Since 2012, Cosmic Kids Yoga has been a positive force in the sometimes questionable world of online children’s entertainment. The concept is simple: Teacher Jaime Amor guides kids through a series of poses using a colorful cadre of animals to make the lessons more appealing to young minds. She stands on a round yoga mat, talking directly to her audience, bringing them through “yoga adventures” that invite them to use their imaginations while moving their bodies. If Cosmic Kids Yoga stopped there, that would be enough, but Amor has a bigger mission. In the vein of legendary television presenters like Mr. Rogers, she focuses on imparting useful lessons to her young audience, teaching them how to handle difficult emotions, confront personal challenges, and interact with their world in healthy, positive ways. Over the last six years, Cosmic Kids Yoga has grown. Episodes like “Pedro the Penguin” quickly gained hundreds of thousands of views, and the Cosmic Kids YouTube channel now has more than 200,000 subscribers. We spoke with Amor to discuss how yoga can help children—and to find out what’s next for Cosmic Kids Yoga.
HealthyWay: We mentioned this in our emails, but a few of our editors have kids that are big fans of yours.
Amor: Aww, that’s amazing! That’s so encouraging when we hear it. I always thought that if the kids like it, we’re doing something well.
What is it about Cosmic Kids Yoga that you think makes it such an effective form of exercise for children?
It really works on multiple levels. Firstly, because of the way that they’re physically engaged, they’ve got something physical to do. And secondly, the stories just keep them wanting to continue along on the adventure.
You’ve got quite a range of stories, too.
Yes, you’ve got everything from mermaids to space monkeys to baby seahorses. The kids are really interested in all of the cute, fun characters. There’s a practical side—all the things that I’ve done in the videos are things that I’ve practiced and done with kids in real-life classes, so I know that they work. And we have these practical life lessons where kids are able to take some of the techniques that they learn in the stories and then apply them to their real life, you know? If they feel like they need some headspace and calm, they’ve got their 10-down count that we learn in Lulu the Lion Cub. It’s about slowly breathing and counting down from 10 to one. That’s a proper mindfulness technique, really. But it’s also really practical for a kid; if they ever notice that level of stress in themselves, they can just engage it. I think it’s the combination of the fun factor and the practicality of it that really makes the kids want to do it.
And yoga feels good—that’s certainly something!
Yes, it feels good! I think that moving your body, doing these yoga poses feels great. And kids love moving. They’re always moving in some way. That’s how we work out what our bodies can do.
Mindfulness isn’t really something that we focus on as a culture. We don’t really give children the tools that they need to deal with their emotions in a healthy way.
Yeah, exactly. And I think what I’ve found is that, in the stories, we can create an event—a situation—where a particular feeling or challenge will crop up. Perhaps our brothers and sisters have been making fun of us. Well, Lulu the Lion Cub, she hasn’t learned how to roar yet. She’s feeling those same emotions, because her brothers and sisters are saying, “Wah, wah, you haven’t learned how to roar yet!” That’s a real thing that a lot of kids will relate to. So we’ll go with Lulu on a little journey to see how she might help herself deal with that frustration in those moments. There, vicariously through a character, you’ve learned a technique, but it doesn’t feel like you’re being told what to do. It’s not being pushed on you; it’s being offered as a solution.And in the stories, I often make the kids the heroes. They’re the ones actually giving Lulu the advice that she might take to help herself. When you put kids in control like that, when you give them that hand of power, they say, “I know what I’m doing; I feel confident in this.” And so when they’re confronted with that situation, they really feel that those tools are at their fingertips, ready to use.
Speaking of practicality, we were wondering about some of the practical elements of the show. Who comes up with all of the creative ideas?
We have a really small team. I generally come up with the stories. I work with Martin, my husband, and we work very much as a team to decide on the message. What do we want to do in this story? What do we want kids to take away with them? And then I’ll go away and I’ll build a plot around situations that kids might have found themselves in, then try to relate that to the animal world. What’s brilliant about the animal world is that it lends itself to yoga; obviously so many yoga poses are based in nature. It really helps to create a yoga journey that I can put together with that story. Then we rehearse a few times. I go to schools, and I try [the story] with different groups of kids. I’ll figure out what bits are working, what bits aren’t working, and then it’s ready for the green screen studio. We go into the studio once every four or five months. I’ll have spent three or four weeks trying to cram as many stories as I can into my head, and then I’ll try to film over a couple of days, between six and 10 stories.
