this pose is always a favourite with children and adults alike, make it fun, who can balance for the longest? Can you be a tree in the wind?
Partner poses are always popular in my lessons, children love teaching and sharing knowledge with others. Let your child teach you Lizard on a Rock pose and perform the posture as a team, working and connecting with each other.
Lizard on a Rock
Great yoga tools you can use at home are the Yoga Pretzel cards.