My name is Sara Gottfried. I have been practicing yoga for the past five years and I still do not consider myself the typical “yogi.” My journey into the yoga world started when I was in high school and battling some serious mental and physical health concerns. Yoga served as an outlet for my mind and body to truly connect with one another while disconnecting from the outside world. I quickly learned that yoga is not about the physical poses but rather finding the breath. The breath is the one tool that is always readily available and easily accessible yet the one tool that so many often forget about.
Anyhow, fast-forward and here I am today... a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Children’s Yoga Instructor, CPR/AED certified, Balanced Athlete Level I certified, and a college student majoring in Social Work. However, despite my endeavors in the yoga world, I still have a type-A personality, love writing a good to-do list (there is nothing better than being able to check off completed tasks), have multiple calendars, and easily get anxious and frustrated in rush hour traffic (Boston traffic is not fun!). But, when I hit the yoga mat everything else is on pause and I focus on myself. Yoga is so adaptable and unique and I have been able to incorporate yoga into my (crazy, hectic, anxious, but always grateful) life whilst still maintaining the benefits.
As an individual who has worked with children in a variety of settings, I promote and encourage yoga and mindfulness as a way for children to connect through an active and playful environment. I understand that not all children adapt to situations in the same way and thus I integrate auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learning techniques into every yoga class. Throughout my experience working with children and teaching children’s yoga (not to mention my own childhood experiences), I have come across the many challenges that children face. In a society that reinforces competition, children are thwarted from the ability to truly understand life’s most important lessons- that of learning from mistakes and understanding that part of being human is to make mistakes. Children struggle with how to navigate friendships, balance schoolwork and after-school activities, and are truly unequipped with the tools to balance it all. Children are merely unable to be children because society unconsciously puts children in adult-like situations. However, yoga allows for children to maintain their innocence, interact with other children in a unique and non-competitive environment, while simultaneously learning how to effectively deal with emotions and challenges. So no, a children’s yoga class does not mimic a traditional adult Vinyasa style yoga class, but what it does mimic is that of the benefits gained. Children strengthen their emotional, mental, and physical skills through tangible games, playful songs, partner work, and breathing exercises.
At the end of the day, I thrive in teaching children how to wag their “tails” in downward facing dog, sway their “branches” in tree pose, and calmly relax into a mindful and quiet state. As I mentioned, there are three types of learners in the world and I strive to engage all types of learning in my yoga classes so that each child benefits and has a positive experience. I visually demonstrate the poses (visual learners), verbally explain each pose (auditory learners), and wave music (auditory learners) into every children’s yoga class that I teach. And, I tailor classes on the spot, tending to expected surprises that are par for the course when working with children. The most effective yoga classes that I have taught have been when children release hesitation and become one with the pose, whether it be barking in downward facing dog, mooing through cow pose, or becoming bright and shining in star pose. But, the most rewarding teaching moments are when the students become quiet and sink into Savasana, a place of mindfulness, and the sound of each child’s breath is audible.
Overall, throughout my work as a children’s yoga teacher I have witnessed how much children thrive in yoga classes and how eager children are to participate in such a non-competitive, unique, and playful arena while simultaneously learning how to integrate the breath into everyday life. I firmly believe that yoga allows children to actively learn and grow exponentially and paves the way for effective a healthy mind and body, emotionally, mentally, and physically.