Want to help cultivate better communication, focus, and coping skills in students of all ages? We turned to Rina Jakubowicz from SuperYogis' Schoolhouse for advice on adapting yoga to a school setting. If you work with kids and you'd like to learn more, sign up for Rina's kids yoga certification program at YJ LIVE New York, April 21-24.
1. Create a daily silent moment to teach kids to regroup and reflect.
This will be a cinch for some students—maybe not so much for others, and that’s okay. “Instead of making it a stressful silent moment, have fun with it,” says Jakubowicz, who will neither acknowledge nor reinforce rowdy behavior with a scolding. Instead, she'll turn the moment into a game. “I say, ‘Okay, let’s see who can be quietest longest.’ I always use this trick, and it always works. It’s also nice to cultivate imagination, so afterward sometimes I’ll ask them to share what they saw during the silent moment.”
2. Cultivate their intellect and curiosity—not in the way you think!
Encourage students both to ask questions and to try answering them, with the goal of getting the class comfortable with the idea that sometimes there are multiple answers and that it’s okay not to discover even one answer. While this won’t apply to arithmetic, it can spur a great discussion on the motives of a book's main character or why someone colored her cat blue.
“I’ll keep asking different students the same question: ‘What do you think it would be?’” says Jakubowicz. “When a kid chimes in with one answer and another student says something else, they start to process that sometimes there is more than one answer, which is empowering.”
It’s a method lifted from the self-investigative approach of jnana yoga, says Jakubowicz. “Your yoga practice ultimately sheds your layers and discovers the truth of who you are by asking questions and reflecting on what we are and what we are not, not just what we know as the single truth.”
Also, two things that you, as a teacher, aide, or parent, may want to shed: The phrase “Because I said so” and the pressure to feel like you should know everything. In the former case, use the question “why” as an opportunity to turn the question on your student. “Why do you think I asked you to get ready for snack break?” In the latter, collaborate with a, “Let’s figure it out.”
3. Losing out to restless students? It happens. Channel energy into a yoga game that helps them focus and have fun.
“Kids are so fixated on what’s happening in a single moment, so use their excitement and distraction as a plus!” insists Jakubowicz. “Yoga Freeze Dance is most effective in getting that energy out.”
To try out Jakubowicz's go-to game, have a plugged-in playlist handy, press play, and instruct them to strike a yoga pose as soon as you hit pause. As the kids start getting the hang of it, you can call out the yoga pose they should land in. Finally, don’t forget one crucial ingredient: “Join in so they feel like it’s a collaborative effort,” she says. “The more adults get involved, the more kids feel like they are connecting with you.”