Jennifer Mews is passionate about the ancient art form of yoga. So passionate, in fact, that she has started offering yoga classes to local school children. A school teacher during school hours and a yoga teacher after class, Mews gave us the lowdown on her popular Kids Yoga classes, currently offered in two school in Conception Bay South.
Q: Tell me a little about how Kids Yoga came about! Where did this idea come from? How did you go about bringing it from concept to reality?
A: I remember being in a yoga class, long before I began my instructor training, and thinking, “I wish I had these tools when I was a teenager.” I had just begun my teaching career (high school) and the struggles that teenagers face today were at the forefront of my mind. Although we often view yoga as a form of physical exercise – and it absolutely is – it is also so much more than that. Yoga reduces anxiety and stress, builds self confidence and awareness, improves focus and concentration, and supports individuality.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that teaching yoga to children would give them tools that they could use throughout their lifetime – and it would also keep them active.
I began to practice with my youngest son, who was five years old at the time. He loved it – soaked it up like a sponge. I researched yoga for children and read as much as I could on the subject. I then began my instructor certification training. Once I was certified to teach, I reached out to two local schools and the responses were wonderful. I ordered mats, blankets, and a few other supplies and the rest is history!
Q: What are some benefits of beginning to do yoga at an early age?
We all know daily exercise is important, and creating a habit is the first step. Yoga is something that we can do at any time, in any place, without any special supplies or equipment, and it’s fun! It’s gentle and safe, yet builds strength and increases flexibility quickly.
Children are able to see progress right away. They are able to see how strong their bodies actually are. A healthy body image is so important, and shifting the focus from the mirror to how we feel is instrumental in building positive self image and self esteem. I feel that the earlier we can teach this, the better.
In my classes I really focus heavily on the fact that our bodies are all different, and we all look different in our poses – and that’s normal! I emphasis that practice makes progress and there is no end to yoga, we are always improving and there will always be more to learn. Each of us will progress at our own rate and there is no competition. Having pride in our own physical accomplishments is rewarding, regardless what the person next to us is doing.
Yoga also teaches breathing techniques that can be very helpful for children dealing with anxiety, frustration, anger, etc. We sometimes take breathing for granted, but it can be a such powerful tool. A calming breathing exercise can give a child control over his or her emotions. Just as tree pose builds confidence in our physical body, having some control over our emotions builds emotional confidence.
Q: Walk me through a typical class. What’s going on?
A: We always start by sharing one good/positive thing that happened that day. Sometimes we share something we are thankful for, something nice we did for someone, or something nice that someone did for us. We then warm up! We flow yoga poses together to fun songs and make sure we wake up all of our muscles. We do our warrior poses which show us how strong we are, and then our balance poses, highlighting our amazing ability to focus.
We play games like Yogi Says, Yoga Wax Museum, and even Yoga Freeze Tag. It’s pretty high energy at times.
Finally we do deep stretching to thank our bodies for being so strong and awesome. We end with a story or a breathing exercise while laying in savasana. The kids love this part so much. We are constantly learning new poses and the kids who have been with me through all three sessions now know over 50 poses!
Q: What kind of feedback have you heard from kids? From parents?
A: The kids are so enthusiastic, practically bouncing into the gym after school. Some have told me about using breathing techniques before going on stage at a school play, or how they can now tie their shoes without sitting down. They are quick to show me progress they’ve made with a pose, and beam with pride when they learn something new.
The feedback from parents has also been very positive. I’ll often get emails telling me how much a student enjoys my class. It makes my heart happy.
Q: If my (hypothetical) kid was interested, how would I go about enrolling him/her/them in a class?
A: I am currently offering an after school program at St. Edward’s School and Upper Gullies Elementary (both in CBS). I’m hoping to add another school in September. If the interest is there, I would love to offer weekend classes as well. All of the registration information is available on my website. I also have Facebook and Twitter accounts which are linked through the website. Anyone looking for additional information can email me directly.