Shana Meyerson Shana Meyerson A YOGA MASTER

Shana Meyerson, Founder of mini yogis, received her training and certification at Next Generation Yoga for Kids in New York City. She teaches yoga to children ages two to 20, privately, and at schools, camps, and other activity centers around Los Angeles County, as well as teaching power yoga to adults. Her daily yoga practice is the cornerstone of her life and a gift she hopes to share with as many people as possible. You can visit her website http://www.miniyogis.com, or email her shana@miniyogis.com.

At what age can a child begin to practice yoga? What is the cost and how much equipment do they need?

Children can begin their yoga practice at any age… literally! Infants can be guided through a gentle, facilitated routine and, in fact, will often naturally assume certain yoga poses (the aptly named “happy baby” pose, is a perfect example). As children grow and their facilities for independent thought and movement mature, their yoga routines can become more complex and comprehensive. As a general (but certainly not steadfast) rule of thumb, Mommy/Daddy and Me classes are great for children under five years old, and children five and older are able to practice without mom or dad. Depending on a child’s individual development, parents can decide the most appropriate class. In most studios, children’s classes run about 30 minutes to an hour and cost between $10 and $20. The most “equipment” a child would have to bring to class is a yoga mat, though most studios provide those as well.

Why is the practice of yoga important for kids to learn?

Kids these days face an immense amount of pressure from family, grades, popularity and sports. Everything is a competition. And as kids become more and more competitive, they also become critical and judgmental of themselves, and of others. Yoga is the perfect antidote, providing a noncompetitive activity in which children are always perfect. There’s no winning or losing in yoga. There’s no performing. All there is, is a balanced and creative venue for kids to build strength, spirit, and self-esteem. In yoga, children learn to focus, concentrate, and breathe — all life skills that prove invaluable as a child grows.

Most children are already fairly flexible, so how do you teach them to control their flexibility?

There are six billion people on this earth with six billion different bodies. Some children are going to be incredibly flexible, while others are quite the opposite. What’s important to remember is that yoga always teaches us to know and respect our own bodies and limitations. When teaching children (or adults for that matter), it’s important to emphasize that only they know how their own body feels. The teacher doesn’t know. Neither does their best friend. So kids have to be taught to look out for themselves. To know what feels good and what doesn’t, and to come out of (or modify) any pose that doesn’t work for them. Children must be assured that they have permission to skip any pose at any time, and that they should never ever worry about what the other kids are doing. A controlled, flowing routine will prevent rough or jerky movements that might otherwise make children more susceptible to injury.

How do you make yoga exciting for kids? Is it harder because of their short attention span?

Attention span is definitely the biggest challenge when working with kids (especially young kids). Children are easily bored and distracted, so it’s extremely important to make the yoga exciting for them. Most children would be bored to tears doing their parents’ yoga routine. That’s why mini yogis employs themes, creative role-playing, music, toys, books and any number of props to keep children interested. Each class routine is unique and engaging. I like to give kids the opportunity to “play teacher” and make up their own poses, stimulating both their minds and their bodies at the same time. Children get to bark in down-dog, slither in cobra, and “row” in boat pose. The more activity, the better. However, you don’t want the classes to be too stimulating either. That’s why a well-balanced routine that’s started and ended with breathing and relaxation poses keeps children at just the right level of engagement.

What is the difference between teaching yoga to adults and teaching yoga to children?

There is a huge difference between teaching yoga to adults and teaching it to children, and both have their own unique rewards. With children, you are trying to ingrain some basic precepts (such as respect for the world around you, for others, and for oneself) within the context of fun, creative movement. Adult classes, on the other hand, tend to go a lot “deeper,” delving into the true essence of yoga — the spirituality — within a much more focused and serious environment. As mentioned before, the very aspects of yoga that adults find enriching and invigorating tend to make children bored and restless. If I had to sum it up in a sentence it would be this: When working with a child, find the fun and you’ll have a yogi for life.