Most parents agree that yoga is excellent for children in helping them cope with anxiety and worry.
Of course, during the pandemic most yoga studios have closed for the foreseeable, with many classes going online. Wicklow-based Jo Quinn does yoga classes for the littlies. She does the free Facebook classes every day at 10am for parents and young children (from toddlers to 12-year-olds) to enjoy calming time together. While 10am Irish time is the middle of the night for most American audiences, the videos are online on Facebook and readers of IrishCentral might tune in and see if their young children might enjoy yoga - with a teacher with an Irish accent.
This is Jo's story:
Jo Quinn first trained as an actor. She found it very stressful both on a physical and mental basis and so turned to yoga. Ironically while yoga was initially a way to relieve her acting pressures it soon became her career, replacing acting with teaching yoga. As a result, she has been teaching children yoga for the past 12 years and adults for the past five.
“Yoga just clicked for me. I could feel the benefits immediately and so I knew I wanted to share this with children. It’s a real joy.”
Since the start of COVID19 she was not able to teach in person and so, along with many similar teachers, has turned to the internet to still teach her classes. And in an inspired move Jo has begun doing free Facebook Live classes at 10am Monday through Friday for children. This has really taken off with thousands of views for her videos.
“If anyone had told me two months ago I would be teaching from my home I would have said they were mad, that I had no space. Yet here I am teaching regular classes over the net. It’s amazing what we can do when we had no other choice.”
Currently, Jo has about 300 children and their parents tuning in every morning to watch the class live on Facebook, and then hundreds more watch the videos during the day. The age group can vary from two years old up to 12 but she reckons seven is probably the most common age group.
“I love the fact children can tune in from home, they might wander in, have a look, and then go off again. It’s such a relaxed format. Every class is designed like an adventure. We use imagination and storytelling to engage the children.
“Today we went on an adventure to Disneyland and we bring in the yoga poses as part of the story. For example, we were going on an airplane and had to stretch out our arms. And we sing a lot of songs which is very powerful for children as they learn faster through song.”
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Teaching children is different from adults. Jo uses props such as the breathing ball to explain how breathing works. She does a lot of color mediation which helps the children have a break from the noise in their heads. Then she has a quiet period at the end called savasana where the children cover themselves in a blanket and relax.
“At first I thought it would be impossible to keep children quiet but they love it. They snuggle up with family members and really enjoy it.”
Jo’s first job was teaching children from the inner city and she was amazing there too as they were really keen to turn off the lights and listen to music. Usually, she would read them a story at this point which includes mindfulness.
“It was a real eye-opener for me – to see just how much children enjoyed this quiet time.”
Building in mindfulness is even more important during COVID19. Jo includes stories about gratitude, imagining they are flying or just feeling happy and calm.
“Yesterday I wanted to help them to calm themselves, so during the flight to Disneyland I said there was some turbulence. But rather than that being a source of anxiety I explained about calming our breath and slowing down our breathing. The hope is that they can remember this during the day if they are worried about other things.”
The reactions have been very positive. One mother got in contact with Jo to thank her. The mother explained that it gave her and young daughter a routine, something to get up for and enjoy together. Often she said her daughter would adopt the various yoga poses during the day while playing in the garden.
“Just helping one child, one family, that makes me very happy.”
As well as helping children, Jo has moved her adult classes online too. She runs lunchtime classes most days and evening ones too. She has a number of beginner classes online too. She is at pains to explain that yoga doesn’t have to mean all those extravagant poses and body positions. She maintains that yoga is just about taking time away from the world and focusing on your body and your breath. Even a few seconds is important.
Another positive benefit to come from teaching online and having participants at home is that it is easier for newbies. Jo understands that people can be put off by the thought of yoga and feel self-conscious, but it points out that if you can start from the comfort of your own home then it is so much easier.
In the pre COVID world, Jo does corporate classes which are great for busting stress.
“It’s really good for office workers who often hold tension in their shoulders as they hunch over laptops. Doing yoga stretches allows people to relax.”
Jo is also a clown doctor and part of Aoife’s Clown Doctors, a charity set up to remember Aoife Hendrix who died aged just five. The charity does hospital visits to cheer up sick children and Jo says it is one of the most rewarding jobs she has ever done and can’t wait to return to it after COVID.
And in a parting piece of advice, she says:
“If you are sitting at a desk put your two feet flat on the ground, be aware of the grounding sensation. Press your feet into the ground. There is so much chaos that we cannot control outside of us, but what we can control is our reaction. So, be still, press your feet, and breathe slowly.”
Thank you Jo.
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