professional development

A Stand Out Training for Kids Yoga!

In this blog post, Maisah Hargett, “T is for Teacher” workshop attendee in February of 2013, shares her thoughts on her experience training to be a kids yoga teacher with Asana Alphabet!  She currently volunteer teaches NYC students through NYCares organization too.

Have you ever left a training and felt frustrated that you don’t feel more empowered with more practically-applicable information than you were when you went in? If so, then Asana Alpabet’s teacher trainings are for you.Frequently, especially when it comes to children, trainings regarding how to work with them are super-theory based. All of the information sounds interesting, but how to apply said info in a practical manor seems daunting. My favorite thing about the Asana Alphabet T is for Teacher training was how empowered I felt to use the information following our last session.

The training was so helpful to me because it was such a good blend of the experiential and the explanatory. Ann and Kenzie taught several sample classes to the group, so we could get an idea of how to present information and facilitate activities for a variety of ages. This experiential portion helped to give me a sense of the time and the energy needed for different portions of the class. It also helped to remind me of how fun yoga can be. I think often yoga is used so much for an end (whether it be to calm, to energize, to promote fitness) that it can be easy, for me at least, to forget about the amount of fun that can be infused in the journey. We also watched footage of actual kids classes, which I think really is a must. To see what kids actually look like in the midst of a class, and to get a sense of how many kids’ attention you can hold at any given moment; the attention span of children differs greatly, not only developmentally, but individually. Regarding classroom management, watching the videos gave me a better sense of what needs to be addressed to maintain order, and what I can let go for the sake of class flow.  All that being said, trainings that are solely experiential frequently leave me feeling unclear about how to apply the skills demonstrated beyond the training experience.

Thankfully, this was not the case with the Asana Alphabet training. We went over how to plan a class, individual activity ideas, and ways to modify activities for a range of age groups. We even had a chance to put some of what we learned into action, by planning and executing (with our peers), a portion of a lesson plan. In the past I’ve been hesitant to take positions that required lesson planning, but the way Ann broke down the structure of the lesson means that hesitancy will be a thing of the past.

In addition to the time period of the scheduled training, Ann, Asana Alphabet’s founder, is also amazing when it comes to follow-up, and addressing any question or needs that arise. She keeps her trainings small to ensure that she can give each student the support they need, and it shows. In this day and age, with yoga is taking such a commercial turn, many trainings are just feeling like one more way for people to make money, but such is not the case with Asana Alphabet’s “T is for Teacher” training. Ann’s commitment to putting together a training that leaves you feeling like you have the training AND support you need, both before, during and after the weekend’ssession, really stands out.

 Asana Alphabet presents frequent trainings through out the U.S.  Coming up are an Intensive Training on Teaching Yoga to Teens (April 21-22 at Kula Heart Yoga in PA) and The T is for Teacher basic series at Jaya Yoga in Brooklyn (June 16-17).  Take note, school teachers and early bird registrations usually receive great discounts!

 

Advertisements

Bilingual and Foreign Language Yoga for Kids

Though New Yorkers have been used to living side by side with people who speak languages other than English, bi-lingual education is becoming more prominent through out the United States in general.  By offering bi-lingual programs in yoga for kids, we are able to reach even more students and possibly bring those who feel isolated into a greater community of understanding.

What’s so great about teaching yoga and other movement modalities is that we speak primarily in body language.  So even if you can’t understand, “put your head to  your knee in janusursana”, certainly watching a teacher do the pose is an easy way to begin to figure out “how to”.

So what are some of the options for including yoga in a bi-lingual setting?

  1. Give a class in English for non-English speakers (the primary form given in schools now).
  2. Give a class in English with the help of a translator.
  3. Give a class in the native language with English-only speakers welcome to join in.

In NYC schools, we often encounter students who speak Spanish or Mandarin  amongst other foreign languages.  The yoga teacher who only knows English must rely upon doing more experiential yoga and techniques rather than relying on lecturing and with kids’ yoga, that’s the best technique to use anyway. Keep them moving and stop talking!!

A yoga teacher at La Escuelita demonstrates the pose rather than just talking about it.

Of course, if the yoga teacher knows even a few words of the other primary language other than English, this is helpful in the role of managing classroom behavior and attention. Visual aids such as flash cards or an illustrated yoga book can also help you manage a class with children who are non-English speakers.  Children are also very smart and can fool  you too…there have been several instances where a child actually does understand what is going on and pretends not to (since perhaps their parents do not speak English at home) in order to play and get around the rules…it takes a very keen teacher to spot these students!

