Kids need yoga as much as adults do, so with a need in the market, kids yoga has become very popular in Western cultures. There has been a lot of conversation about how yoga has been culturally appropriated in the west, but not a lot of talk about how kids yoga has been contributing to that.
As a certified kids yoga teacher and as a trauma-informed teacher overall, making sure that I was teaching culturally appropriate classes was a top priority for me when I began creating my classes. Many kids yoga courses have really watered down and whitewashed the practice, removing it entirely from its roots and original teachings.
In this ever-changing, globalized world, I believe that children can really benefit from learning the origins of the practices and customs they participate in. Kids are more receptive than we sometimes give them credit for, and from my experience, they don’t need yoga to be so diluted in order to have fun. So how can you make your kids yoga class more culturally responsible without sacrificing the fun?
1. Recognize where yoga comes from with them
Before I begin each class, I take a moment to educate my young learners about where yoga comes from. We talk about where it originated, how it was passed down for thousands of years, and how important it is for India’s culture.
It only takes a few moments, and by doing it you are honoring the practice we know and love!
To appeal to your more visual learners, you could incorporate a map or a globe into it, to show your students where India is!
2. Use Sanskrit names for poses
When Sanskrit is removed altogether from the practice of yoga in favor of English animal names, we are erasing a very important part of the practice as a whole. In my kids yoga courses, we first address the poses by their Sanskrit names followed by their animal interpretations. Kids have the ability to soak up languages like sponges, and I have found that they often enjoy learning the “new” words!
3. It’s not just a form of exercise
At the bottom line, yoga is a spiritual practice. No matter if the one practicing it is 5 or 50 years old, yoga is and always will be a spiritual practice. By treating it like purely physical practice, or just another way of exercising, it is stepping into the zone of cultural appropriation.
Like I said before, children need yoga as much as adults do, the spiritual side included in that! Yoga not only teaches children how to move their bodies, but it also teaches them mindfulness, self-love, patience, among many other amazing things. When we treat kids yoga like an exercise class alone, the kids are missing out on all the other incredible benefits of the real practice of yoga. Believe it or not, kids aren’t “too young” to learn these things, they just learn them in different ways than we do as adults!
4. Promote self-love and acceptance
Just like in the yoga we practice as adults, there is no room for shame in the kids yoga classroom! You would never expect your adults to be able to follow the exact same practice as everyone else throughout an entire class, because everyone is at their own individual level with their own abilities. We honor this individuality by promoting self-love and embracing the “journey” of yoga. The same should be carried through into our kids yoga classes.
If we are expecting children to follow a strict curriculum or to follow along with us perfectly, we are ignoring a very important part of the practice. Allowing flexibility in how the poses are done (obviously still making sure that everyone is practicing in a safe way), will be key in making sure your kids yoga practice is still honoring this facet of yoga.
Join My Free Kids Yoga Training
Although it hasn’t really started out this way, kids yoga can be done in a culturally responsible way that is still engaging and fun for children. By remembering and honoring the history, culture, languages, and ideals of traditional yoga, we can design our kids yoga courses to reflect these, so that even the youngest of students can get all of the benefits yoga has to offer (not just physical!).
If you’re interested in learning more about teaching kids yoga in a culturally responsible way, please join me for a free 1-hour kids yoga training! This training is for anyone who would like to be able to incorporate more yoga into their children’s or student’s lives, whether it be in the classroom, in the home, or elsewhere! See you in there!