This week I learned a big lesson: while more schools are thankfully catching onto why yoga is a good curriculum addition, many schools still need to learn how to incorporate yoga so it will succeed. And as we learn in yoga, how we do something is as important as the action itself.
For several years I taught as a full-time, on staff kids’ yoga teacher in a NYC public elementary school. I taught 5-7 yoga classes a day, 5 days a week. Sometimes I had a yoga room, other times I didn't. Sometimes there were mats, other times not. Sometimes I had assistance with my classes, which numbered over 25 students - other times I was flying solo. I call these years my "bootcamp kids’ yoga teacher" years. I quickly learned what works and what doesn't when it comes to yoga in schools. On the tough days (like when I was teaching in the corner of the gym with phys-ed going on), it was my unwavering dedication to yoga and mindfulness for youth that kept me going.
This week I was offered a similar job at a NYC public school, teaching even bigger classes of 30 kid yogis at a time, averaging 6 classes a day, with no dedicated yoga space. In downtime I'd be expected to tutor and assist other programs where needed. My first response was, "Yes! I want to help!" But there were also some red flags, e.g. an over-full class schedule, no consistent controlled space (which meant pushing into academic classrooms), big classes of moving yogis as young as 5 years old with no assistant teacher.
I pride myself in being a joyful and rigorous kids yoga teacher. I am secure in my ability to plan and execute strong yoga lessons and a curriculum. But I also see myself as a general advocate for school yoga. And as an advocate this didn't seem to add up. I was worried it would be so full of challenges it would not succeed, which could hurt the reputation of yoga in schools in the long run.
More schools are catching onto the 'whys' of yoga, which include: