Paul Richards has always been a big kid at heart.
After learning more about a children’s yoga class, he wanted to incorporate this into his teaching somehow at BYS Yoga in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thus, the family class was born.
“I didn’t want to babysit. I didn’t want to have the parents come and drop the kids off and run away,” said Richards. “I decided to morph the children’s yoga into family yoga. It was interesting because I was able to bring the adults down to the children’s level, and also bring the children up to the adult’s level and let them interact with each other.”
Children between 4 and 9 years old come into the hour-long class with their parents. The family class happens once a month, although it stops in the summer. Richards shared it definitely picks up this time of year, and he has several families that continually come back for the class.
Sometimes, Richards is joined by a co-teacher, Kristen. He said it’s great as he can sponge off of her creative juices, learning from her ideas and interactions with the kids. Ultimately, he said it helps keep things fresh.
One of the greatest benefits he sees is the fact the kids and adults are interacting on a level they might never have before. Plus, he also lets the kids really dive into the aspects of leadership and creativity.
For example, Richards said one way he does this is by taking the kids to the “zoo” in the studio. “As we walk around, I’ll go up to one of the children and I’ll ask what animal do you want to see at the zoo?” he said, explaining the child then has to do a yoga posture that would be that animal. “They have to come up with this posture and then the adults have to come on in and do it with the child who’s teaching.”
The kids are pushed to use their imagination, as well as lead the adults while having fun. But, more importantly than this, Richards said you should never force the children to do anything. As they move into poses, if their movement is not hurting themselves he said to let them learn at their own pace. “It’s OK to make mistakes as long as you don’t hurt yourself,” he said.
In order to keep it interesting, especially in terms of teaching the family class, Richards shared to never stop learning. Keep it fresh by always seeking new things. “The more avenues you journey down on this yoga journey will make you a more well-rounded person,” he said. “The more you learn, the better instructor you are.”