Each month we will be asking one of our teachers to share some thoughts about their experience teaching yoga and mindfulness to children and teens. Click to learn more about the LFY Teachers: http://littlefloweryoga.com/about
Daniela Poe: Dani is an incredible teacher, with a loving presence that student’s can’t help but relax into. She began practicing yoga as a teen herself, and in addition to sharing yoga with children also teaches pre- and post-natal classes and is trained to work with children with special needs.
1. What prompted you to start teaching yoga to children?
I believe something special happens when we offer little ones the opportunity to tap into their inner wisdom. I feel as though we are doing what we should be doing and that is to help guide children to find their own strength and happiness.
I teach mostly to children in underserved, low-income neighborhoods so these topics are particularly dear to me. I too grew up in a poor neighborhood without many resources and I know how this can affect children's hopes and dreams. I know that when children are appreciated, loved, respected, listened to and encouraged they become naturals at yoga.
I began teaching yoga to kids because I love showing children that they have resources within to feel happy and strong in life. Tools they can use to cope with difficult situations and a box of secrets they can reach for anytime they want.
I try to keep my classes very goal oriented because yoga is about our life and the way we live it. I want the kids to understand the class lessons and then apply them in their own lives so they can use the techniques anytime they want. Here are a few tools I make sure I teach:
WHAT THEY ALREADY HAVE WITHIN
The cool thing is the more I teach the more I encounter kids that show me that I'm not really teaching anything new. Wired deep inside of them, they discover the precious codes to live a satisfied and joyful life.
It’s an un-tiring and exciting excavation. Like removing dust and debris from a box of treasures and allowing it to shine brightly. Whether I teach a mindfulness activity, a breathing exercise, a focusing activity or just practicing some yoga poses I feel like something special is happening. I feel as though I am finally helping children to take back what belongs to them such as happiness, a positive attitude, courage, pride, kindness and compassion.
2. What is your favorite activity to teach?
I love mindfulness activities but I have a sweet spot for breathing exercises. I love seeing the kids get into the activity with an open heart. The silence and stillness these exercises deliver is always amazing to witness and something that never gets old!
“Kids are able to recognize how a breathing technique affects them in different ways and how they can use them for a variety of purposes in their everyday life. This is incredible and powerful insight for the kids to find out about themselves.”
I enjoy showing my kids that they can breathe whenever, wherever, and however they are and use that to help transform the outcome of their mood. I’ve found along the way that kids feel as though they need to own many things to practice a physical activity. Some are self-conscious about bringing stuff home from school for various reasons. Whatever the reasons may be , they are valid and I take this into account in my lesson planning. I want them to understand that all they need is body and breath.
3. What makes teaching a challenge, and how do you work to overcome it?
I have been teaching for almost 10 years and throughout this time I’ve had different struggles. My newest challenge is allowing the lesson plan to be just that, a plan. The kids are coming from different situations and they each have desires that are often not being addressed. Sometimes if a lesson plan is not serving the class I put it to the side and address their needs at that moment. For example I may allow a twenty-minute conversation asking about their day because they simply need time to talk and decompress. Other times I offer ten-minutes of “free time” because they're so over-scheduled and over instructed that they just need some time to themselves. Too often we need to offer a chance to eat or have a snack because they didn't get time in their day or we might provide 5 minutes of a silly, high-energy activity because they're a little too energized to focus.
My goal is consistently to model mindfulness and self-care behavior. I teach so they may learn that life doesn't mean neglecting who you are. I teach so I can show the children that life can move at our own pace and when it doesn’t we can use the tools that yoga offers us to find our peace within.