How I became a Children's Yoga Teacher
I first came to Yoga in 1974, simply because I was looking for a hobby. I quickly found that it helped me deal with life’s trials and tribulations and have practised ever since.
During the seventies and eighties I ran my own company, which could be quite stressful; fortunately I led a conventional family life and pursued my yoga hobby with growing enthusiasm.
My life changes
Time sped by until, in 1990, my whole life changed. My wife Jill died suddenly and unexpectedly. My two children were 12 and 8. I decided to give up my business and look after them. I was very lucky in that I could sell the business and not worry too much about money.
I made up my mind that Jill’s death would not be wasted and that I would do something meaningful with my life.
I become a student
I decided to sign up to an Access Course, which gets you back into studying and prepares you for University. It was great! I was back as mature student studying a range of subjects including science, sociology and English Literature and also being able to take the kids to school, having the same holidays and so on.
As a mature student I simply thrived on the course and it unleashed a creative side of me that I had never known before.
I become a primary school teacher
I went on to take a four year degree course in Education, (BEd Hons) and eventually took up my first post as a primary school teacher in Old Harlow, Essex at the age of forty-six.
Throughout I was able to be there for my kids.
Children’s Self Esteem
It was during my four year degree course that I established my deep interest in children’s self esteem, specifically how it can be damaged and how it can be improved.
Of all the areas that I studied this was for me the most important and I determined to make enhancing children’s self-esteem the core of my approach to teaching.
I loved the teaching, although it was the most challenging work I had ever done; but I hated the bureaucracy and the paper work and above all I found it difficult to have a ‘boss’ i.e. the head teacher. After all I had been the boss since 1976.
So I left and for a while did supply work in a variety of schools, which was even more challenging - certainly in the schools where I taught. Nevertheless it was wonderful experience and I was able to further develop some highly useful techniques in classroom management.
I become a yoga teacher
In the early nineties I found myself on a Ruth White Yoga Holiday in Devon where I was befriended by four people whose approach and attitude to yoga dramatically changed my view of it from a hobby to something much more precious.
Those people were Bob and Be Insley and Ruth and John White.
The Insleys encouraged me to continue my zest for study and soon I had completed my yoga teacher training with the British Wheel of Yoga. Then I began my new career teaching yoga to adults.
I become a children’s yoga teacher
A close friend then suggested that I merge my skills and experience as a primary teacher and qualified yoga teacher and thus I become a children’s yoga teacher. I set up an after school club and soon numerous parents were bringing their children.
In truth I gradually came to dislike what I was doing. Many reasons fuelled my frustration. There was the issue of the wide age and ability range, and the after school ‘I’m hungry and tired ‘issue. However the biggest factor was that it was obvious that the yoga wasn’t making much difference to the children’s lives.
I become a real children’s yoga teacher for children with autism
Nevertheless word of my work had spread and one day I was asked to teach yoga to children in a Special Needs School in East London. That day was a turning point in my life.
Despite all my experience I stood there not knowing what to do while this group of children were going absolutely crazy, at one time telling me to f*** off and throwing shoes around - it was chaos.
I tried various activities, all to no avail then amazingly with one specific activity (it was Sun Sequence) they were suddenly hooked… and I even got them to do a relaxation.
The transformation was astounding. I came out of there that day, sat in the car and cried tears of joy that I could make such a difference. That was a Tuesday Morning in 1999 and I have taught there every Tuesday ever since.
Over time the school has become a beacon school for teaching children with autism. This means that for more than a decade I have been developing teaching approaches for teaching yoga to children with autism. I am now regarded as a specialist in teaching yoga to autistic children.
I am very proud of that.
Some great good fortune
A few years later I had the great good fortune to be written about in the Daily Telegraph magazine and that helped to publicize and expand my work.
Yoga was changing and becoming mainstream so it was only natural that schools should be more accepting and interested. As a result I began to take more bookings and soon found myself teaching five days a week in different schools.
I remember thinking to myself how lucky I was. Everyday I’d get up, go to a school and have great fun practising what is really my hobby and, can you believe it, get paid for it!
In the last few years I have been fortunate to have taught continuously in the same nucleus of schools. This means that I am there on a specific day every week, every term, every year. It also means that I have had to be creative and develop fun and interesting activities or risk the children’s boredom.
I have taught yoga in schools as part of the integrated school day for nearly two decades now and have developed many approaches and activities that the children love.
One of those activities has now been turned into a book called Frog’s Breathtaking Speech
which was published in 2012. Now my enthusiasm for writing knows no bounds and my new book Ladybird's Remarkable Relaxation
is to be published in September. Meanwhile I am busy with another two new books that will enable me pass on my considerable expertise to others.
Whilst Frog’s Breathtaking Speech, and incidentally The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, and Going on a Bear Hunt all make terrific stories to embed yoga postures in, I have to confess that the most fun comes from playing the yoga games
that I create. A point aspiring children’s yoga teachers should take to heart.
Another side of my yoga career is the time I give to training others. Sometimes I feel that I have never stopped writing training programmes - believe me its tough work. Although I have streamlined my training in the last two years I stick to my principles that the best training you can get is in school with real children under the guidance of an experienced specialist. In this business nothing can beat practical experience. Read More
If you would have said to me forty years ago that yoga was to be central to my life , that I would become a school teacher, children’s yoga teacher , specialist yoga teacher for children with autism, teacher trainer and a writer I think I would have laughed out loud.
For the record I am laughing, though quite quietly.