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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Youth Yoga: Adventures in Movement & Mindfulness

Jan 31, 2016 10:23PM

by Ginny East Shaddock

Instilling the values of kindness, respect for the environment, self-confidence and tolerance—all vital tools for living a responsible, enriching life in today’s fast-paced world—has become increasingly more important to parents frustrated with the task of raising conscientious kids in a culture that leans more and more towards the instant gratification mentality.
An overexposure to the media continues to set an ever higher standard of perfection, so it’s no wonder that kids today struggle with feelings of inadequacy or depression. Add to this the fact that children have also become more dependent upon technology to stay connected—a method of communication that increases their feelings of alienation, while stunting the development of basic social skills—and it is easy to see why raising healthy and balanced children is harder than ever.
But, rather than turning to therapy or medications to help children handle their confusion and stress, many parents are turning to yoga. This practice is non-competitive and gender neutral, and the simple mindfulness learned in yoga is filled with positive benefits. Yoga gives children a sense of accomplishment, approval and worthiness. In addition, thanks to the fact that it doesn’t require special clothes, shoes, or equipment, the classes are often more affordable than many other after-school enrichment activities.
The problem is that just any yoga class will not suffice. Yoga classes designed for adults require a certain maturity, and as such, they are not appealing to younger students who come to the mat with shorter attention spans and excessive energy. Youth orientated yoga needs to approach the subject differently, with yoga postures and principals taught through intriguing games, stories and exercises designed to build self awareness, respect for others and the interconnectedness of all beings.
For this reason, franchised programs such as Radiant child, Yogakids, Karmakids and others have experienced unprecedented growth, as teachers and yoga professionals flock to seminars, learning how to appropriately and successfully introduce children to yoga, so they will become engaged and excited by yoga’s poignant lessons.   
In Sarasota and Bradenton, youth yoga is hovering on the outskirts of mainstream activities with classes popping up in preschools, gym classes, YMCAs, daycares and local yoga studios. Parents, looking to find a yoga class for their child, can begin by searching the internet for programs, but it is best to seek out Yoga Alliance (YA) certified Children instructors with the RCYT designation because teachers with specialized training in youth yoga techniques and methodology will offer a more authentic and effective experience.
The standards set by YA (the leading national association of yoga) prepare teachers to use games, creative movement, focused activities, art and stories to teach, not only the postures of yoga, but personal ethics, breath techniques, compassion for the environment and more, while also enhancing health and emotional balance.
With themes such as recycling, endangered species, non-judgement and other key concepts that make each class an opportunity for enriched understanding of our role as stewards of our world, our communities and our personal ethics, a youth yoga class taught by a certified teacher will venture far beyond the teaching of postures named after animals or basic yoga on the mat.    
Heartwood Yoga in Sarasota and Bradenton offers a YA certification program called “Yoga for the Balanced Child.” This course is designed by Ginny East Shaddock, the founder of Kiddance, a nationally recognized children’s creative dance program that lead the way in children’s dance education for over 30 years. “Yoga for the Balanced Child” is appropriate for teachers, child caregivers, yoga teachers and anyone who is interested in engaging children in yoga in a manner that puts creativity and positive reinforcement at the heart of every lesson. Teachers learn creative approaches to teaching yoga, incorporating laughter yoga, cooperative partner games, music inspired movement games, imagination meditations and more.
Traditional yoga techniques such as Pranayama (breath techniques) are taught with pinwheels, feathers and ping pong balls, while story-time yoga opens discussions on personal ethics and the teachings of the yoga sutras. With a comprehensive syllabus filled with hours of yoga concepts, sequencing ideas and themes, graduates can make classes as fun as they are educational. The training also includes lectures on youth anatomy, enhancing a yoga teacher’s understanding and sensitivity to the common issues, medications and physical challenges of children, ages three to teen.
All YA certification programs include 95 hours of comprehensive training to prepare future yoga teachers with theme-based and targeted material that will reinforce positive goals for young people, while also addressing anatomy,

physiology, methodology and appropriate postures for young students. Whether a teacher takes a formal Yoga Alliance Children’s certification program locally or travels to one of the national franchise schools for their specialized education, their willingness to put in the effort, time and attention to gain proper training is a wonderful indication of a teacher’s commitment to his or her role as mentor to a new generation of yogis.     
Ginny East Shaddock is an ERYT-500 Yoga Alliance certified teacher and RCYT. She is the founder and director of Yoga for the Balanced Child, a 95-hour Yoga Alliance certification program and the director of Heartwood Yoga Center in Sarasota and Heartwood Retreat Center in Bradenton. Yoga for the Balanced Child has two trainings a year, with a Friday night winter training beginning in February 2016. For more information, call 941-745-5719, email [email protected] or visit


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