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"An intellectual is a particular kind of educated, for not only is he able to do things; but, more importantly, he is able to understand why things are done."

- Dalí ten Hove, Diaforlife contributor

Interview Gopala Amir Yaffe, Founder Rainbow Kids Yoga

By Sharda ten Hove on 24 October 2012

Gopala is a radiant positive and everlasting youthful yogi who is traveling around the world with his family spreading the message of yoga through teacher trainings. His trainings are known and very popular globally. In between his busy life which he is enjoying a 100% Gopala found the time to sit down with Dia and we are delighted to share with you this interview!

You have been teaching yoga, meditation and yoga philosophy since 1995. What inspired you to start Rainbow Kids Yoga?

I started teaching kids yoga even before I taught yoga for adults… I replaced the local yoga center’s teacher in a childrens yoga class when he was sick and continued it from then. I was 16 years old at the time.

I was a monk for 10 years at the Sivananda Ashram, but even there I have always been the person who made sure that everyone was happy (if they wanted to)… and yes, not only through meditation, but also through having some fun!

Monk or not, grownups always seemed waaaaaaaaaaay to serious to me! Spirituality is about being happy and enjoying the moment… enjoying yourself, but grownups get caught in the details and the rules and they forget to just be.

I founded Rainbow Kids Yoga in 2007 after I lost a baby girl at 5 months in utero… It was a difficult and transformative experience for me and it was then that I decided to dedicate my whole being to kids yoga.

Rainbow Kids Yoga is about living life to it’s fullest, learning and experiencing life through fun!

Rainbows are bright, colorful, happy, and fun. They are a sign of peace, a sign of hope and a sign of change.  We all need peace and hope and change… grownups are rigid; children are faster to change. We really have a lot to learn from kids, moving from a gray and cloudy sky to a bright and sunny one!

For over 10 years you were a Sivananda Monk, can you tell us some more about this and do you still apply Sivananda methods in your teaching?

I learnt many things in the Sivananda Ashram. I learnt how to focus and how to be peaceful and calm under all circumstances, I learnt a lot about who I am and about how my mind and my heart work. But most of all, after 10 years of trusting my Guru, I learnt to trust myself. 100% believe in myself.

Being a monk is all about letting go of your individual desires and passions… but what happens to most people in the Ashram is that they lose the passion for life itself and they become dead inside. Being unselfish is good, but being close and lifeless is not.

What’s the use of all the spiritual practices we do if inside we feel dead?  If we are not happy, light and free? I truly believe that Yoga wants us to be living.  As life giving as the trees, as free flowing as the rivers, as shining as the sun and gentle as the moon. We live our life merely surviving… what about really THRIVING? That is our birthright. 

It’s all about freedom! What do you want from yourself, from life? Are you brave enough to go out there and do it or are you too bound by what you and others believe that you can’t do?

I use a lot of Sivananda techniques in my teaching, as well as practices from many other traditions. But I have evolved a long way away from philosophies that reject life… maybe I’m a true hedonist now (smiling).

Yoga has tremendous benefits for children and it would be fantastic to see this integrated in schools. Do you possibly see this happen in the future?

It is already happening! Many schools have Children Yoga as part of their curriculum now, and it is a growing trend. I teach in schools for nearly 10 years now and have also developed a program for Yoga in the Classroom where we do Yoga, breathing and relaxation without even moving the tables and chairs – super fun!

We spend most of our childhood and youth learning, but there are many important life lessons that we miss out on at school.  In the mainstream education system we’ll rarely receive tools that will help us be a happier or a healthier person; we don’t learn how to release tension or how to focus and, in fact, we are not even taught how to study. That’s why Yoga is the prefect match for schooling!

Yoga is not only about discovering yourself, but also about your connections with others. Kids Yoga is about being free and about exploring your body, but the most important part for me in a kids yoga class is the social aspect of it;.

Yoga for Children cannot be taught like yoga for adults.  Vegetables are good for you, but what will you do with them if you don’t have teeth to chew them?  Blend them of course!  It is the same with Yoga for Kids, you’ll need to start from where they are and teach it to them in a way that can easily be accepted and comprehended by them.  To start with, you will simply need to make them all excited about it!

