Yoga for children, you might be thinking? Sophie has that anticipated too.
“We live in a hurry-up world. As a result, children feel anxious and stressed. They need to slow down. Very often, they even need more joy in their life. It is proven that yoga can really make an impact not only on children’s strength, balance and flexibility, but also on their well-being and happiness. Yoga gives kids a [framework] to express and release stress. It’s a tool for them to feel better and happier. As children learn to relax, concentrate, and be gentle in a fun, creative, and non-competitive environment, they are also introduced to a healthier lifestyle.
“Most kids like yoga. They love the freedom of exploring moves and stretches on their mat – with no competition. Where else can they breathe like rabbits, behave like dogs, cats, or fly like an eagle? I’m happy trying to plant seeds for kids to grow healthy habits and learn how to take care of themselves physically and emotionally.”
We headed outdoors to East Coast Park with Sophie to find out more about MiniYOGI.
Sophie, what’s it like teaching yoga to kids?
All kids and adult classes include breathing, stretches, yoga poses and relaxation moments, but the style and sound level [of the two] differ a lot. More so than with adults, a yoga class with children is always unique – it all depends on the students’ creativity, mood, and energy. My kids’ classes are energetic, vibrant, and cooperative. I present the asanas, or yoga poses, through stories, themes, animals, games, or other fun interpretations. We do lots of partner and group poses. Eventually, relaxation can take different [forms] like colouring mandalas, massaging, a real savasana, or some visualisation. Although it can be tricky to have some kids sit or lie down quietly, it’s surprising how intense their relaxation can be. They’re super quick learners. Like with adults, the resting time is usually their favourite part of the class.
Overall, children have a huge advantage over adults [because] they usually have an amazing, natural flexibility. Also, they’re often very, very receptive.
But whether students are children or grown-ups, yoga is an experience and a journey for all ages. As students grow, yoga provides different [learning] opportunities for them to improve balance, focus, flexibility, strength, self-esteem, and confidence.
You currently work with the Ministry of Education to implement yoga programmes at international schools.
Yes, through my So Yoga Kids Programme, hundreds of children are being taught yoga at school every week in Singapore. I have an amazing team of passionate teachers supporting me in this work. The programme is implemented for kindergarten, primary, and secondary school students mostly in international schools.
I only received the Ministry of Education certification recently, so I [hope to be able to] integrate yoga in more local schools because all children need the gift of yoga.
My goal is to integrate yoga within the main curriculum. What would you think if your children could have five minutes of breathing and stretching sessions to start the day at school or in between classes? How do you think their well-being, vitality, and focus would be impacted? The benefits our kids experience are scientifically proven from physical, emotional, and intellectual points of view.
On top of conducting classes, you also have a series of MiniYOGI activity books. What inspired you to write them?
I wanted to make yoga accessible to more children. There are kids who sometimes cannot commute and attend yoga classes. There are also people who want to practice yoga at home — after all, family yoga is an amazing bonding experience — but don’t know what to do.
As I love books, children, and yoga, I came up with the idea of putting my three interests together, so I created MiniYOGI, a beautiful and colourful universe for kids to practise yoga at home.
Motivated by her mission to bring fun, happiness, peace, and relaxation to more people — especially kids — Sophie Spoor launched MiniYOGI, a unique yoga universe for children that endeavours to help them feel healthy and happy.
The content is accessible, fun, and easy to follow. Through the series of activity books, kids follow two characters and meet animals to learn about yoga. In The Elephant of Wisdom, The Flamingo of Balance, and The Lion of Strength, young readers and their parents can explore breathing techniques, yoga poses, stories, games, and relaxing moments.
You’re also a mum of three kids. Did your children help you with the books?
The concept had been in my head for ages but I only took the time to complete the writing when I became pregnant with my third child. So I thank my baby Charlotte for giving me the opportunity to slow down and kick off the process!
I wrote the books as if I was telling a story to my children. I read every single line to my girls — they helped me make the text clearer and shorter. My eldest even helped me make the English version read better at times!
Also, because I work with an illustrator based in France, my daughters held all the poses so I that could take pictures or videos to write a detailed creative brief.
Any tips on how parents can teach their children to be more mindful?
Like in other areas, parents are role models to their children when it comes to teaching them mindfulness.
[Developing] mindful routines can help: morning breathing, gratitude exercises, and of course, practising yoga together! Yoga is not about perfection or perfecting a pose. It’s about being in the moment. It’s about breathing with attention. It’s about doing movements mindfully. During or after the practice, parents can help by asking some questions like “How does that make you feel like?”
To [bring up] mindful, happy kids, parents need to recognize the need to reconnect as a family. Our children need to be listened to without fear of judgement.