When most people think about yoga, they likely envision a group of adults practicing in a quiet room, with flowing poses. Michelle Faber’s classes at Little Yogis embody mindfulness for children, with sessions that are loud, playful, and brimming with stories and songs. As someone who has been practicing yoga for 20 years, and is a mother of two boys, Michelle understands how beneficial yoga and mindfulness can be for developing minds.
Little kids face big stresses, even from a young age, and Michelle sees the magic within the practice of yoga helping kids develop a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Classes like these can help spark a life-long love of the practice.
When did you first discover your love of yoga?
I first started practicing yoga in high school. My mom bought a VHS tape of a yoga class like she always did with her workout videos. I would workout every night in my parent’s bedroom and after I decided to try it myself, I was hooked. I have always been an anxious person and it really took a toll on me during my student years. The constant stress and pressure really affected me physically and mentally. Yoga became the tool to get me through these hard times.
What led you towards teaching?
I spent years in marketing in the wine industry, and while I enjoyed it, it always felt like something was missing. I didn’t feel fulfilled and, most importantly, happy at the end of the day. I always dreamed of being a teacher but never pursued it until I decided to become certified in children’s yoga during my second maternity leave. I volunteered at my son’s daycare and knew it was the right path for me.
How has parenting changed your yoga practice? What new perspective has it offered?
As a mother, the mental and physical exhaustion I feel at the end of the day is intense. Being a business owner on top of that means I am often opening my computer again once the kids are in bed. I now need to prioritize my yoga practice as a form of self care to ensure I don’t experience burn out and can stay focused on what truly matters.
What new challenges do kids today face? How can yoga and mindfulness help combat that?
When I look at kids today, I see an incredible amount of stress and anxiety caused by the busy world around them. They are exposed to too much screen time, bullying and cyber-bullying, creating stress and a negative self-image, which can lead to emotional and behavioural issues. Yoga and Mindfulness are excellent practices that help combat stress and anxiety, providing resilience tools that will help them through their adolescent years and beyond.
At what age can children begin the practice of yoga? How do you recommend a family get started in practicing yoga together?
Children can start practicing yoga as young as 18 months old. Try a class! We offer family yoga classes on weekends at Club Kidnasium. Many parents are surprised at how receptive their children are to yoga. It’s a great way to bond with your children while doing something active together.
How do you make yoga engaging for children?
Our curriculum focuses on making yoga fun and engaging for children by using stories and doing yoga poses along the way. We also use many props and tactile items during the class like parachutes, breathing balls, juggling scarves, feathers, and more. For older children we like to do partner poses and yoga flows to fun pop music.
How is practicing yoga with children different when compared to adults? What are some of the most important lessons your students have taught you?
Our classes are non-traditional yoga classes. Many parents are concerned that their child will be participating in an adult style yoga class. This is not the case! We use stories and games for the little ones. For example, we may go on a special mission to the moon and do yoga poses along the way! We may pass Mr. Avocado (our mascot) around the circle with JUST our feet, how fun! Our tween and teen yoga classes start to resemble more of an adult style class using yoga “flows,” however we make it fun by flowing to Taylor Swift and doing partner poses to encourage teamwork.
What are the most challenging and rewarding things about being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur means you must wear many hats; finance, admin, business development, sales, payroll, management, etc. It has certainly been a deeply rewarding experience and a steep learning curve, however I wouldn’t change a thing. The smiles I see on the children’s faces when they enter the room and realize that it is yoga time has been deeply rewarding. I am also able to employ 12 wonderful and passionate teachers who get to live their dream of becoming a children’s yoga teacher.
How has the community/business changed since you first started?
When I started my business, it was a team of one with just me teaching and volunteering my time at schools and daycares in my neighbourhood. Flash forward six months and we now have a team of twelve including my wonderful business partner Nikki and are at over 40 schools and daycares in the city.
Tell me about your volunteer work of yoga services during the UCC Terry Fox Run?
The UCC Terry Fox committee approached me to offer my services during the annual Terry Fox Run and I immediately jumped at the chance! I was able to lead the warmup family yoga for over 1,000 participants and it was certainly an amazing experience.
Do you think Terry Fox should be the next face on our five-dollar bill?
Absolutely! Terry Fox inspired the nation and the world through his courageous struggle against cancer and his determination to raise funds for cancer research; he deserves that recognition.
What are you reading, watching, or listening to right now?
I am a self-proclaimed lifelong learner so I am always choosing books that help me grow in my personal and professional life. Right now I am reading Gabriel Bernstein’s, Super Attractor, Methods for Manifesting a Life beyond Your Wildest Dreams which lays out the essential steps for living in alignment with the Universe. I am a true believer that you can create the life you want by leaning into your intuition, and this book outlines the steps to do just that.
Who inspires you?
My mother has always been an inspiration to me; not only in work but in life. She was always in senior managerial roles while I was growing up and she taught me a lot about being professional and having a strong work ethic. Now that she is retired her main goal is to make everyone around her happy. The way she makes so much effort to make everything perfect for her family, and especially her grandchildren is truly admirable.
Can you share something about yourself that most people don’t know?
I used to be an actor and hosted my own sports broadcast television show on GolTV, then I had a decade long career in corporate marketing which turned into a career in wine where I travelled Europe and the US tasting and analyzing wine. I truly live by the motto ‘you only live once’ and if something interests me, I will always shift my path in order to be fulfilled and happy.
What are you currently working on improving in your life?
My goal for 2020 is to be kinder to myself. In the last five years, I got married, had two children, and started my own business. It has been busy, exciting, exhausting and I think it is time for some self-care. I need to work more on work-life balance and taking time to ensure my mental and physical health are in check.
What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
I am focusing on projects that help youth become educated on various issues like poverty and mental health, and allow them the chance to volunteer their time to help others. A large element of living as a yogi is to serve others, and I want to ensure that I am giving back to the community that helped me grow and nurture my business. I am excited for all that lies ahead.