Both yoga teachers and parents need to adjust their expectations when introducing yoga to kids.  If you expect the kids to do the poses perfectly from the beginning, or even to do all of the poses all the time, you will be greatly disappointed.  Exploring different and creative ways to do a pose is a part of the learning process.  Having space to be creative, invent new things, dive into our imagination, play and even be a bit wild are more important for a child’s evolution than meditating.

It might be less comfortable for some adults to allow this in a classroom, but letting go of our instinct to control the kids behavior and our expectations of them doing exactly what we say all the time allows the kids the freedom they need to find who they are.

If you wish to have a supportive and fun environment for the kids to explore the ancient art of yoga, you’ll do better if you let the children co-create the class with you.  Give them choices, follow their lead for a bit and they’ll let you be the leader too.

With your love Angel and your 3 children you travel worldwide to train yoga instructors in kids yoga. Your children are being brought up in an exciting and creative way. What do you feel are the benefits of raising children in this form and do you have any recommendations for parents who would like to educate their children in an alternative way?

Yes we have four little yogis and they are our biggest teachers! They all love yoga and are actively involved in the creation side of my work, they are my inspiration.

They all enjoy different aspects of yoga more than the other. One enjoys guided imagery, another the friendships she makes, another is more sensual and enjoys massage and we all love getting together and playing around with acrobatics. Yoga brings us together.

We are doing our best to prepare our children for life… we want them to be themselves, rather then a copy of ourselves. Nevertheless, one of them plans on travelling the world teaching Rainbow Kids Yoga. We tell them that being successful in life is simply being happy!

I think that the biggest challenge with the mainstream school system is that at the end of the day there is simply not enough time for the kids to play and be kids. All the rush, all of the expectations, all of the social struggles… it’s just too much for a child.

Neither grownups nor kids really learn anything by being told… we learn from our experiences. I believe in providing our kids the freedom to explore themselves and their environment and to learn to get up when they fall, rather than protecting them from falling.

Fighting with a child is never fun and winning is impossible. So learning and teaching following their lead and interests works best. Anyway, it is not what you learn that is important, but learning how to learn and experiencing that learning can be fun.

What brings you the deepest joy in both your own yoga practice and sharing yoga with others?

In both my own yoga practice and in sharing it with others it is the connections with others’ the interaction with people, that I enjoy the most.

Each person is a whole universe, touching and discovering this is fascinating and mind expanding!

Besides Rainbow Kids you are also the founder of Sun Moon Partner Yoga, can you tell us some more about this?

This is where Angel and I get to break away from being busy parents for a moment and get to explore and play further with each other.

Grownups need to have fun too.  It will make them better parents for sure. We have all become so serious and somber and we need to shake this off and wake up again to experience life and enjoy it to the fullest.

Adults are just big kids, what’s the big difference anyway? Why do we stop learning and having fun when we become “adults”?

Rainbow Kids Yoga and Sun Moon Partner Yoga are very much connected… they are both about being more yourself again by shading off all of this “grownup” heaviness.

Sun Moon Partner Yoga is more a Community Yoga training rather then just yoga for couples… we do explore Tantra and sensuality there too, but we focus on our new yoga paradigm that it is simply more fun, and beneficial, to do yoga TOGETHER, rather then just on your own. We practice in a circle and we join in body and mind to open and elevate ourselves and each other. Playing provides a great relief for grownups. Try it when you get a chance!

Do you have a message that you would like to share with our readers?

Its simple, work less and play more!

Wish to do a teacher training? Find out where Rainbow is teaching here: www.rainbowkidsyoga.net
You can also visit their Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/rainbow.kids.yoga

About the author

Sharda ten Hove

Founder, Ethical Vegan, Yogi, Social Activist

Sharda was born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Descended from an Indian mother and Dutch father, she received a multi-cultural upbringing during which she gained a broad perspective on life.…  Read full bio