This year we launched a line of exclusive yoga and mindfulness products for young children in collaboration with yoga and mindfulness educator Bari Koral. These products are designed to easily integrate mindfulness and yoga into early childhood classrooms. The reaction has been overwhelmingly good!
We asked Bari a few questions about her journey in developing yoga and mindfulness programs for children:
Becker’s: When did you recognize that yoga and mindfulness could be essential for young children and their educators?
Bari Koral (BK): Over 12 years ago, when I was teaching music and movement to a group of preschoolers, a child had to be taken out of the room for “anxiety issues”. He was only 4 years old. It dawned on me that if we could teach these children to cope with anxiety through mindfulness as early as 4 years old their lives could play out very differently.
I started presenting at national (NAEYC) and regional conferences, initially to let teachers know how to teach children yoga and mindfulness with my collection of songs and activities. It quickly became evident to me though that teachers needed these tools as much as the children. The Mindfulness Card set, Yoga Card Set, and Relax and Be Happy CD were made with teachers in mind, too!
Becker’s: What was the process like of developing a program to incorporate yoga and mindfulness in early learning classrooms?
BK: The yoga and mindfulness programs all developed very naturally and in real time. I taught at the same preschool (Rockefeller Child and Family Center) as children’s music artist Laurie Berkner for over 8 years. I taught 120 children a week of all different nationalities and abilities. I got to see the impact of what we were teaching in real time. For example, I wrote the Yoga Alphabet in 3 minutes and when I performed it in my toddler class, I could see their faces light up! That’s when I knew the songs, along with yoga activities, would work! It was incredible.
Becker’s: What are the challenges or objections to introducing yoga and mindfulness in early childhood curriculums and how do you overcome them?
BK: It’s come so far; there are very few objections. I have been doing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness since 1991 and the evolution has been amazing. There is so much scientific data that shows everyone’s nervous systems need tools. Mindfulness is science. It’s your brain! Yoga is basically just movement or fitness! Occasionally, someone objects based on a religious reason, but when you explain the neuroscience and fitness behind mindfulness and yoga, any objection quickly goes away.
Becker’s: What are the main benefits of including yoga and mindfulness in the preschool classroom?
BK: Imagine if you could help control your brain almost anytime it’s upset, angry, stressed, unfocused, unhappy, etc. The benefits are endless. Yoga, of course, is also a physical skill which strengthens our bodies. It strengthens core muscles, arms, legs, increases muscle flow, blood flow, circulation, and boosts the immune system, I mean the list goes on and on. This is perfect for children. It gets the energy out and helps prepare for relaxation. I like to say yoga first and then mindfulness. But yoga or mindfulness any time is good!
Becker’s: Tell us about the feedback you have received from those who have integrated yoga and mindfulness programs into their classrooms.
BK: It’s been over the moon. The songs and activities have worked so well, it’s hard to imagine NOT doing it. Looking back over 12 years, it’s amazing to think that thousands of children, parents and teachers across the country are using these songs and activities daily for yoga, music, movement and mindfulness every single day!
Becker’s: Do you think yoga and mindfulness will be embraced and adopted into more early childhood classrooms?
BK: When I started presenting at state and national NAEYC conferences, I would ask by a show of hands how many people were incorporating yoga and mindfulness. I would say 10%-15% would raise their hands. Now it’s well over 50%! Sometimes almost the whole room raises their hands. Will it be adopted into more early childhood classrooms? Yes, yes and yes. It will be adopted everywhere. In every walk of life. It’s already happening.
Are you ready to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into your child care center or preschool classroom? Browse our yoga and mindfulness products and feel free to reach out with questions anytime!