Hands on or hands off?
Last week I interviewed Niki Clark who trained to be a Big Dog Little Dog teacher last September. Niki isn't new to working with children and here she talks about how children really need to bond with their parents.
Niki on the Big Dog Little Dog Teacher Training with our fabulous child trainer Jose (age 9)
April: How did you find yoga?
Niki: I was 18 and a friend took me to a class but it was really unmemorable. It was just an exercise class. At the time yoga was something celebrities were doing to keep fit and this class had that focus: get fit and tone up. Later I found Rebecca Solomon who founded Yogalates and I did her DVDs for years but again these were only focused on the physical. Then I took classes with Nina Sebastian and Cathy Ran. They were good teachers but I wanted to be able to feel my alignment correctly though adjustments as I felt vulnerable in an environment where I was potentially overstretching without any safeguarding. Then I found Martin Forsyth and it was the practice of Ashtanga yoga that broke my spiritual heart open and brought me onto my path of true yoga. I fell in love with yoga through Ashtanga at the age of 34.
April: In what ways has yoga influenced other areas of your life?
Niki: It’s influenced everything! The way I parent, live day to day…it’s deepened my spiritually. It led me to do my teacher training in 2014 to teach children.
April: Could you tell us more about that training?
Niki: It was called Starchild and qualified me to teach yoga to children ages 2-18. It was developed by a woman named Siri Arti who wrote articles in Om Magazine. I was drawn to her writings as she merged Montessori teaching principles and Kundalini yoga. Interestingly her approach is to create a space for children to ‘just be’ and discourages any parental involvement. I tried teaching this method in schools from 2014-2015 but I found it increasingly frustrating. Perhaps it was a combination of my own agenda for children to absorb the more peaceful elements of yoga or that the classes were held on a Friday afternoon or that many of the students had learning challenges but for whatever reason, it wasn’t for me.
April: Why then pursue the Big Dog Little Dog training?
Niki: I am drawn to teaching children. It is a natural gift of mine to work with children but I was scared by working with children in isolation. So I went full circle. I don’t think Starchild’s approach worked for me because we already live in a society where both parents are working, nannies collect children from school and tuck them into bed at night. In Big Dog Little Dog the relationship between parent and child is strengthened. The “flying” work is great because the parent provides the physical base, building trust yet allowing freedom and independence for the child. It’s really a lovely practice. In Starchild you aim to suppress the child’s desire to impress an adult but a child also needs connection and praise from their parent(s).
April: How has the Big Dog Little Dog work influenced your relationship with your own daughter?
Niki: Evie absolutely loves it. She is really the type that needs the confidence/trust bond strengthened. She even prompts me to do the hand mudras at night before we go to sleep.
Niki plans to open a weekend class in Harpenden soon! Subscribe to the newsletter to hear about Niki’s classes as soon as they are launched!