The Good We Do Together – Reaching Indigenous Youth

Reaching indigenous youth - 2

By Megan Kim
Originally published in Yoga Bridge - WINTER 2024 VOLUME 24 ISSUE 1

Note from Executive Director, Donalee Campbell: As part of the YAA’s Mission, our active outreach programs bring the physical, mental and social benefits of yoga to under-served communities. In previous years, YAA certified teachers have travelled to several northern indigenous schools. Last year, thanks to funding from the Gift of Yoga Fund, a generous gift from a private individual through the Edmonton Community Foundation, and in partnership with Ever Active Schools, we provided a YAA Certified Teacher to the Enoch Cree Nation K-12 schools just west of Edmonton for five full days of classes. The following is her report.

Over the course of five days in February 2023, I had the privilege of teaching yoga to over 200 students at Maskêkosak Kiskinomâtowikamik (Enoch Cree Nation K-12 School), with approximately 30 teachers and educational assistants in attendance as well, either participating or observing. I also had the support and feedback of an individual from Ever Active Schools, who works with the school to introduce special activities to the students (such as yoga, boxing, and cross-country skiing).

In only a week, I learned so much from the students and staff about ways in which the yoga teacher can modify yoga practices to meet their current physical, mental and emotional needs. Each class had unique needs and energy levels that required a lot of on-the-fly adaptation. After the first day of classes, we (the Ever Active Schools programmer and myself) realized that for the most part, I would need a more physically active class plan than what I had originally thought. Although some classes were responsive to gentler seated sequences and a slower pace, most others needed more activity, bigger challenges, and a faster pace. Lots of games were needed for the younger grades especially. One of the most important insights was to let the students have as much choice as possible so that they felt they had some control over how the class would unfold.

I witnessed wonderful spirit and creativity from so many children who were willing to create new animal poses, try new things, and collectively adapt my guidance to their needs. I witnessed unexpected moments of deep quiet and presence. While some students were not interested in learning yoga at that time, many were willing to give it a try. I made sure to acknowledge more than once the presence of those who did not want to participate, and to let them know that just their presence there mattered. There were also at least a few students in most of the classes who were truly present and attuned to the yoga practices, and who seemed interested in learning more.

For future opportunities like this, I would keep that principle of choice and agency. I would be more definite in setting behavioural boundaries and expectations upfront to create a safe space for learning and exploration. I would also communicate more about what activities were coming up next in the class, and when it would end — essentially creating a verbal map along the way. For example, for a group of high school students, I explained that I had four different sequences for them to explore, each starting from a different base (lying down, standing, hands and knees and seated). I let them choose which base to start from, which to explore next, and so on.

One of the most powerful things I noticed was that the classes always seemed to unfold in the best way with their schoolteachers, and had the teachers there with them, showing interest in learning yoga for themselves, as well as learning how to model it for their students. I suggest it would also be helpful for the yoga teacher to share yoga with the schoolteachers before working with the students. If the schoolteachers have positive experiences with yoga, this could help them know how best to support the yoga teacher when he or she is teaching their students. Most importantly, the schoolteachers may gain insights into how regulating their own nervous systems through yoga could have a far greater impact on their students than that of a guest yoga teacher.

Megan Kim has been practising yoga since 1998, and teaching for nearly as long. She is grateful for her many teachers and their influence towards more presence and loving kindness, including Beth McCann and Marcia Langenberg, both YAA Senior Teachers. Contact information at

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