Originally posted by Adventure Nannies for their “Organizations We Love” feature.
Thanks for the love Adventure Nannies!
We sat down with Jocelyn Kay Levy, founder, kid music rock star, and CEO of Wee Yogis to learn about what transformative media and yoga does for children’s development, and how our nannies and families can do the same with the kids in their care.
First things first, what is Wee Yogis?
Wee Yogis introduces kids of all ages to yoga and mindfulness through fun, interactive and effective learning environments, music and media. Through the use of yoga, mindfulness, music, art, and interactive play, children develop a mind body connection, release stress, gain confidence and learn to express themselves.
We share our love of yoga and mindfulness to children through teacher trainings, classes, music, and transformational entertainment.
What is the biggest challenge when teaching a kids yoga class?
The parents! I say this with so much love…it’s important for parents to understand that when kids start yoga at a young age we will teach them through play and it is ok for them to possibly run around and lose focus sometimes. They have energy that might need to be released, but they will actually come back to the class and the exercises and learn everything if you give that freedom. The way we teach mindfulness to an adult in a very quiet, calm, almost strict manner is very different from how we teach a 4 year old. We want children to be in their playful, free joyous state, engaged in the games and exercises, and that way they will be able to release energy and have a great time as they develop a love of yoga. Kids learn more through play, and basic skills such as focusing, stretching, and breathing, which can be more impactful when they’re enjoying themselves.
What are the most common misconceptions around yoga and children?
That all children are flexible and that all yoga poses should be easy.
Over the years I’ve seen an extreme increase in tight muscles in little ones, because children are no longer outside playing and running around, and instead are sitting in front of the TV or computer. So many kids have tight hamstrings, tight shoulders and actually have lower back and neck pain. Adults are are always amazed to see this because it’s such a huge misconception.
How do you teach a child (or anyone) mindfulness?
My second album Wee Yogis Connect is actually designed to teach mindfulness, relaxation, focus and yoga to children. Children learn through fun, engaging, adventurous songs on how to connect with their inner-self, tap into the mind/body connection and express emotions.
For example, one of my songs and an exercise we do is the “Sound Adventure” where we close our eyes and listen to the different sounds and then we discuss what each child remembers.
Another game we play is “Sound hide and seek”, where we have a group of kids close their eyes and one child makes a noise, moves a chair or klinks glasses together, and then the other kids try to guess where that sound came from. This teaches them how to be focused, quiet and truly listen.
What is a Wee Yogis-inspired activity our nannies can do with their charges?
Wow, there are so many games that nannies can definitely do with their kids. We have lots of different styles of games; energizing, calming, connecting games. So different ones can be used for different scenarios. One of my favorites is the “We Are Sleeping” tip toe game which is on my first album, Wee Yogis Play, where we pretend like we are tip toeing around the house and then we have to be pretend like we are sleeping. This truly calms kids, and gets them ready to relax and focus.
How did you get into this?
I’ve been teaching children since 1997 straight out of high school. I ran an after school Movement and Dance program for kids and children with special needs. But when I moved to Los Angeles I was teaching yoga and was asked to teach yoga at a pre-school. It was there when I realized that music could be extremely beneficial to help the little kids remember yoga poses and in turn, making the experience more fun for them. So I went home that day and started strumming on my guitar, and creating these little songs that could easily help children understand the poses better. All of these ended up being my first album which was Wee Yogis Play. From there everything took off because we were asked to sing concerts at family events and people started asking about teacher training, and that’s basically how Wee Yogis started.
How does music help to center children?
Music and melody is a great tool to help children remember important lessons. We have so many different songs that teach basic adult mindfulness exercises that revolve around breathing, relaxing, getting in-tune with your body and emotions, but we have turned these concepts into songs that children simply love and want to sing. And then they naturally take these lessons with them to help center and be calm in any given stressful situation during their everyday life.
Can you give me an example of a child gaining confidence through yoga?
Sometimes we will have a child in the class who is painfully shy and not confident about socializing with other kids. But through the fun and interactive activities we do in the class, it starts to naturally bring out their confidence, because they’re learning to be more engaging with other kids through play. Sometimes as adults do, kids can be inside their head too much, but they can easily forget all of that when they’re so engrossed in playful and joyous interactions with others. And in the end, they remember how much fun the class was and through that joy, confidence is built.
What does yoga mean for you?
Yoga means to be truly connected and present to the moment. We can do this by becoming aware of our body. Yoga is a moving meditation to help you connect to your body – what it’s saying to you – and to connect with your emotions – how you are feeling this particular day. We get so wrapped up in our busy lives, I feel that it is more important than ever to teach kids and adults to take the time out for themselves to really listen to what their bodies are telling them.
What is your favorite part of a yoga class with kids?
Wow, the whole class! It’s so hard for me to pick just one. Because I really love seeing the whole process and shift of each kid from beginning to end. Children can come into the class hyper, shy, or upset and through the different exercises you see them light up, and you truly see them come to a place of calming relaxation. It’s a great feeling to witness this transformation within them.
What does teaching yoga for kids do for you?
Teaching yoga to kids completely opens my heart! This is how I get truly connected to the moment. Kids can see through you, if your mind is elsewhere or if you are distracted, and they just have a natural knack for living in the moment. So I learn as much from these kids as they learn from me about being mindful and present everyday.
How old does a child need to be to start yoga?
We have classes that start as early as four months but we have classes for all ages.
What inspires you most about working with kids?
They remind me to truly live and be in the moment. As adults we are always trying to get back to that place where we can be free, not over-thinking and judging ourselves… and when working with the kids, I want to help sustain these feelings for them. I want to help kids stay in touch with their true nature and not let worries get in the way of anything they choose to do. Around the age 8 or 9, I feel like we lose our childlike freedom and if I can find a way to help sustain that innocence for the kids, that is my small part in contributing to their happiness.
Where do we get your CD?
On itunes, Spotify, and our website!
When is your next performance?
We have lots of fun events especially since summer is almost here!
On Saturday June 11th we have Family Yoga Event at the Athleta Store in Corte Madera, Ca. And in July we are partnering up with YogaWorks and Nike for our Nike Yoga Kids Camp at YogaWorks Larkspur Landing.
You can learn about these events and our free monthly events