Cosmic Kids Yoga uses a lot of green screen. Is that a challenge?
It is, but I’m used to it now. Initially, it was quite interesting. It was just a piece of fabric that we put up in a local village hall. Now, [the studio] is five minutes down the road from us, and it’s a proper, full-on, wonderful, infinity curve green screen, which is absolutely amazing. In the room, usually, there’s me, my husband Martin, and Konrad, who’s our third team member. He does all of our production, films it, and does all of our backgrounds. He’s an incredibly talented guy, so he knows how to build these wonderful worlds. So it’s the three of us. There’s also Nick, our animator, who draws our little characters that appear sometimes at the beginning of the session. That’s it, really; it’s a very intimate affair, so I feel incredibly relaxed. I think about the camera like it’s a group of kids I’m talking to. I think that’s another factor that helps the kids get it. They really see me talking to them—because I am talking to them. There’s a lens in the way, but I don’t think about it like that.
Was there a single experience you had, or a single factor that led to the creation of Cosmic Kids Yoga?
I used to be a children’s entertainer. I would work through the weekends as an actor, and I would dress up as a fairy, or a princess, or a pirate, and I’d go to a children’s party. I would have two hours to make it the most fun, exciting, engaging two hours they’d ever had, and really celebrate the birthday boy or birthday girl. Quite early on, I realized that I couldn’t just sit there and tell a story in a costume. It occurred to me that if I actually got them to physicalize the story with me as I told it, they would be a lot more engaged. Sure enough, they were. I used to tell this story—there was a witch, and in order to stop the witch from putting a curse on all of us, we had to learn these five special moves. I taught them five yoga poses, and they’d make the witch melt into a puddle on the floor. They’d all be elated, jumping around. “We did it! We did it!” It was at that point that I realized—you can make something so much more experiential if you get kids moving. Not only that, you’ve got 25 kids in a room, and they’re very high energy. They’re excited to be at the party. But it’ll be completely pin-drop silent when you’re teaching them these moves. That’s when I knew that there was this incredible combination of storytelling and yoga that could, in itself, be an activity.
Did you immediately start trying to build Cosmic Kids Yoga?
At that point, I was working at a school—I was running a cookery club. I talked to the headmaster and said, “Would you mind if I tried some yoga with the kids?” He was really open to it, so it started from there. That grew. I was doing 15 classes a week at various schools all around where I lived. After doing that for about two or three years, Martin, my husband—his background is in innovation—he looked at me as I was dragging my mat somewhere after a long, long day. He said, “I think we should try filming you and see what happens if we put it on YouTube.” That was where the Cosmic Kids online world was born. That really made sense to me at that point, because often in my classes, you would find that if it was 3:15 on a Wednesday afternoon, not all the kids felt like doing their yoga at that prescribed time. But that’s when the after-school club is, or when they’ve been told, “You’re doing yoga.” That’s when they have to do it. Having it available on a video on a platform like YouTube suddenly means that they can do it whenever they want. That meant the world of doing yoga for kids became so much more accessible.
How long after that did it start to become a success?
It took some time, you know. We were delighted every step of the way. When you start from nothing, when you start at zero—you get your first view, and you’re like, “Oh! Oh! We’ve had a view!” We filmed three in the first day, and we sat on them for about three months because we thought they were ridiculous. We thought they were really odd—nobody was going to watch them. But we put them up, and they slowly started getting views. We didn’t know anything about YouTube and how it works, so we started paying for ads. We attached ourselves [via ads] to Sesame Street. From there, we started getting a few more views, then we stopped doing the ads, as we had our own little foothold of teachers and parents. We got feedback: “This is great!” “My kid really likes this!” “I’m going to tell my friends about it.” Gradually, it became a more organic thing, and it grew really steadily. I mean, it took us about four years to get to 100,000 subscribers, but it’s one of those channels that isn’t really a subscriber-led thing. It’s more about the views. Now it’s at the point where it’s 2–3 million views a month. It’s quite a bit more significant, and a lot of schools use it.
