Nicole is a preschool, special education teacher and a Little Flower Yoga teacher and she found her inspiration after observing a child in her own classroom practicing yoga poses. Watching this young child practice yoga on her own will to regulate her feelings when she felt nervous gave Nicole the motivation to complete a 200 teacher-training program at Three Sisters Yoga in 2011. Her long-term goal was to work with kids even more than she already was and Nicole was set on becoming a children’s Yoga Teacher. Nicole started training with Little Flower Yoga in 2012 and since then, she has completed all 3 levels of her children’s teacher training. Nicole explains how grateful she is for all that Little Flower Yoga provides.
What prompted you to start teaching yoga to children?
I work as a preschool special education teacher and about three years ago I noticed one of the little girls in my class doing yoga poses. At the beginning of the year (until about December), she did a forward fold in her seat, reflecting on her feelings and wanting to find a calm place. Her intention always seemed to be to find a quiet, peaceful and safe place. This was her first year in school and being in a different environment can be very unsettling to children. During the summer session, she did a combination of yoga poses and continued to utilize her practice to find her calm place. At the time, I practiced yoga semi-regularly and was familiar with some yoga poses. I knew that this child did not have any yoga experience and watching her made me want to learn more about the mind-body connection. I enrolled in a 200 teacher-training program with Three Sisters Yoga with the hope to teach children’s yoga.
As a classroom teacher, I have found that most of my time is spent on the children’s social and emotional development and to provide them with coping skills. This fuled my passion within my own practice and moved me closer to my kids yoga trainings.
I believe this is an important component in education that seems to disappear as children age. My own yoga practice has made me feel stronger, confident, and calmer and I wanted to learn how to give children this same feeling.
I later attended a “Mindfulness in Education Workshop” at Omega Institute that summer and Jennifer Cohen Harper was one of the presenters. She was demonstrating the “Mindful Bell” activity. During her demonstration, she mentioned two things that resonated with me: (1) Have the children ring the bell to get the rings out because one cannot expect to give a bell to a child and have them not ring it. (2) She explained how she tells the children that nothing bad will happen if the bell rings during the activity, which removes any fear or stress from the game. The intention for this practice was for the kids to participate, focus and work together all without any form of competition. From my experience to this day, the bell game is one of the students favorites. After Jenn’s presentation, I knew in my heart that I wanted to teach children how to do yoga from Little Flower Yoga. I wanted to help kids find focus, their own inner-strength and give them the tools to live a life they are proud of.
What is your favorite activity to teach?
I really like teaching the “I am so strong” meditation. I have taught this to my preschoolers as well as to teenagers, and it gives them such a positive experience. I also like to teach child-modified Sun Salutations.
Although I do not teach actual yoga classes at my school, I do a little bit of yoga with them each day. We do Sun Salutations with a chant (first slow, then fast) and then in silence. They become so focused during the silent part that it is always an amazing experience both for them and for me!
What makes teaching a challenge, and how do you work to overcome it?
What makes teaching a challenge is classroom management. The energy for the class as a whole or individually can be very inconsistent. I find that the kids enjoy the skills that we use when I show them how to bring their energy up but then how we can also bring our energy down or to a place of calm or silence. I learned with many of our Little Flower Yoga practices how important it is to use the five elements as part of my classes so they learn how to connect (to themselves and to others), focus, move, and use their breath in effective ways. We also do a lot of things where we practice using our listening skills. I have them follow my rhythm (clapping), and say something like, “if you hear the sound of my voice, touch your _______. If you hear me begin to whisper, move your ________.
I find like most teachers the more we teach, the more amazing it is. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be around children and to help them as they navigate through life!