Cynthia Funk started teaching her son yoga when he was in primary school, and the duo hasn’t looked back.
“I teach him yoga still,” the owner and yoga instructor at Yoga Sanctuary Academy on Danforth Avenue, said. “He’s 19 and he still comes to my classes. He finds it beneficial when having to focus on writing exams and his assignments, and he does different breathing techniques that he has learned with yoga.”
Funk has been giving teaching teacher training since 2001 and teaching teens and kids yoga for about 15 years, including her son. She said yoga’s benefits are needed even more for youth trying to navigate today’s fast-paced world.
“Yoga is important to children because they have a lot of extra stressors that their parents or even grandparents never had, and it allows them to become calm, and it gives them life skills and strategies that they can use in everyday life, breathing techniques, calming, and centring techniques,” Funk added.
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Teaching the teachers
Funk will be leading a specialized training session at Yoga Sanctuary Academy April 21-23. It’s designed for daycare workers, yoga instructors and elementary and high-school teachers who want to teach yoga to their students.
According to Funk, yoga has become common for teens and kids and the training gives the opportunity for more people to teach.
It will cover calming poses, and breathing styles that help with focus while providing children and teens with tools they can use for a lifetime, the Yoga Sanctuary’s website says.
A study reported by Frontiers in Psychology found that five-year-old kindergarteners practicing yoga twice a week in school instead of physical education showed less hyperactivity. They also completed a task faster than other five-year-olds doing physical education.
The Toronto District School Board offers mindful minutes, and there are a lot of yoga classes that have happened in some schools. It’s becoming more prevalent in children that they’ve had an experience of yoga, according to Funk.
Why teach yoga?
Eloisa Slimmon said yoga helped her heal from a car accident and recover from the accompanying depression when she was 15.
The founder and director of Liberty Movement Yoga & Pilates studio in Liberty Village started doing yoga when she was in high school, and accidentally fell in love with it.
She said she has been practicing yoga since 1992 and teaching since 2005, and is a firm believer in teaching it to young people.
“A lot of the time when we do yoga for youth, especially for teenage girls and boys, we do talking circles to do meditation or mindfulness. Part of mindfulness is a talking circle where we all talk about different aspects of our lives,” Slimmon said.
“Usually we do it towards the end of the class when [students] are relaxed and gives them the opportunity to feel like they’re in a safe space where they can talk about whatever it is that’s going on in their lives.”
Putting her kids in yoga class when they were little also helped Slimmon’s family to have better relationships with each other.
“If someone in the family gets upset, one person will say, ‘You need to breathe, let’s breathe now and once we are calm, we can talk,’” she said.
Kids spend a huge amount of time in front of a screen, so stepping away from that makes a difference because they are able to listen to their inner voices and understand themselves, Slimmon said.
Slimmon said, she also trains yoga teachers, similar to Funk.
“I’ve become a senior teacher, which is really funny because I’ve been teaching for almost 23 years, which I find quite amusing because I never thought I would be a yoga teacher, never mind a senior teacher that teaches and treats other teachers,” says Slimmon.
Funk will give the training along with Katherine McKeon online via Zoom and in person on April 21, 22 and 23. More information can be found at yogasanctuaryacademy.ca/kids-teens-yoga/.
This course can be used towards a 300-hour yoga teacher’s certificate.