That has to feel very rewarding.
It is, relatively, yeah. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you keep learning as you’re going. That’s the thing about self-publishing, isn’t it? It’s about putting yourself out there. And you can really see the arc of someone’s journey.
What’s your mindset for growing Cosmic Kids Yoga and bringing more kids into the fold?
What’s really been great is what’s at the core of it. The yoga adventures have been so sticky for the kids—they’ve been waiting for the next video. They’re keen to keep up the practice, and they want the next story. The variety is really important to them, as I’ve found in teaching my live classes. Every week I go in and they say, “Which story are we doing this week?” You couldn’t say that you’re doing the same one as last week. That’s my motivation for keeping it fresh, and hopefully making it more appealing to more kids.
That’s fantastic. The exercise, obviously, is at the core of that, so let’s talk about yoga in general for a moment. When did you get into yoga?
I was about 19 and I was at drama school and we had a very spiritual voice teacher. She’d run a voluntary yoga session for us, and I found it really, really opened the door, because it showed me you could find this state of relaxation. I found that really useful when I was working as an actor as well. Being on stage, or working with the camera, if you can find a state of calmness, or steadiness, or peace in yourself, you end up producing a more open and effective performance. It wasn’t until I got into my sort of late twenties and early thirties that I thought, “Okay, I’m going to take my training and study yoga a bit further.” So I learned how to train and teach in Ashtanga.
Who are some of your favorite people in yoga? And just generally—who inspires you as an entertainer?
There’s my teacher here in the UK—he’s amazing—he’s called Jeff Phoenix. He’s got a pretty big following. He’s been doing it for 20 years, and he just oozes all of this tremendous energy. He’s an inspiration. Recently, I’ve really enjoyed Dylan Werner, I think he’s really cool. And Patrick Beach. They’re kind of these young bucks that are coming up through the ranks. Back to the classics, Shiva Rea is amazing. In the showbiz world, I was mostly inspired a few stage actors. Rory Kinnear is brilliant. I know he’s done a lot of movies as well, but seeing him on stage was inspiring. I’ve always loved Helena Bonham Carter—I know she’s absolutely mad, but I just think she’s great! There’s something kind of dangerous about her, and she’s exciting to watch.
Do you have any plans for Cosmic Kids over the next year?
At the moment, we’re in that sort of stage where we just want to keep making it. We’re in a really good groove at the moment. And there’s always new ideas kind of coming up and out of the woodwork. Kids will say, “Can you do a Pokémon one?” or “Can you do one about this movie that’s about to come out?” Kids really love the movie-themed episodes. We’ve had schools using Cosmic Kids Yoga, and that’s something we’re really excited to see. What other forms could Cosmic Kids take? Could it take the form of a game? Could it use these other technologies we have now—Xbox Kinect, motion capture, even VR? So we’re considering those types of things, anything that could create an even more engaging world that kids could take part in. We want kids to feel closer, and feel stronger about mindfulness in their own lives. That’s really our focus, just to keep making people aware of it and help more kids discover it.
I think it’s wonderful. Especially helping kids handle emotions in a healthy way is something we really need right now.
Absolutely. The next episode we’re going to be releasing is one of my stories, Mr. Hoppit the Hare, and it was inspired actually by [writer] David Sedaris. I don’t know if you know him. He’s brilliant. I just think he’s just so funny and dry. And he did this incredible story about animals, which was inspired by Donald Trump building a wall between the States and Mexico. I just thought, well, here’s an opportunity—how do we celebrate diversity? How do I appreciate who’s in my community, and look around and see what’s happening around me, and recognize the good in it? It’s interesting where your journey takes you, and how exactly how we can help kids learn about their own mental health, but also show them socially where everything is and how it’s unfolding in front of them.