Today I am interviewing Shana Meyerson who owns and directs mini yogis in Los Angeles, CA. Shana believes that yoga is a gift. An uplifting, noncompetitive, mind-expanding, and fun way for children to build strength, spirit, and self-esteem.
Shana teaches and enriches the lives of our precious little yogis with her heartfelt approach and great teaching style, I know because I have seen it personally! She has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, LA Yoga, Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal to name a few.
I caught up with Shana to ask her a few questions about kids yoga and her early influences that helped her create her unique style and how she created mini yogis
Tim: Shana what made you want to start mini yogis?
Shana: I was almost 30 years old when I discovered yoga and it was the first time in my entire life that anyone ever told me that it was okay to fall. That may not sound like much, but I went through the first three decades of my life as a relentless perfectionist whose life was dictated by judgments and comparisons. Yoga affected me so profoundly--grounded and empowered me—all I could think about was why no one ever taught me this when I was three! I quickly decided that this was how I would make my positive mark on the world. I would bring yoga to kids (this was early 2002, so the concept was very new) and let them know that they are okay just the way they are.
Tim: Who was a great mentor/teacher for you?
Shana: My first yoga teacher was Bryan Kest and I have to say that it was purely by his inspiration that I took this path. His words of wisdom resonated with me on a visceral level and he gave me an accessible understanding of a very deep and rich practice.
Tim: Tell us your practice style, what kind of yoga styles do you practice personally?
Shana: My personal practice is based in vinyasa, but can’t easily be categorized, as it has evolved with me. I have an adult yoga program—YOGAthletica—that focuses heavily on arm balances and inversions. So, if I had to define my style, I would say YOGAthletica style! I practice at home about two hours a day and always strive to challenge myself in new ways. I believe we can only grow in life through challenge and risk, and I carry that philosophy onto my mat. I seek the fluidity and grace of vinyasa in my practice, but I also believe in long holds and repetition. More than anything my style is: if you fall, get back up and try again.
Tim: How did your mentor and your personal practice style influence the way you teach yoga to kids?
Shana: Bryan taught me the most important lesson of yoga: that yoga practice goes far beyond the physical and is truly dictated by your mental and spiritual states. I try to bring that to my mini yogis by not just having fun with postures, but also talking about what it means to be a good person, how to behave kindly, and how to love yourself.
My personal physical practice is based on the belief that anyone can do anything. Period. So, when I teach kids, I don’t baby them. Every class we do an honest-to-goodness stillness meditation plus breath-work to help them with self-control. And we work on all the difficult postures (in a very fun way!) because it not only makes them strong, but it teaches them patience and perseverance, it builds character and confidence, and it truly changes lives.
Tim: How do you think yoga helps kids grow and deal with stress?
Shana: First of all, I believe the #1 tool for dealing with stress is ujjayi breath. My kids master ujjayi and every week I ask them how they used their breath to help them with a difficult moment in the past week. All my kids understand the power of ujjayi to calm them whenever they have a stressful situation.
Secondly, when my kids are working on truly difficult poses, there is no judgment. If they fall or balance is irrelevant…as long as they try their hardest and don’t give up. I think this is an incredibly valuable lesson. What would you do differently if you knew you couldn’t fail??? By always trying hard and trying again, they learn not to beat themselves up over perceived failures and to learn from their mistakes.
Tim: Why do you think yoga is so important for kids? What obstacles have you seen your students overcome?
Shana: Where do I begin??? Yoga teaches kids how to regulate themselves. It makes them physically, mentally and morally strong. Practicing yoga keeps your body healthy. And it gives kids self-respect and confidence that carries them through their entire lifetimes…
I have seen my kids overcome obstacles big and small. The two biggest ones:
One boy with spina bifida got the confidence to ditch his wheelchair! That was the biggest accomplishment!
I had a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome who came to me unable to sit still for even ten seconds…and wound up meditating for an hour at a time!
Tim: What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher?
Shana: To love and be loved. And know you are changing a child’s entire life.
Tim: Where can parents reading this blog post find you?
Tim: Well that about does it for this week's yoga teacher interview! I want to thank Shana for taking the time to do this interview and for all of the wonderful work she does with her mini yogis. Here is a video we made from our last trip to a Shana Meyerson Kids Yoga Class