Vanessa’s first experience with yoga was a gift certificate from her husband for classes together in 2002. What she didn’t know is that it would bring her back to the centered feeling she had during her childhood as a gymnast when her dad taught her to meditate. A new mom when she and her husband took that first class, Vanessa found herself repeatedly called back to the mat to re-connect with her center. A few years later when her kids needed their own tools to find balance and centering, it became clear to Vanessa that she needed to become a teacher. Since that time, Vanessa has felt fortunate to study with some of the leading teachers in this field, which has guided the formation of ResilientKids. Her certifications include:
- Mindful Schools’ year-long certification, Mindfulness with Youth
- all three levels of Jennifer Cohen’s Little Flower Yoga teacher training; a 135-hour Yoga Alliance-certified program
- Amy Saltzman’s Still Quiet Place training in leading mindfulness for kids
- Rolf Gates’ 200-hour vinyasa yoga teacher training
- Pre- and post-natal yoga through Leslie Lytle at OmMama
- as well as numerous workshops and conferences on this topic
Vanessa has seen the benefits first-hand of teaching the principles of yoga and meditation to her own children. When her daughter’s teacher expressed thanks in the final school progress report for teaching meditation at home, and how much it helped in the classroom, Vanessa knew she wanted to dedicate her teaching to reaching out to as many kids as possible so that everyone can experience the benefit – the kids, their families, their teachers, and the school communities as a whole. Incorporating these tools into each day, kids are more grounded and experience less stress. Vanessa has been teaching yoga and mindfulness to hundreds of children ages 3 to 18 both during and after school since 2009. With this experience, and seeing clear evidence that kids are stressed, Vanessa developed ResilientKidsTM as a way to offer kids tools for coping with whatever life may bring. She is the first in the state to formally integrate a curriculum-based approach to yoga and mindfulness within the school day.
In my mind, we need more Vanessa Weiner’s out there! And it’s our pleasure to share our Q & A with you!
1. What prompted you to start teaching yoga to children?
My kids needed these tools, and there was no one in the area to teach them! The tremendous response from the community prompted me to start ResilientKids, which now serves thousands of students all over the state.
2. What is your favorite activity to teach?
Oh, that is a difficult question – there are so many! I love taking the kids though a guided visualization that I call “Peaceful Place” – we all deserve to have a place like that! I also love seeing little kids get completely silly and full of giggles when jumping like frogs or “moo”-ing like a cow. Often we don’t have enough joy in our days… And there’s nothing like seeing the excitement and pride on a student’s face when they balance in crow for the first time.
Maybe the thing I love most is building the lessons to meet each student where they are. This allows everyone to connect with the practice. Those a-ha moments when students make the connection to their life for the first time are a treasure no matter what the activity is.
3. What makes teaching a challenge, and how do you work to overcome it?
In my early days of teaching, I would walk in with a set and very structured lesson plan, optimistic that I would cover everything in the time allotted. I quickly realized that meeting the kids where they are is the only way to be sure any of the lessons actually stick!
After multiple classes where I completely veered from my plan and saw the kids thriving, I learned these 2 very valuable lessons: see, really see your kids, and be flexible.
The ResilientKids curriculum is now structured enough that our team knows the themes and which activities to include in a given week, but flexible enough that if a lesson plan needs a quick modification (because you never know what you’re walking into!) there are plenty of alternatives in our binder that will also support that theme in alternate ways.