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Kids are hard to control in a group.
Teaching kids how to move their bodies in a specific way (like yoga) with clear directions is really hard, too.
Imagine you have a whole group of kiddos, active and moving, needing something to hook them and keep them interested.
What do you do??
TELL A STORY.
One that you know, or make it up! Put some movement and some silly poses together with the story and you have those kids listening to every word. There’s something incredibly compelling about our voices as soon as we start telling a story that makes kids (and people) want to listen.
Storytelling is a fun pastime of mine. Well, in the teaching world, or when interacting with children, or in a new city where I know no one. (It’s a defense mechanism, let’s be honest.)
No, I really do love making up random stories with odd characters, very little conceivable plotline, and usually no good moral to the ending. This is why I started teaching children.
It just so happens though, storytelling and yoga go quite well together.
Almost all of the poses are either animals or nature related things with your odd transportation vehicle thrown in (boat, airplane, plow).
Just know your animal poses and transportation vehicles and go with the flow of the mood.
If, for example, you start your story with a dog, get the kiddos into dog pose. Say they meet a cat, then a cow, and then everybody “hikes” along into the forest to a find … a what? a tree. And they meet an eagle. And the eagle takes them flying (warrior 3) to a waterfall (forward fold). Then they all go swimming (active lotus). And suddenly there is a dolphin! Who loves to jump! And jumps so high she goes over a boat! And so on, and so forth.
Yes, it’s perfect to throw in some subjugated movement. Make them do a little prancing, hopping, walking in place, etc… before, after, and during traditionally static poses. Kids have 10000000% more energy than you. Guaranteed. And you should let them use it.
But what if you think you aren’t creative enough to think these up in the moment??
Well, you have several choices:
1. Pick a book you know, and act it out using poses.
I have done this with LOTS of books as a yoga teacher. All it takes is a book with a plot line. I choose books that have lots of animals, or one animal going through an adventure. It works really well to just pick one animal or object for each page. Do, or show, the pose just before or after you read the page.
I use lots of her books for kids to read to themselves in stations and centers. For my class, when I’m trying to keep their attention and energy going for more than 10-15 minutes, the books are good for occasional but not everyday use.
Some of the best “regular” books for yoga storytelling are:
The last three, by Aaron Becker, are my favorites because there are no words, just compelling characters going on an adventure. You get to tell the story all by yourself, or have the students tell it!
Here’s a whole post with the outline of the story, including the poses, that I used with the first story, Journey:
2. Plan your story ahead of time and use a cheat sheet.
Write down 10-15 poses and tell a mini story to yourself while looking at the names of poses.
Your IRL story may change a bit but the children won’t notice, or care!
A good way to do this is to start with one animal character and keep coming back to that throughout the story as conflicts come and go.
I have some examples of storytelling lesson plans that you can grab right here!
3. Use a deck of yoga cards to pull random characters
Then make up a sequence based on those characters on the spot. It’ll be really weird and not make sense but, trust me, the kids will find it funny if you give it a bit of emotion and play up how silly it is. You can also put them in order ahead of time (like above) and hold them up one at a time as you tell the story, or tape them up on a wall so everyone can see.
4. Let the students help you tell the story!
Remember how kids have more energy than you? Their brains might be more creative than yours is too, hate to break it to you. Once the kids know enough poses and/or just the idea that we stay on our mats and make shapes that (vaguely) represent parts of a story, then they will be able to help you tell the story.
Tell them to raise a hand to add on and tell what happens next in the story. Try to get them to pick one pose and tell what is happening with that pose.
Again, it will be convoluted and you may end up on the moon, at the mall, or in Candyland, but hey! We are using our imaginations! It’s the whole point!
So, lots of stories have a great plot line…
A setting, a character build up, a conflict, a resolution… etc.
I almost never do that perfectly. Mostly because I forget halfway through what happened, I lose a character, or some student gets a nosebleed and everybody just goes into wild thing pose (or literally just crazy dance) until I can help them get back in their spots and calm down just a little.
Occasionally I have a good story laid out with a great moral at the end, and I let the students talk about what they learned, et cetera…
But on those days when I just can’t do that? When I have something great started but my brain is full of mush because of the other million things I’m thinking about?
That’s when I hand it right on over to them, my little ones. I let them tell the stories.
One at a time, one pose at a time so they don’t all literally fall over on themselves. But they have some AMAZING ideas. New characters. New poses. Silly plot twists.
We always end up laughing and creating for more time than I planned, and that creates the best space for trust and learning that I could ever hope for.
‘Cause they’re ALL supposed to be right there with me. All 26 students in each of 15 different classes. Moving and grooving and getting up in my business and making me crane my neck around in Down Dog and fall over laughing in Dancer. And it turns out I do like that craziness better than any perfectly plotted story ending.
I’ve learned to give myself a lot of credit every time I simply make it through 10-15 poses and all the kiddos are in one piece at the end and still in my classroom. We have fun, we learn together, and we tell stories together at the same time! It’s always a blast.
Have you ever tried telling a story using yoga poses? To kids or adults? What worked? What was hard about it?
I’d love to hear your stories and ideas as well below!
Also, if you are just starting to teach yoga to kids, check out these popular posts below:
- Tips and Tricks You Need to Know to Teach Kids Yoga
- How to Teach Phenomenal Kid’s Yoga Classes Using Simple Themes
- 5 Fun New Ways to Teach a Kid’s Yoga Class
Thanks for reading!!