Lessons and insights on teaching kid's yoga from one of today's premiere kid's yoga teacher.
Meddy Teddy: Joanie, what made you want to become a kid’s yoga teacher?
Joanie: As an elementary school teacher, I observed so many children carrying burdens and stress throughout the day which impacted their ability to learn and fully engage in academic work. While I did my best to incorporate mindfulness practices during the day to help ease some of these feelings, I yearned to have the time and space to offer more.
After deepening my own yoga practice through a 200 hour teacher training, I was inspired to create a workshop for kids that offered a full yoga experience paired with thoughtful discussions and self-reflection. Children love moving their bodies into silly poses and are intrigued by breathing exercises and visualizations that help them relax and feel a sense of calmness.
Meddy Teddy: Who was a great mentor/teacher for you?
Joanie: Alison Kerr, the former principal of CWC Mar Vista, introduced me to the world of mindfulness. She led our community of teachers through mindfulness exercises during staff meetings and training. She encouraged us to continue practicing with our students and provided a variety of curriculums and resources. She led by example every day, even while facing some of the most challenging professional and personal experiences that come with starting a school. I will be forever grateful to her and the CWC community for supporting me in becoming a better teacher and person and leading me down this path.
Meddy Teddy: What kind of yoga styles do you practice personally and how do they help you teach the kids?
Joanie: I practice Vinyasa style yoga just about every day. My yoga community at Soho Yoga in Hermosa Beach is AMAZING. Practicing every day is important to me because it creates space in my mind to be reflective and get creative. I’m constantly learning new things from my yoga teachers that I am able to incorporate in both adult and kid’s classes. Overall, it’s a commitment to my personal health and wellness. I must practice what I preach!
Meddy Teddy: How did your mentor in yoga influence your teaching style?
Joanie: I’ve had so many mentors throughout my yoga journey, all very different in their approach and teaching style. I began my practice at ISHTA Yoga in New York City, with teachers that will always hold a special place in my heart. I spent time exploring different studios in New York and when I traveled to new cities. In Los Angeles, Soho Yoga is my home, and when I have time off, my favorite thing to do is try out new studios and instructors. The most important thing I’ve learned through observation and experience is that everyone has a practice that works for them. I do not believe there is a right or a wrong approach or style of yoga. If it feels good for your mind and body, keep doing it.
Meddy Teddy: How do you think yoga helps a child grow and deal with stress?
Joanie: Yoga can offer both physical and emotional benefits for kids. The yoga postures help kids become more aware of their bodies and improve balance and hand-eye coordination. If breathing and mindfulness exercises are incorporated to the class, they also learn to notice their thoughts and control their breathing. As they encounter stressful situations, they begin to understand how to use their breath as a tool and let their thoughts and feelings come and go, in order to come back to a place of peace.
Meddy Teddy: What are some awesome things you have seen the kids work through to overcome while teaching yoga?
Joanie: A lot of students share their “success stories” with me at the beginning of class during our journaling and discussion. They are excited to share how they took deep breaths before a test when they felt nervous or stopped to think and breathe in order to respond, rather than react during a conflict with friends. These small experiences add up and are truly huge milestones towards becoming more self-aware, one of the main goals of my after-school workshops. During classes, I’m able to witness new friendships blossom as they each apply different problem-solving skills in thoughtful, kind ways. We discuss different themes each week and it’s very cool to see and hear them put it all into action.
Meddy Teddy: What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher?
Joanie: Watching my students grow and learning from them. No day is ever the same.
Meddy Teddy: Where do you see the future of kids yoga heading?
Joanie: There is no doubt in my mind that the world of kids yoga and mindfulness will continue to grow and spread across the country and the world. It’s a practice that reinforces compassion for yourself and others, a universal concept that we can never practice enough. Many schools have started to adopt various programs and curriculums to explicitly teach students different social-emotional learning skills through mindfulness and yoga. There is a definite need for it in our society and I’m excited to be a part of spreading the practice and deepening the overall understanding of this work.
Meddy Teddy: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Joanie: I see myself continuing to teach kids yoga and mindfulness through workshops and in schools. I also see myself as a mentor to other young teachers who are passionate about working in the world of kids yoga and mindfulness. I’m in the process of growing my business and would love to have a team of Breathe & Learn teachers to join me on this journey.
Meddy Teddy: How has having a Meddy Teddy in your yoga class helped teach kids yoga and meditation?
Joanie: Meddy Teddy has brought another level of excitement to the kid's classes. He is basically our team mascot and wise yogi leader. The kids LOVE to twist and turn his body into all of the poses or just keep him close by as they practice their yoga flows and breathing exercises. The Breathe & Learn journals I created for the spring workshop featured Meddy Teddy, which is why he became our ‘wise leader’. He shared advice with us at the beginning of each class and sometimes a quote at the end of class. See the journals below for a sneak peek inside this cuddly bear’s mindful brain.
Meddy Teddy: Joanie teaches kids yoga workshops in West LA, Venice, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach in California. She is the founder of Breathe & Learn, a mindfulness and yoga curriculum that uses yoga as a tool to strengthen social-emotional learning skills. Check out her website, www.breatheandlearn.com, and follow her journey on Instagram - @breatheandlearn
Thank you so much, Joanie, for your wise words and all these amazing pictures of your students. We will be interviewing Joanie more in the future so stay tuned.