Teaching Yoga to Children: An Interview With Kim Cunningham

Kim is absolutely hilarious – she is fun loving, adventurous, and one of the easiest people to be around. She is open and never judges you, she always sees the best in others.

When and how did you first come to yoga?

I started practicing yoga 14 years ago. I started to practice because I wanted to be more connected to myself and be more grounded. Yoga opened that window to a path of self-discovery.

You are a pediatric occupational therapist and you teach yoga in schools each week.  Tell us a little about how yoga has affected your work and the lives of the children you work with.

Teaching yoga to the children in my case load has made me more self-aware and have an even more open heart. How I feel on the inside directly impacts how the children will feel and react to my teaching, so I take great pride in making the experience more safe and sacred.

Teaching yoga to children regardless of their developmental stage has proven to produce successful benefits that have amazed my student’s classroom teachers, parents and me!

Since studying yoga, my students have exhibited fewer behavioral issues, and are noticeably calmer, more focused and happier.

It is the greatest feeling as an OT to get to see first-hand the benefits of my yoga program, as are the gains by these eager students. The excitement, enthusiasm and gratitude they express to me about the yoga portion of their therapy session is priceless!

When and why did you decide to do the mang’Oh Teacher Training?

I enrolled in the mang’Oh Teacher Training 4 years ago and I went in with the mindset that it would deepen my own personal practice.

Describe your Teacher Training experience at mang’Oh.

It was challenging both physically and mentally, but it is one of the best the decisions I made all around.  Years ago, Oprah started “A Ha Moments” and mang’Oh Teacher Training was a huge “mang’Ah” Moment for me! I will be forever grateful for the experience and its positive influences on my personal and professional development.

Tell us about your journey post-mang’Oh Teacher Training:

I just keep on challenging myself with taking different varieties of yoga classes, creating different types of play lists, practicing choreography, registering for more continuing education classes (such as at The Shambhala Center) and additional certifications (such as Radiant Child Teacher Training and Karma Kids Certification Programs).  I have also gone on an amazing yoga retreats, one in particular was to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Who has influenced you, both in and out of the yoga world?

I could give you a big list of names that would include the names of family and friends, yoga teachers, inspirational people, philanthropists, and world heroes too… But honestly, I try to find inspiration in the people and situations I encounter on a daily basis. I look for signs that make me stop and think. Whether positive and negative, there is always a lesson to be learned.

When you are not working as an OT, where can we find you and what are you doing?

Trying to find balance in all areas of my life from work, personal relationships, family, obligations, commitments, appointments, launching my new company, Hands on Fun OT, and taking care of myself. Some days, it is organized chaos; some days I’m flying by the seat of my pants; some days its smooth sailing. Regardless, every day is a welcomed journey that takes a village.  I feel blessed to be part of such a supportive village that includes the mang’Oh community.

Describe your perfect day in NYC.  

It would be taking a morning class at mang’Oh or Jivamukti, having brunch anywhere in NYC with friends and enjoying some food and laughter, spending time walking along either the East or West River because I love being around water, having a Myofascial Release Session at Wholistic Physical Therapy or a Massage at a Skin Spa or Massage Envy Location, followed by dinner, at home or at any restaurant.  I would then end my day with a Concert or a Comedy Show at The Beacon Theater or The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

What is something that has surprised you in the last year?

In the beginning of December, there was a fire in my apartment building (FYI, I did not cause it!) and I was lucky enough to get out unharmed. Just like most people, I made my home my sanctuary, a place filled with the colors and things I love, but what I have grown to appreciate is that Home can be where ever you are so long as you are balanced, at peace, and have access to loved ones.

What advice would you give to someone looking to do what he or she loves?

Go for it!!!!! Pursue your passions when the opportunity presents itself.  Everything happens for a reason and you have to take a chance.

What are you most grateful for today?

My incredible and crazy in-a-good-way family; that I practice in a profession that I love; and that I have an incredible support system of friends.  I’m grateful and feel blessed that I am happy (shout out to singer Pharrell Williams) and healthy and that I am exactly where I need to be at this stage of my life.

You can connect with Kim through her company, Hands On Fun OT,  and on their Facebook page.