- Sleep better at night
- Increased body awareness
- Improved spatial awareness
- Stress management and relaxation techniques
- Increased flexibility and gross motor skills
- Better ability to focus and concentrate
- Improved balance and coordination
“Yay!” thirteen young children chant as Mai Meret, owner of 123 Kids Yoga, walks into a classroom at Courtleigh Place Child Care Centre. They see her bright, familiar smile and her bagful of yoga mats and they know that today is “yoga day.”
“Yoga is good for people of all ages,” says Mai who has been teaching yoga at child cares and schools across Toronto for about two years. “I think it’s even better if you can start at an early age because kids will remember it and use it as they get older,” she explains.
To make yoga more accessible to children and families, Mai purposely avoids teaching in a studio and prefers to teach as an integrated part of an existing curriculum. Maria Hosein, director of Courtleigh Place, is thankful for Mai’s involvement and has noticed that yoga “helps children to focus, increase their attention span and become more in tune with their bodies.”
The program has been so successful for the children at Courtleigh Place that parents requested a yoga-based stress management workshop for themselves, which Mai happily provided.
Mai is a certified yoga instructor and former kindergarten and preschool teacher. Though she enjoys teaching adults, Mai has a particular passion for teaching young children. When sitting in on one of her sessions, it doesn’t take long to understand why. The children adore her and though they fidget and fuss from time to time she has an amazing knack for getting them re-focused. When they start to get especially restless, Mai rings a bell once and says “crisscross apple sauce!” to get each of them to pay attention and sit in what they all know as “easy pose.”
One of her common questions to a child who is struggling to pay attention is “Do you want to do yoga today?” During the class that I watched, the answer was always an enthusiastic “yes!” and the children moved themselves into the appropriate posture. “The kids really want to do it,” explains Mai. It’s hard for them to pay attention the entire time but they are always trying, which is how the learning happens.
Courtleigh Place is one of many child care centres in Canada that has caught on to the benefits of yoga in early childhood education. Dan Nou teaches yoga at The Learning Circle in Coquitlam, B.C. Dan agrees with Mai that yoga can and should be taught from an early age. He has taught students as young as 18 months and he integrated yoga into The Learning Circle’s regular programming about two years ago. “People at any age require balance,” Dan explains. “Kids are very spiritual and yoga is a great way for kids to find this within themselves.” Even with just a half hour a week, Dan notices the difference that yoga makes. “Yoga itself is calm energy so the kids and teachers feed off this,” he explains. “When you enter our centre you’ll feel a sense of calm and tranquility.”
This article first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Together magazine