Being a tween (ages 9-12) is awesome! You still can reap all the benefits of being a kid yet you’re old enough now to start making conscious decisions on what you want to create for your life. It can also be an awkward time, where you don’t know who you are, who you want to be, and where you fit in.
Tweens are Tough
The first Tween yoga class I ever taught was tough. I was completely caught off guard by the lack of response and eye rolls. The silly cues and tag lines I use to break the ice and get some giggles were not working with this group. It was as if they had made some pact to give me weird looks. This age group can be awkward in new situations so my best advice is not to be too over the top. You will come to find that they can be very opinionated and brutally honest. They will tell it like it is. I’ve found that being grounded and setting the tone for the class in a calm way is the best approach.
They Have a Voice
Tweens have a voice and they want to use it. This is the age were children start to become opinionated and form their own ideas about life. In every class I offer 5-10 minutes of talk time. I usually mask this with something they can do with their hands like coloring a mandala or making dream catchers. They have just come straight from school and have been sitting and listening for 7 hours. The urge to let loose, vent, and let go of their day is intense. I found that without providing this opportunity, side conversations and sharing stories during our class became a priority. The most interesting thing is that they will begin to realize you are not their parents or their friends. You can offer them a completely non-biased opinion on a situation and you can offer positive solutions without being corny or lame.
Backbends, Arm balances and Inversions
In this age group you will find that most of your students are into some type of after school activity such as gymnastics, dance or soccer. This is a time for them when physical activity is huge, where things like the presidential fitness in gym starts to matter. I always start with some sun salutations. This age group has a short attention span and it’s important to keep them moving. Crescent lunges, warriors, half moons, and wild things are all wonderful asanas to incorporate into your flow. After that, I usually focus on one challenging posture, crow, tripod, handstands or wheels. They love to be challenged. I’ll demonstrate the pose first and then invite them to try. I continue to offer tips such as fanning your toes to help extend and lift more or putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth for balance.
After we are warmed up I always like to offer another 5-10 minutes of “Yogis Choice” It’s the opportunity for us to listen to some fun music and for them to work on one posture of their choice. You will find that most kids this age will gravitate towards one challenging pose; they will practice it every week over and over. The point of this exercise is that I want them to feel empowered, and know that they can take their practice off the mat and out of the studio. I offer encouragement while walking around the room offering adjustments and answering questions. I explain to them that anything is possible with repetition and hard work. I want them to have the opportunity to practice something they are close to mastering every week so they can see personal results. This really helps confidence and is a great way for them to explore their own bodies and help them learn how to set healthy goals for themselves.
Games, Games, Games
I love yoga games and activities! I use them in all of my classes. I firmly believe that all children should have the opportunity to unwind and have some fun. They are just as overbooked and overstressed as their parents. Whenever I am planning my classes I strive to provide my students with a memory they will never forget. I always follow the principal that you may not always remember what a teacher taught you but you will always remember how they made you feel. I am elated by the chance to do something with them that they will never forget.
Let Them Be Their Own Teacher
One of my favorite lessons to do with this age group is called “be the teacher” where I give each student an opportunity to be the teacher for a part of the class. Most of my students will jump at the chance to lead a certain section; the opportunity to start us withOM, guide us through their very own creative sequence of postures or put lotion on our feet while we relax. I offer things like yoga posture cards, scented oils, lotions, and pre written guided meditations as resources for them to create their very own class. It’s amazing to see what they come up with. It’s also really funny to see them impersonate you.
Teaching children peace is the most important message we can leave with them and for this age group, it is pivotal. All their experiences are setting them up for their teen years. They are overexposed to cell phones, the Internet and social media. It’s hard when every news channel shows non- stop visions of war, terror, destruction and endless sadness. Reality TV and game shows have a goal is to WIN at any cost and the scene of verbally and sometimes even physically abusive behaviors to get ahead is more common then we would like to admit. It’s very hard to offer a clear concept of what peace looks like to our children. And before we can live in peace, we must first be able to imagine peace. Peace is not just something that we can extend towards others but peace comes from within us. When we are at peace with ourselves it is easier to spread that feeling.
When it comes to tweens there is no better activity than yoga. To help them release excess energy, promote empowerment and teach peace in love towards ourselves and one another.
In 2009 Toni fell in love with yoga. Since then she has completed over 400 hours of yoga training from Hatha Yoga to Hot Vinyasa. In the fall of 2011 she created a yoga curriculum for Mt Park Elementary School in Berkeley Heights, NJ. Teaching 75 children yoga poses, relaxation techniques and ways to cope, while tying in what they where learning in school such as math, science and health. Since working at Mt Park Toni found a deep love for teaching kids and has continued to take her program to other schools. She enjoys teaching all ages from minis to teens and is also very passionate about bringing yoga to special needs and Autistic children. Toni loves to share her love of yoga with her family, friends and students.