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Yoga Classes at MSB: Meet Barbara, Our Yoga Teacher

By Jeff Waxman

Each week, students at Montessori School Bali in the Lower and Upper Primary classrooms (ages 6 and up) enjoy both yoga and violin classes at school. This week we interviewed Barbara Holzer, our wonderful yoga teacher to get to know her better.

I taught Yoga from 2007 to 2012 at Yoga Studios in Paris, Graz and Vienna. Since 2012, I have been based in Bali and it’s so great to share my love and experience of Yoga to motivate my students to discover their own enriching and joyful practice.

“For me, yoga is a powerful transformational healing method; a means to elevate and facilitate daily life, gain profound self-insight, and unlock doors to enhanced self-care, inner equilibrium, and peace.”

In her classes, Barbara adapts the practice to the needs of the students she works with and encourages exploring body awareness and delving into techniques spanning from breathing, meditation and visualization to energy guidance.

Barbara is the creative motor of YOUPIYOGA, a venture dedicated to creating educational materials and accessories around Yoga and Self-regulation tailored for children and the inner child within us all.

What do you like about working with children?

Teaching Yoga to children reminds me not to take myself so seriously. Sure, Yoga is essential and a fabulous transformational tool, but play is work for children. While a certain amount of structure and routine is needed, making time for creative expression, asking for students’ insights, and genuinely listening to what they have to say is as valuable.

Children have just as much to teach us adults as we have to teach them. They remind us that practice should be fun, and their innate curiosity and unbounded energy inspire me to adopt a greater sense of playfulness in my practice.

How do Yoga and Montessori go together?

Yoga and the Montessori method have similar focuses; combined, the two are highly beneficial for children. Both work to balance, calm, educate, and empower the whole child.

Like Montessori, Yoga is a discovery process and a mindful, non-competitive practice that helps students of any age understand their nature (and functioning) and live harmoniously with others. Yoga emphasizes movement and the connection of body and mind through breathing. This is more relevant than ever in an age where children often spend long hours in front of a screen.

By merging Yoga with the Montessori curriculum, all areas of a child’s development get stimulated, and the children’s toolbox for life is enriched with more tools for emotional awareness, self-regulation, and love.

How do you make yoga engaging and fun for children while maintaining its core principles?

“I incorporate playfulness and creativity into our sessions. Breaking up pose sequences with relevant games efficiently keeps the children engaged. For instance, we might use animal-themed poses like “downward dog” and “cobra” to repeat the poses while inventing a story around a friendship between a dog and a cobra!

We might become “child penguins” (pose) being guided only by the sound of “parent penguin” (pose) through the room, using our senses and practicing focus and trust.

Or sometimes we might invent yoga poses after observing plants and animals found in the school gardens and imitate and explore possibilities to stand firm like a tree, move like a leaf, be bright, and open up like a Frangipani in “Frangipanasana.”

How do you approach relaxation techniques to children in a way that resonates with them?

I reserve some quiet time at the end of the class and let them choose a comfortable pose they like. They can use pillows or blankets, sometimes both. I invite two mini-teachers each time to help me create a nurturing moment. We put on calm music, and then we help our friends to relax by putting some essential oil mist in their hands, playing a sound bowl, and giving them a “leg shake” (a fabulous alignment and relaxation technique borrowed from Thai Yoga-Massage). The children love the nurturing this treat provides and the ease they are experiencing.

How did you get into Yoga?

When I was 27, I had a nervous breakdown and two options: to get myself out of the depression or not. I chose to get myself out, not through Yoga but by studying mountains of self-development literature. At the time, I believed a geographical change would be the solution. So, I moved from Vienna to Paris and started working in the French movie industry. I also thought happiness would come from the outside. It didn’t, but my significantly evolved stress level brought me to a gym where Yoga was scheduled as a workout. I did not know the idea behind it, yet I could still enjoy the benefit. I also worked on a documentary project as an editing assistant. The show was about the mind function of Tibetan monks during meditation, and by working on the material, I got intrigued and finally hooked. I had to learn more about it! I attended a proper yoga class and became a Yoga Practitioner. Ten years and several trainings later, I came across a specialization in Yoga for children and community yoga in Vietnam and took the course.

On returning to Paris, I stopped in Bali and met Wilma Grier, MSB Principal. I was very enthusiastic when she showed interest in the “kids yoga concept” I had exposed. Three months later, I started teaching at Montessori Bali for the first time. It’s been nine years, and I am still thrilled and grateful for this beautiful opportunity to be part of the MSB Community and see the children raising their hands to ask me: “Can we play a Yogagame today?”

Yoga at MSB – for Parents! 

Barbara wants to offer yoga this year at school and tailor her classes to you, the parents. Take this quick survey to help customize classes that you can join in on before or after school or on the weekend here at MSB! 

yoga class preferences survey

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