Though it would be great to have a bi-lingual teacher in these classrooms, it also becomes tricky as populations change somewhat rapidly; for instance, at a local East Village public school where Asana Alphabet teachers volunteer yoga, we have seen it go from a primarily Latin American population five years ago to now a 90% Mandarin speaking population.

At La Escuelita on the Upper West Side, children aged two to four are given class solely in Spanish to students who are both native Spanish speakers and native English speakers.  Though some children may respond in English (and if needed the teacher may help them out with some English), most children readily take to the Spanish classes and in the oldest classroom, it seems that the majority of the children are bilingual from being placed in such an environment.  All of the teachers at La Escuelita are fluent in both Spanish and English. Yoga en Espanol at La Escuelita over the past years has been an incredible experience.  In this case, it is absolutely essential that the yoga teacher can speak Spanish in order to be in alignment with the school’s goals (learning enough Spanish to get by as a tourist in Cancun would not be enough).  Just like many other young kids, the students at La Escuelita love learning about the animal yoga poses like el perro (dog pose), gato (cat), vaca (cow) y la cobra!  Many of the stories and games you use in English are applicable to a yogic Spanish translation, but incorporating Spanish songs into the mix or looking at specific stories from Latin America is where that extra special touch may come in handy.  This bi-lingual school has been quite successful since their opening in 2002.

At an Early Head Start Center on the Lower East Side, parents and kids aged 3 months to 2 years come in for “Parent and Child’ yoga classes with the majority of the parents (and sometimes grandparents) speaking Mandarin, though there are a few Spanish-speakers in the room.  In this instance, the yoga teachers deliver simple instructions with lots of visual reinforcement in English and a Mandarin translator is provided.  The translator is very helpful in communicating the benefits of some of the poses and techniques and giving the class in English even allows some of the adults to learn simple English words such as the numbers and letters of the alphabet as many of the adults are new to the United States.  A yoga teacher in this type of classroom situation may take a few weeks to get the “rhythm” of using a translator and, as stated before, show many of the techniques instead of talking about them in detail (so parents do the yoga instead of listen and wait for translation).  These are truly joyful classes as the parents are full of hope and encouragement towards their children and they truly participate with 100% effort.  One way the yoga program is differentiated is also to take into account some of the special holidays they celebrate, like Chinese New Year.  When the kids’ showed up wearing Rabbit Ears in honor of year of the rabbit, we sang the bunny hop and incorporated simple yoga poses into the song. This family program is extremely popular with a  waiting list of over 300 families! Clearly there is a need and desire for these types of alternative physical education classes and family providers.

As an aside, being able to communicate through body language and spoken language also helps us bring teachings abroad, as you’ll see here in the small beach town of Puerto Cayo where an Asana Alphabet’s director shares a yoga game in Spanish.

And new to the Princeton, NJ area, we find Yoga in French at WildChildYoga.

Recent scholarships and work-study options have been given to trainees under Asana Alphabet’s yoga teacher training program in an effort to keep these programs alive.

Yoga for students with ADHD or on the Autism Spectrum

Last week, the director of Asana Alphabet was lucky enough to speak at a professional development day, in conjunction with WildChildYoga, for teachers and therapists who primarily work with high school students with ADHD and/or are on the autism spectrum.

Though certainly there are alot of qualitative studies speaking of the positive benefits of using yoga techniques with children, it is very exciting that there are quantitative studies now that show that yoga does work on students with ADHD.  You can read about the first study done by clicking here.  If you are going to try to help students with ADHD, apart from designing a good lesson plan, is to make sure your students practice on a regular basis.  For instance, doing yoga 3 times/week for half an hour would have more lasting benefits than doing it once a month for 6 hours.

For children on the autism spectrum and/or with a variety of sensory challenges, many yoga techniques work well in helping these children become comfortable with their bodies and greater self.  One I use in particular is an abbreviated version of Kirtan Kriya which I learned when studying Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.  Kirtan Kriya, though not given the yoga credit at times, has also found its way into workshops for those studying to become occupational therapists.  To see a sample of our latest professional development video on kirtan kriya, click here.

Though many school teachers are not yoga practitioners, it is easy enough for them to learn a few simple yoga exercises and games that go a long way.  Attending a teacher training can help that!  Asana Alphabet currently has teacher trainings scheduled for Nov. 14 in Princeton and Dec. 4 and late winter in NYC.