This is the first of a two-volume set on teaching children yoga, and was the textbook for the Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCYT) training course that I completed earlier this year. The focus is on integrating yogic teachings as part of a child’s broader education. It’s not just about how one can squeeze some postures into the life of a busy student, but about what yogic education can provide that mainstream education is lacking and how mainstream and yogic education can work together to produce healthier and more well-balanced children.
The book consists of three parts. Part I is entitled “Yoga and Education” and it considers a range of topics at the intersect of yoga and education. Here we learn why formal yogic education begins at age eight, and what the differences between children and adults are as they pertain to learning yoga—and learning in general. This section presents the specific practices that have historically been a child’s introduction into yoga (surya namaskara, nadi shoudhana [alternate nostril breathing], and a specific chant known as the Gayatri mantra.) The tone of the book is scientific, although it does vastly oversimplify some topics—e.g. the deterioration of the pineal gland—over what is being reported by scientists.
The middle section considers yoga as a therapeutic tool for emotionally troubled children, disabled children, and those with juvenile diabetes. This is the shortest part by far. It’s just three chapters, each linked to a subject mentioned in the topic sentence. The chapters are short and general. It should be noted, that the first section also addresses the issue of behavioral problems in a more general and less clinical sense.
The final part of the book, and the largest by page count, is yogic practices for children. There’s a brief section on pre-school exercises. As mentioned, children are formally introduced to yoga around age seven or eight. Younger children’s yoga training best takes the form of play. Therefore, the practices for younger children are more game-like. There’s a section on yoga for the classroom. In other words, practices that one can complete at a desk–as opposed to needing the full mat space.
The bulk of part three is taken up by asana. The postures are laid out as they are in the “Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha” (APMB) book that is also put out by the Yoga Publications Trust of Bihar. For each posture there’s a line drawing, a description, and a list of benefits and contraindications. In some cases these posture listings look exactly the same as those in the APMB, but in many cases they are “marketed” differently. That is, a posture might be listed by its similarity of appearance to an animal or letter of the alphabet so that asana can be taught in conjunction with other topics—as well as be made more interesting for the young student. The grouping of asana is meant to assist in creating child-suitable lessons (as opposed to being grouped by type of posture–e.g. forward bends, back bends, twists, etc.)
The last part doesn’t deal only in asana, it also talks about pranayama practices suitable for children as well as other common practices like trataka (concentrating gaze) and yoga nidra (yogic sleep.) It’s important to note that not all pranayama practices are deemed suitable for children. Practices like yoga nidra have to be modified for children because they will not be able to sit still for extended periods, and so the yoga nidra practice must be abbreviated. Children may also have trouble following some of the instructions as used for adults.
I’d recommend this book for yoga teachers who are interested in teaching children. There are many unique features of teaching children that must be considered. This volume is under 300 pages, and the second volume is about the same thickness. I haven’t read volume two but it seems to take a similar approach, expanding on some items and focusing on a different set of practices. That volume also apparently reports on the findings of a couple studies on yoga in the educational environment.