Teaching Yoga to Preschoolers
A tiny tornado of paper and crayons spirals to the ground as toddlers run through a maze of scattered toys.
The room is cloaked with a serene, calming quietness as 11 preschoolers sit cross-legged, eyes closed, focusing on taking deep, cleansing breaths.
Which is a Hollywood dramatization and which is just a regular Tuesday at a quality preschool and childcare center in Central New York?
“The students love savasana!”
Bridgett, a certified yogi of 20 years, and Trista, a 200-Hour Boston Yoga School Registered Yoga Teacher, bring balance, coordination, flexibility and body awareness to the classroom with guided breathing and organized movements. Through the assistance of these Grounded Kids Yoga licensed instructors, the children also experience improved concentration and an understanding of how to cultivate calmness, which can help them constructively deal with the emotions during childhood and the years beyond.
Not too bad for a 25-minute session.
For nearly 2 years, Bridgett and Trista are among the yoga instructors who have helped shape healthy mindsets at Little Lukes Preschool and Childcare Center through traditional yoga poses like savasana, a pose that requires you to lay flat on your back, heels spread comfortably apart while concentrating on breathing. Although holding a position can be difficult, keeping the classes’ attention can also be challenging. That’s why Bridgett and Trista adapt to the room and what the students respond to best.
While challenging for the body, yoga also teaches and enforces positive thinking and problem-solving patterns.
“We talk about what we can do when we are upset, frustrated or angry,” said Trista. “We use lotus breath, wake up mountain pose, and lions breath as tools to get those emotions out in a healthy productive way. They have these emotions, which are okay to have, but how to manage these feelings is where yoga comes in to help kids understand they have the tools, like breathing, in their back pockets to use.”
But it’s not an all-serious business. Built into the sessions is room to play and have fun.
“I place a little plastic frog on their bellies,” said Bridgett. “And I tell them their job is to just breathe, focus on the frog floating on the pretend Lilly pad on their belly and letting it just float gently there. I think intuitively, they know it’s good for them yet it’s challenging.”
Despite developmental delays or physical setbacks, any child who wants to participate in a yoga session is warmly welcomed with tailored exercises that are both comfortable and accessible to individuals.
Trista could tell yoga interested Mark, a Little Lukes student who requires a wheelchair. He perks up when class begins and enjoys the music as well as watching and listening to the poses. Recently, with the help of his aid, Mark was taken out of his chair to join his peers in the yoga circle. Mark’s demeanor and energy shifted, becoming excited to share in the experience.
“It was truly magical,” said Trista. “I brought the breathing ball over to him and he was taking breaths in and out. As soon as he saw it he began to understand what it was used for during yoga. It was a beautiful moment and filled my heart with gratitude.”
Shaping Positive Attitudes
Bridgett’s favorite sign of growth during these sessions is turning “I can’ts” into “I can’t yet”. The single addition of the word “yet” gives children space to try and explore.
“When they get into a pose they thought was inaccessible, I love hearing, ‘Look at me; I’m so strong!’ The hugs I get after class are the sweetest.”
Yoga is just one of the many extracurricular activities Little Lukes offers, but it is one that the preschoolers eagerly await.
“They feel good after these mini, fun meditations so they look forward to them each month,” said Bridgett.
For Bridgett and Trista, the anticipation of yoga day is just as exciting.
“I love sharing the gifts of yoga to children especially the children of Little Lukes,” said Trista.
Learn more about Little Lukes’ top-tier curriculum by scheduling a tour at one of our five locations in Dewitt, Radisson, Oswego, Fulton or Pulaski or by visiting the official website.