Downtime

An Interview With the Woman Who Teaches Downward Dog to Your Kids

Meet Jaime Amor of Cosmic Kids Yoga.

Jaime Amor doing a yoga pose with Frozen as her background.
Jaime Amor of Cosmic Kids Yoga. Cosmic Kids Yoga/YouTube

I first met Jaime Amor about two weeks ago, when, in a fit of desperation, I thought, “Please! Will someone else occupy my children!” And there she was on YouTube, a woman with the indefatigable cheer of an elementary school teacher and the thick, dark hair of a Disney princess, ready to lead my daughters on a 30 minute Moana yoga adventure. Amor is the star, writer, and co-owner of Cosmic Kids Yoga, a mindfulness and yoga platform for children that has been around since 2012. Views of its videos have recently gone up tenfold, as it’s turned out to be an unexpectedly essential service. Each video features Jaime against a peppy digital backdrop, often wearing thematically appropriate accessories (Princess Leia hair for the Star Wars–themed session, for instance), mixing narrative and yoga poses. Amor spoke with me this week from her home in the U.K. about how Cosmic Kids got started, One Direction’s influence on her practice, and the challenges of wearing a troll wig while yoga-ing. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Willa Paskin: How did you start doing this?

Jaime Amor: I went to classical drama school in the U.K., and the acting jobs were few and far between. So in between acting jobs, I would entertain at children’s parties. I would don my fairy princess costume, get out the glitter, and just go to town telling stories, playing parachute games, using rubber chickens, magic tricks, that sort of thing. I found that if I told a story, I could only really make it engaging if I got the kids moving. Kids are so honest they will just walk away when they’re not interested. They’re the best audience ever for knowing if you’re doing your job right. And I realized very quickly I had to do more to engage them than just sitting there on the toadstool looking pretty.

So you started introducing poses?

I would tell them this story that a witch was coming and we could defeat her if we knew these five special moves. And the five special moves were yoga poses or adapted yoga poses. So I would do a broomstick pose, and I would stir a cauldron, and we would dance around the fire. And I found the kids totally locked in and paid attention. So I knew that worked as a concept. And then my husband and I moved out of London—I decided I’d had enough of acting, it had been too hard—and I needed to get a job. And I was working in the local school just doing cookery club …

Sorry, is a cookery club like an after-school cooking class?

Exactly. And that gave me a sort of in into the school. And I started teaching a yoga class and that class led to me calling another school and it grew and grew and grew until I was doing about 15 classes a week. And very shortly after that, I thought, right, I need to train as a proper full-blown yoga teacher.

What was your relationship to yoga at that point?

I started practicing yoga when I was at drama school. And when I was living in London, I practiced yoga as just a means of staying stable and grounded and also, you know, vaguely fit. And also my mom was an aerobics instructor in the ’80s and ’90s, so going to fitness classes was part and parcel of my teenage years as well.

Like, she was an aerobics instructor in the Jane Fonda era?

In all her glory. Honestly, the hair, the sweat bands, the legwarmers, you name it. So I really grew up with kind of exercise to music, yoga classes, and things like that. So for me, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to start a yoga club. And because you’ve got yoga poses that always correspond to things in nature, like animals and boats and trees and tables and slides and stuff like that, you can piece together a narrative using yoga poses as your vocabulary.

So how did all of this get online?

My husband, Martin, was like, you know, we’ve got to find a way of scaling this. And I was also noticing how some of the kids in my classes, maybe they didn’t always feel like doing yoga at 3:15 on a Thursday afternoon. They might feel like doing it at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning. And it was like, well, there’s YouTube.

We totally just made it up as we went along. I thought, well, I know what works in my classes: eye contact, making it kind of big, and using the stories. But how could it be even more engaging? And then I was like, oh, well, what can I wear? I didn’t really want to be sexy and in a tight thing. I wanted to be like a Teletubby. One Direction was out on tour at the time, and they were wandering around in these great big sloppy onesies, and I thought, “I’m going to get me one of them.” So I went online and got a pink one and a blue one.

Wait, your outfit is inspired by One Direction?

My outfit is inspired by One Direction.

So what was the first video you did?

Squish the Fish, Parsnip the Cat, and Kickapoo the Kangaroo. We went down to our local sports and social club, put up the green curtain, and a good old friend of mine was the cameraman. And then all these technical questions suddenly arise—how do we cut Jaime out of the green screen? And when it was done, we looked at it, and we went, “Wow, this is really weird. Like no one is going to look at this.”

It was 2012. I think in about four days we got 89 views, which we were just delighted by. And that was basically our friends having shared it with everyone we knew on Facebook.

How long did it take for more people to find it?

We thought, OK, well, if we tag our videos and put them as suggested videos with things like Sesame Street and Peppa Pig, then we’ll come up in that little sidebar on YouTube. And sure enough, that did sort of work. And then a number of teachers started using it very actively and regularly, and they spread the word.

How do the movie adaptations work? How do you make Frozen yoga?

I start off by really watching and taking pages and pages of notes because I’m trying to sort of nail down scene to scene what’s actually happening in the movie. I pick out the bits from each scene that I think are the crucial parts that make the narrative work. Then I will look at how I can use the yoga poses that I’ve got in my head, like the vocabulary of yoga poses that are there, in order to interpret those sequences of events. Then I go back through it over and over again basically editing it to take out the fat. And then I take the first five poses, weave those poses together, and then I’ll move on to the next section, and the next five poses and I’ll build it up in chunks basically. And you just sort of slowly but surely memorize it as a flow. Frozen was a heck of a lot of work. It’s like a half-hour-long one woman show, like doing a weird interpretive dance.

I watched the Trolls one where you had a bright-pink wig on.

Trolls was pretty extreme. The state of my yoga mat after I finished. It was covered in pink.

Have you ever picked a costume where you’re like “uh-oh”?

Yeah, I did it last week. Last Friday, I’d got this beautiful Cinderella wig because I was doing Cinderella, before we were all locked away. I’d got it off of Etsy. And it’s an absolute stunner of a wig. And I put it on and it just had this huge fringe, this huge set of bangs, which totally covers your face. So I ditched the wig and kept the old bun, my usual style. I get a bit carried away in my planning process.

Are you able to record now?

No, not anymore. Monday was a lockdown day here in the U.K. So Friday we were filming. We filmed Cinderella and we’d filmed Super Mario. I donned my red cap and lovely mustache. And also a brilliant children’s book called Giraffes Can’t Dance. So that was our last filming date. Now I’m just trying to work out how do I livestream from my living room, which isn’t quite as exciting and shiny as the colorful, cartoony worlds that we’ve got on YouTube and our app.

Is it noticeable to you that more people are using Cosmic Kids?

Yeah. It’s gone a bit bananas. We were getting about 100,000 views a day, which is, you know, pretty good. We’re happy with that. And now we are getting about 1 million a day. So it’s basically 10 times higher, which is kind of mad. People have been sending us the most lovely messages on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, you know, email. It’s coming left, right, and center. It’s weird, though, because here we all are, sitting in our house with no sort of public life happening at the moment, but just this growing sense that there’s this crowd gathering. I’ve been coming up with new story ideas and now I’m just thinking, OK, what can I do in the living room?