AJ Crowell, Publisher, chats with Jennifer Byer, E-RYT, RCYT, Founder of YoPlay Yoga for Kids
Tell me how you got started with kid’s yoga and how long have you been doing it?
I have been teaching kid’s yoga for 9 years but only started YoPlay Yoga For Kids 7 years ago. I started doing yoga with my own children (twin girls) when they were very young because they suffered from colic and I did what came naturally to me which was yoga. I began massaging and stretching their bodies while singing some of their favorite songs. It quickly became part of our daily routine, as I did I noticed the colic was reduced and they were becoming happier and healthier babies. We didn’t stop playing yoga when they got through the colic phase, it continued to be part of our daily routine and it changed as they grew. Parents would come over to play with their little ones and would ask me what I was doing with them and then it grew into yoga playdates.
But YoPlay really got started was when I was teaching yoga to the teachers and director of our local preschool after school. I was sharing with them how I play yoga with my twin girls and how much fun it was. I then said I thought it would be fun to have a yoga class for the kids. They looked at me and said, “That would be fun! We have a building of kids for you to teach. Come up with a name for your classes and we will offer it to our students.” So YoPlay Yoga For Kids was born.
What changes do you see in the kids after they come to you on a regular basis?
Of course, every child differs so every parent sees different changes in their children. I know with my own children I see changes. One of my twin daughters (Lily who is 9 year old) has some issues with anxiety and I see her using the tools I have shared and taught her over the years. When I see her putting the tools into use that’s a win in my eyes. For a child to identify their feelings and be able to pull from their tool belt ways to cope with it, is a winning situation. My daughter that I’m speaking of has anxiety over flying, mostly taking off and landing and when doing so on a particular trip I noticed her, without any prompting from me using a mindfulness tool called Peace Begins With Me. Another example is when my youngest daughter (Stella who is 5 years old) was having a conflict with one of her older sisters and was getting frustrated, I witnessed her, again with no prompting from me use a breathing technique called, countdown to calm. Afterwards, she was able to use a calm and focused voice to ask for what she needed rather than throwing a tantrum and that is a huge success.
Do you have one location or do you move from place to place?
I am a mobile program offering classes in preschools, daycares, public and private schools, after school programs, playdates etc.
Why do you think the parents bring the kids to yoga? What’s the feedback they give you?
I think parents initially bring their kids to yoga for a few reasons, one because the parents enjoy yoga and either want to do yoga with their baby/toddler in our YoPlay with me or YoPlay family classes. Often, they want their child to be involved in some type of healthy activity but the child is not interested in a specific sport and want something that is active but non-competitive. They could also be involved in sports but want to improve their skills in a particular sport by adding yoga as a cross training activity to increase their flexibility.
What they end up finding out is that kids love yoga. The parents notice improvements in their child’s ability to self-soothe and self-regulate. They notice less anxiety in their children. For the athletic child, they notice a decrease in sports injuries and an increase in mental focus during their games.
What’s your favorite part of working with the kids?
I absolutely love being silly, creative and just having fun and laughing with the kids while teaching them tools. They can use these tools for a lifetime to help reduce stress, anxiety, depression and to help with self-control as well as Social Emotional Learning.
The kids have a ball that is flexible and you call it the “Breathing Ball”, can you explain that?
The “Breathing Ball” is actually what they call a Hoberman Sphere. It gives the children a visual of how the body expands and contracts during a full breath. It gives them something tactile as well. Breathing is an important part of yoga and integral in learning to be mindful. Mindfulness is a sensory experience and so using tools like the Hoberman Sphere helps them understand how to breathe and be mindful.
Jennifer Byer E-RYT, RCYT is the Founder of YoPlay Yoga For Kids and a trainer for Yoga 4 Classrooms. She is also a Collaborator with Mindful Yoga Breaks. You can reach her at 972-439-5653 or firstname.lastname@example.org