Reaching kids with Yoga Outreach

A lot of our CYS Yoga Teacher Training students and MCY teachers talk about wanting to share yoga with groups in the community. Those who would never normally come along to a regular yoga class. When Ana (our Vinyasa Flow teacher and recent CYS Glasgow graduate) was invited to share some yoga with children who’ve experienced challenging upbringings she bravely jumped at the chance even though she’d never taught a group like this one before.

Here’s Ana’s story of her day with these kids. I hope you’ll see why I’m constantly inspired by our teachers and our teacher training students…

Celebrating Health Week – Primary School Yoga Outreach

Yoga with AnaAna Costa

Life can hand you challenges like no one’s business. When given a choice I accept them, always thinking it’s a good idea at the time! A friend reached out to me a couple of months ago. This lovely lady works at a primary school with children who have faced difficult upbringings.

They struggle with attachment as some never had that from their parents/family/homes” she said.

As part of Health Week they’re learning the benefits of yoga for mental head and wellbeing. The school was keen to organise short yoga classes for the kids so they can experience and connect to the theory of what they are learning. They asked me if I would like to teach these classes, and I said… YES of course!

Bringing yoga to people’s lives, especially to those who need it, is a yoga teacher’s dream.

Time goes by and my excitement builds. The school then sends me the plan – six short yoga classes with children ranging from P3 to P7 groups. If you’re trying to work out ages like me, think from young ones to early teens. I reach out to other yoga teachers in the hope that someone can join me. I think it will be tiring and also a bit scary!

A fellow CYS Glasgow graduate teacher takes the bait. Thank you Pete [Croudace]!!! I could not have done it without your positivity, jokes and wide range of animal poses. As we start wondering how to plan these classes my stomach starts hurting. And no, it’s not excitement butterflies, it is fear…

The fear that things will not go well. The fear that these kids, at the most impressionable age, will really dislike yoga, and all because I did not teach in a way they enjoyed. Talking to the CYS Glasgow Yoga Teacher Training community and my MCY family I receive a lot of moral support and ideas for the short classes, and everything starts feeling better.

The day is finally here.

I jump out of my bed early, with the fear that I will miss the only train that gets me to the school on time. As I arrive at my destination, Pete is waiting for me. If he’s as nervous as me, he hides it well. We get shown around the school and the teachers try to make us feel more at ease. The first class starts.

We start with the younger kids. They are happy, excited, loud, moving around the mats, trying to pair up with their friends. Quite a few of them have tried yoga before and they promptly show us their very strong tree poses. Their excitement is quite contagious, so we try to make it all about them. We teach them different animal poses: downward facing dog, upward facing dog, cat, cow, crocodile… They move quickly and their attention spans are quite short. As we start running out of animals, I feel my brain kicking into high gear. It is a 30 minute class and we still have 10 minutes or so to go!

I look at Pete and he quickly comes up with the Scottish Seasons Tree Pose variation. Unfortunately we don’t have pictures so you’ll have to imagine what a tree would look like in Scottish winds! Oh and how they loved that!!! They were enjoying it so much, frequently calling us to show us their tree poses on one side, then the other, giggling throughout. We then had an idea. How about we let them create their own poses based on the animals they like? Well, I now must write a very long email asking the yoga creators in India to add fox, horse, seal, rabbit and many other poses to the list of already existing ones. And I mustn’t forget that crow looks more like a frog. Really have to get that changed!

Three classes went by and as the school has their usual break Pete and I quickly drop to the floor, enjoying our coffees and taking some time to breathe. The next few classes are with older kids and we’ve been warned they are not as open and enthusiastic. After all, yoga’s nothing more than stretching, so the boys are more than happy to leave that to the girls.

“Okay mentally ready yourself, Ana. Your voice is going, your legs hurt, but you MUST be ready. Every kid deserves as much attention as the other and if you were full of energy for the first few classes, then you must gather the energy you have left to teach these too. “

Oh my, the older kids are so sceptical! Let me tell you, one third of them don’t want to be there so they just start doing their own thing – “manly” push ups, backflips, jumping on the mat…

Cue in my usually inexistent stern look. As I glance towards Pete, we quietly agree on going for the traditional sun salutations, two A and two B. We now have engagement, people! These kids are now giving it their all. From there, we move on to crow (bakasana). The boys look at Pete’s arms, praising his strength while trying their best to copy him and wondering how he can hold his feet up so well. “Yoga is hard”, one of them said, in between attempts at bakasana.

The last class is now finished. The wee ones are leaving the gym, waving at us and reassuring us they had fun and they will keep on working on those crows. We start packing the yoga mats, clearing the hall and putting our shoes on. As we walk away from the gym our voices are hoarse, but we feel only happiness and fulfilment. Tiredness does not kick in for another hour or so, as I sit on the train, trying to keep my eyes open on my way back home.

This has been a fulfilling experience and I am nothing but grateful to the people who got us involved in this amazing project. I am very thankful to Pete for joining me, keeping me calm and being there ready to go with animal poses, Scottish seasons tree pose (that was a lot of fun!) and that warm smile that made (not only) the kids feel at ease. The promised box of chocolates awaits you, Pete!

I have also learnt something new. I have a new sense of appreciation for all school teachers, yoga teachers who engage in outreach and for the kids who are willing to try anything you show them. They show you again and again that the only thing that stops you is fear. Let go of fear and you can reach for anything, whether it’s a challenging yoga pose you think will make you drop on your face or just trying something new like a yoga class!

I’m so proud of Ana for “walking her walk” in taking yoga out to children who’d never normally show up in a regular kids yoga class. You can find Ana here at MCY at 7.30pm every Wednesday and on her website too.

PS If you’ve found this post of interest please share as other people you know may find it interesting too…

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