I am so excited to return to Washington DC in just a few weeks for the National Kids Yoga Conference. Last year was my first time attending this event and I left connected, inspired, and energized to continue introducing children to yoga.
Just a year ago, Go Go Yoga for Kids: A Complete Guide to Using Yoga with Kids had just been released and I was nervous yet excited to share it with other fellow kids yoga teacher enthusiasts.
I will never forget how I tentatively pulled it out of my bag and shared it briefly during a relevant breakout session. It is definitely the introvert in me as well as probably my mid western roots, but I often feel uncomfortable talking about myself. I had worked hard on this book, yes, and it was everything that I would have wanted to know and have when I first started teaching yoga to children. I just didn’t want it to be about me.
A wise friend once reminded me, it is not about me, it is about sharing something with others that can truly help them. I do truly have others’ best interests in mind and absolutely believe this book and other resources can truly benefit and help others, adults and kids, enjoy the fun and benefits of yoga.
The kids yoga community is kind. I heard several times at the NKYC conference how there is enough room for everyone and everything. We are all working together to help spread the joy, fun, and benefits of yoga to children.
While I am thinking of kindness, one incredible person jumps to mind instantly, Kerry Wekelo of Zendoway. We met at the National Kids Yoga Conference last year and she has the biggest heart and giving spirit that comes completely naturally and just ebbs from her.
Zendoway is a sponsor for NKYC this year and has invited Go Go Yoga for Kids to be a part of it as well.
My plane ticket is bought, my books and kids yoga pose cards are ready to share, and I can’t wait to learn and connect with others.
If there is one person you could definitely entrust with teaching your young little kiddos about kindness, fun, and yoga; it would definitely be Erin Leach of Mama Bear Yoga.
Erin is the founder of Mama Bear Yoga which provides a safe space for all children to be themselves and for their caregivers to connect with them in that moment. By incorporating basic tenets of yoga, such as breathing, mindfulness, and affirmation, Mama Bear Yoga helps lay the groundwork for happy, healthy, and balanced children who will grow into happy, healthy, and balanced adults.
I had the pleasure of meeting Erin last Fall at the National Kids Yoga Conference in Washington D.C. I was new to the area and when I found out that this midwestern gal would need to take the city subway to get around, I had a more than a slight raise of of my heartrate.
Then along came Erin. Admittedly, I pretty much chased her down in our hotel lobby to ask if she was also going to the Kids Yoga Conference. I do pride myself on a pretty good judge of character and she seemed like someone I could definitely trust. The fact that she was also carrying a yoga mat didn’t hurt matters as fellow yoga enthusiasts tend to be pretty friendly.
Erin navigated me through the underground mysteries of the Subway system, had incredible patience and taught me well. If she is this good with adults, imagine how she is with toddlers and preschoolers.
Many things impressed me about Erin, but as you read this interview, you will also see what a true gift she is to children and I am so excited for you to get to know her.
GGYfK: How did you first get interested in being a kids yoga instructor? It seems like such a natural fit for you.
Erin: I have been practicing yoga myself since I was in college, and it has been so beneficial for me, both physically and emotionally. In my first career as an elementary school teacher and counselor, I used yoga informally all the time with my students, and I saw firsthand how beneficial it was for them. When I attended my first official kids’ yoga training, I wasn’t planning on becoming an instructor. My plan was to get renewal credits toward my counseling license and maybe learn some fun yoga-related activities to do with my own children at home, but after the first evening, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. Teaching kids yoga just made sense and felt right to me. I took more trainings and became certified to teach and the rest is history!
GGYfK: We are so glad that you decided that! How did the name Mama Bear yoga originate?
Erin: One of my favorite yoga poses that I learned in my ChildLight Yoga training is “Baby Bear.” It looks like Happy Baby, but you rock side to side and sing the words “baby bear” as you are doing it. It is so sweet to see mamas and their little ones practicing Baby Bear pose together. Once when I was telling the some friends this story, we all knew at once it had to be Mama Bear Yoga!
GGYfK:Why did you decide to focus on the younger kids?
Erin: I have always had a passion for teaching young children. I was a first grade teacher for many years; however, I think a big part of why I chose to focus on this age group as a yoga teacher is because this was the age of my own children when I first got started. I could really relate to toddlers and preschoolers because I had two of my own at home, and I was going through many of the same experiences as the moms who were bringing their children to my classes. Kids at this young age say the funniest things and always liven up any situation.
GGYfK:Tell us about one of these memorable or funny experiences while teaching kids yoga!
Erin: Oh my goodness–I have a running list of funny things kids have said at yoga class. I walk away from every class I teach with at least one memorable quote! One of my favorite toddler-isms that seems to be almost universal happens when I teach them the word “namaste.” Even in toddler class, we close our practice by singing “namaste,” and every time, at least one or two of the children sing “Mama-stay.” I think it is so sweet, and it amazes me that all toddlers seem to do it!
GGYfK: That is so sweet! I love that story. What is one thing that all parents/caregivers should do with or know about kids at this age?
Erin: Toddlers and preschoolers are pretty unpredictable. You never really know how they are going to react (or when they are going to have a meltdown), especially in new situations. Aparigraha is a yoga term that means “non-attachment,” and I think that this practice is so important when you are a parent. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t form an attachment with your toddler–obviously a strong and secure parent-child bond should be established early in life (and you can strengthen this bond by practicing yoga together!). What I mean is that you cannot attach yourself to their behavior. When they are having a meltdown in the grocery store or they are in yoga class refusing to participate or they are displaying any sort of challenging behavior, you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you cannot control their behavior. You CAN, however, control how you respond to it. Many times, this little pause is all it takes to help you resolve the situation smoothly.
As you can tell, Erin, is very knowledgeable about this young age and cares deeply about inspiring young kids and really making a difference in their lives. Stay with us as Erin shares with us some of her tried and true lesson ideas for using yoga with these young ages of kids. You will not want to miss it!