Cat, Cow, Gorilla, Dolphin – we’re not at a farm or the zoo. It’s Yoga for Kids instructor training! Last month 22 Extension professionals, adult volunteers, and teens spent a day learning how to teach yoga to youth audiences. The session was led by Lauren Thornton from the University of Arkansas, which developed Yoga for Kids. Four Ohio 4-H professionals served as co-facilitators. A grant from the Ohio 4-H Foundation supported the training.
Participants learned both standing and floor poses (43 in all), as well as yoga games, breathing exercises, and guided relaxation techniques. After reviewing program guidelines and learning the techniques, the participants worked together in small groups to create a sample routine. This activity prepared them to go back to their respective counties and integrate yoga into camps, after-school programs, classrooms, and other settings.
Why Yoga for Kids? Yoga has many health benefits, including improved fitness and decreased stress. Many children do not get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, so yoga is one way to help them reach this goal. Other physical benefits include flexibility, strength, and balance. The practice of yoga addresses mental, social, and emotional health by offering youth a way to focus their attention, relax, and cope with stress.
The Ohio 4-H Healthy Living Design Team organized this year’s Yoga for Kids instructor training based on the positive response from those who attended when the training was held in 2016. Rachael Fraley, 4-H Educator in Lawrence County and one of this year’s co-facilitators, used Yoga for Kids in a 12-week after-school program last year. “I had a group of sixth grade girls and they were very hesitant at first, because they had never done yoga before,” Fraley said. “As they gained confidence, several girls began to help me lead the sessions,” she added. They thought it was a fun way to exercise, and all showed the yoga poses to their family and friends.
Cassie Anderson, 4-H Educator in Hancock County, reported that her teens were already seeing the value of participating in Yoga for Kids. “Participating in the training empowered and engaged the teens’ ownership of the program,” she said. “The very next day, the teens led 40+ camp counselors and adult staff in a yoga practice. They pushed to build yoga more fully into our camp schedule, as an early bird activity and during a session time each day.” Anderson also plans to include yoga as part of physical activity sessions at a summer lunch site. Stay tuned for more from Yoga for Kids!