Here is a glimpse into my experience of introducing yoga to a vast variety of children. I teach yoga at six different schools in about thirty different classrooms each week in Newark, New Jersey.
I teach three classes at a school for the deaf. Students are 7 to 17 years old, in 2nd to 8th grade. Classes are 50 minutes and have 16 to 20 students in each class. We use yoga mats in an empty classroom arranged in a circle. I also use visuals, have a translator and I have learned more sign language. These classes are going so well â€“ good participation and children progressing steadily.
I also teach at a school for children with special needs. These students are 5 to 13 years old and have a variety of special needs including Down Syndrome and autism. I go into seven different classrooms at this school once a week. Each class is 15 minutes. Classes have 2 to 11 students and yoga is either practised in a circle on the rug, or the students stay at their seats.
I go to this school twice a week. There are eight classes each day. There are four small group yoga classes for selected students in 1st to 3rd grades. These students need extra support and are at risk of failing. The classes are about 15 minutes and have 3 to 7 students in each class. I have seen a lot of improvement in these students during yoga class over the last seven weeks. It is always unpredictable, but the students are learning yogic tools because they are interested in the yoga practices and the class routine. Most of these students have yoga twice a week. The last four yoga classes, 15 minutes each, are done in the classrooms for the Kindergarten to 4th grades. I see each class about once a month.
I teach seven 15 minute classes once a week at 14th Avenue School, a school for students with special needs. In one class there are three students, two boys and one girl, each 6 years old. All students are non verbal and have mild aggressive behaviour. In our fourth yoga class together, one boy had been sleeping during the previous class. He was awake now, sitting across from me, and we were singing the song we sing in every class: 'I am happy, I am good. Dancing in our seats, with our pointer fingers up we say over and over, 'I am happy, I am good.
The volume progresses from normal singing, into whisper, into silence and then back to whisper, then to normal. When we all went silent, this boy said softly, 'happy and then a little louder, 'happy and a third time loudly, 'happy! It was his first word! His first word, loud and clear, 'Happy!