April is Month of the Military Child. It’s during this month that we’re invited to pause and honor all the amazing things military kids bring to this world. From their resilience to their sense of humor to the ways in which they, too, serve, April is our chance to show this sometimes forgotten group in military sub-culture some love. In honor of all the military kiddos out there, kids’ yoga instructor and military spouse, Emily Bauer, shares with Warriors at Ease some insight on what it’s like to teach yoga and meditation to kids and why she believes these practices are important to learn at a young age.
Give us a little background on you.
I’m originally from Minnesota where I grew up on a small hobby farm with no military involvement. I became involved with the military through my husband when we met six years ago. He was studying at the Air Force Academy and I had no idea how much my life was going to change when I met him at a local arcade in Colorado Springs. Our first assignment was in Mountain Home, Idaho. Mountain Home is a small town and the first thing I searched for before arriving was, “Is there a yoga studio in Mountain Home?” There was! It was there that I fell in love with the studio and decided to take the plunge to earn 200-hour certification. After completing my training, I realized I needed to focus my yoga energy on working with youth.
What made you want to bring yoga and meditation to kids?
I’ve always worked with youth in various ways and once I completed my certification this “Ah-ha” moment rushed over me; I just knew I needed to share yoga with kids. So I searched Google for “How to teach kids yoga?” That’s when I found Yoga Foster — an online yoga certification geared toward teachers who wish to teach to youth.
In your experience, how do yoga and meditation benefit such young practitioners?
I personally think that teaching yoga and mindfulness to youth helps them slow down for a moment. Youth are so busy with school, sports, homework, and being on electronics that sometimes they just need a moment to breathe and detach. Along with this, youth face a lot of stressors that are easy to forget about when you’re an adult. My main goal in teaching this population yoga is to fill their toolboxes (brains) with tools to support them when they’re stressed. I taught a yoga group before school twice a week at my previous base and it helped those students start their day off mindfully and relaxed. It also gave me a moment to breathe and prepare for my own day.
Is there anything particular about military kids that make these practices even more important for them to learn?
At our previous base, I worked at the on-base elementary school. I saw military youth every day having to deal with parents deploying, parents traveling for their jobs and new students come in and have to make friends all over again. I wanted yoga to be a space for youth to build friendships and be able to fill their toolboxes with mindful exercises to use when life gets stressful. In the Yoga Foster curriculum we talk about Making Friends, Anger Management, Understanding your Feelings; all of these themes our military youth deal with on a daily basis.
What’s a practice or two that other yoga instructors can share with kids?
I always start our yoga session with “Take 5” breath.
Start in a seated position, raise your hand by your face.Inhale through your nose – slowly setting down each finger counting to five.Exhale through your nose – slowly raising each finger counting to five.Repeat five times.
Props are always great to keep kids engaged! I use a Hoberman Sphere (pictured above) to teach youth about healthy breathing.
As they expand the Hoberman Sphere, they breathe in (to show how their bellies expand as they breathe). As they close the sphere, they breathe out.
Two of my favorite yoga poses to do with youth is Cat/Cow and Tree Pose. In Cat/Cow we have a blast meowing like a cat in Cat pose and mooing like cows in Cow Pose. In Tree Pose we hold hands to help keep balance and talk about building a community forest of trees. It’s through practices like these that the kids are practicing yoga while learning how to make friends by building a forest of friends.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Working with kids has always been my passion and every time I show up to a kids yoga class, I smile. The most rewarding aspect for me is finally being able to say I found my passion; when I show up to the mat with youth, my heart is always happy. I love hearing from parents after several classes how their youth came home and taught a sibling or a parent what they learned in yoga class.
Emily Bauer is a yoga instructor who earned her certification through Yoga Foster. She’s also an Air Force Spouse and currently lives in Misawa, Japan with her husband where she continues to offer kids’ yoga classes.