My Mini Me Yoga Journey; From Teaching Assistant to Ambassador
Just over 6 months ago I sat awaiting my Mini Me Yoga training. I have practiced yoga on and off, and use meditation and mindfulness daily in my personal life. I study and read many books about the power of positive thinking and live by the rule that my energy creates my reality so being positive and focusing on love is my goal every day. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from our Yoga training. I thought it would be fun and it was definitely something different for an after school training session. Besides that, I didn’t have too many expectations but was keen to see what it was all about and wanted to see how yoga could fit into my already outstanding school. 10 minutes into the workshop and I was hooked. I sat and listened, nodded my head probably far too eagerly and was engaged in every word that was being said to us. I felt inspired and moved by the whole concept of bringing mindfulness into the classroom. Each of the 7 steps, the poses, breathing exercises and all of the tools and techniques were wonderful, but it was the message that underpinned the entire programme that really struck a chord with me. I was excited. I now knew, not only how to deliver the programme but I believed with all my heart that this was going to have such a positive impact on the children. I had anticipation in my stomach because the passion that I had for my job as a teaching assistant and interests I had outside of work had joined together in the shape of Mini Me Yoga.
I felt so strongly about how this could allow children to explore themselves and their emotions on a deeper level and held the potential to enable us to support children with their wellbeing, I realised by the end of the workshop that I wanted to be part of this innovative programme. I wanted to inspire other adults and make them feel the way that I was feeling sat in the hall that evening. However, I knew this was massively out of my comfort zone. I still had a lot of anxiety to deal with when I had to talk in front of groups of adults. But I knew that I wanted to inspire people and help children so much that it was time for me to step out of my comfort zone and grow my confidence while helping to grow Mini Me Yoga. With the support and enthusiasm of Ashley, Kate and the other amazing ambassadors I knew that I had made the right choice. After completing my training, I booked in my first workshop. My voice shook with nerves as I introduced myself. Looking back it was probably one of the most nerve racking experiences I’ve had and I so desperately wanted to get it right. But I sat with my notes and sweaty palms and I pushed through my nerves because I believed in it so much. I feel so proud that I have had an impact on many children through training the adults in my workshops. It may be a big impact or maybe very small but I know that the impact is a positive one and for that I am so thankful that I fought back my nerves on my first workshop. If they can help one child with their confidence or if the yoga can put a smile on one child’s face, isn’t that all worthwhile? I feel so blessed to be working with children and when I deliver a yoga session, I really do forget about the past and future and any worries. When we open the circle I can literally feel any of my thoughts dissipate. My focus is on the yoga, the children, and making them feel good. Sometimes vibes and energy speak louder than words, so being able to have a positive mind-set enables me to really give all my attention to the session and outcome.
One of my favourite parts of the programme is when we send love. I know how this can really change the way a child is feeling. It shows the children how powerful they can be in setting an intention, it teaches empathy and allows them to honour how they want to feel in that moment. One occasion stands out for me, during a session when I asked the children who we should send out love to? A child shouted out “ME” and the class laughed. I spoke about how important it was to love ourselves as much as we love our families and friends. It can often be seen as a negative thing, when in fact the relationship you build with yourself is actually the most important. I have realised that children often hold back when it comes to giving themselves love and praise. Having self-love may stop the negative chatter and self-doubt that creeps in. Prior to the yoga, any conversations I have had to maximise the opportunity of nourishing the children’s confidence has always been more subtle or has been off the back of a situation. That’s why I love Mini Me Yoga, The sessions really open up the opportunity to have deeper conversations with the children about emotions, thoughts and wider world issues which wouldn’t necessarily crop up during a school day. It is so important for children to be happy with who they are. They should be encouraged to shine, and face their challenges knowing that they are the best they can be. Children are naturally intuitive and with the right support they can tune in so easily to their feelings and creative minds. If we can ignite their imaginations and let them know that their thoughts are limitless, we are teaching them that their world and their opportunities are also limitless. Our priority should be to encourage our children to be happy before they are defined by results, a size, a job, a role or a title. Just having a good heart and intentions really is enough. I see children now feeling, and allowing themselves to express and most importantly deal with the emotion, by breathing through the feelings, acknowledging and voicing them. It really is so heart-warming to see these children stabilising themselves.
Children respond so well to an adult who has let down their guard (and ego) for them then to see that it’s okay to be silly and a bit messy and not perfect. It teaches them that they don’t always have to get it right and they don’t have to feel embarrassed or awkward. When it comes to the physical poses I embrace the fact that I’m not an ‘expert’ yogi. I am not the most flexible or may not be a lifelong yogi master, but I am authentic and honest and I will tell the children when I find a pose tricky. I feel this is paramount to being a good role model. Allowing the children to interpret the poses in their own way and to explore their bodies in a non-judgmental and non-competitive environment is so lovely to see. Being authentic in who you are will guide the children to grow in confidence with who they really are. I genuinely believe that we can support the next generation to have more confidence in themselves, have less anxiety and more belief, less judgement and more acceptance, less guilt and more pride, and more love and less hate. It doesn’t take much; these qualities are in children naturally. It is society that dulls the sparkles, let’s keep them shining as they should and as we should. In the words of Roald Dahl, “If you think happy thought they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Our children have the capacity to become a happier more positive generation.
I am blessed to work in a school where the children’s wellbeing and happiness is such a priority. The staff have fully embraced and embedded the programme, so much so, that myself and two other teachers decided to forge forward and gain accreditation, the first school in the north to achieve Mini Me Yoga status. We had so much positive feedback from parents and the children that we knew it was the natural next step. We had a fantastic day celebrating this and had our local newspaper and radio station covered our story. With mental health at the forefront of the government’s agenda in education, we were very proud of our status. I hope that it inspires other schools to see yoga and mindfulness not only as a stand-alone PSHE or PE session, but as a support system to help all children grow and flourish. Now as an ambassador I know I can support other schools and nurseries to really embed mini me yoga into the daily routine without having to subsidise any of the compulsory curriculum subjects. It is so easy and natural to bring in and it’s exciting to see how much the children embrace this. Mini Me Yoga actually enhances the school routine. I am hopeful that every school and education setting in the world will one day have yoga and mindfulness as part of their day. It would be incredible if wellness education became part of the compulsory curriculum.
Some people are afraid of the word ‘magick,’ but I believe if a child manages to find their sunshine and lets it shine unashamedly, and in the process of shining, inspires others to shine too, then this is true magic. Let’s all aim to find our sunshine and shine light into our children’s lives. Mini Me Yoga has brought together all of my passions, it has deepened my knowledge, and has really made me grow. It has pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, helped me to see that it is perfect to be imperfect, inspired me to shine brighter, and most importantly it has made me find my inner child again, and to have fun and see the magick that is all around us.
About Gemma Baird
Gemma Lives in Carlisle, Cumbria with her two children. She has worked in education since 2011 as a senior teaching assistant. Gemma supports children with additional needs and runs nurture groups for children with social and emotional difficulties. As a mini me yoga ambassador, is on a mission to bring yoga and mindfulness into the school settings in and around Cumbria. She also offers one off, or block sessions of children’s yoga to schools and nurseries. You can find her at: