The easiest way to achieve 30 minutes and 32 seconds of comparative quiet in our house is by turning on a Frozen-themed yoga class created by Cosmic Kids Yoga, a YouTube channel established by Jaime Amor, a British yoga teacher, together with her husband, Martin. In the video, which has been viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube, Amor wears a pink onesie and retells the Disney film Frozen through yoga, striking her poses against a digital psychedelic ice kingdom backdrop.
My three-year-old is transfixed. She likes to perform the routine almost daily, always while wearing a floor-length princess gown. This is how I succeed in occasionally attending a Zoom meeting, putting her baby sister to bed, or cooking dinner without worrying that she may experiment with sticking toys in electric sockets, drawing on the walls, or mysteriously getting her head stuck under her bed (again).
Cosmic Kids Yoga, which began posting videos in 2012, was already achieving an impressive 100,000 views a day before the pandemic. But in late March, after the UK entered lockdown, its daily viewing figures soared to around a million. For harried parents, Cosmic Kids is less guilt-inducing than, say, plonking toddlers in front of PAW Patrol, but still a useful way to buy time. And, crucially, children seem to love it.
Online yoga has become a popular pandemic past-time. A recent Guardian long read described Adriene Mishler, the creator of the YouTube channel “Yoga with Adriene”, as the “patron saint of quarantine”. Amor could be thought of as the Yoga with Adriene for the under-tens. “You’ve hit the nail on the head!”, Amor said with a laugh, when I put this to her over Zoom.
Amor, like Mishler, trained as an actor and is sometimes joined by her dog on set, but she’s much more high energy. She begins each class by asking children to say the “secret yoga code word, which is namaste”, her eyes wide, hands held together in prayer. She spends a lot of time leaping like a monkey or roaring like a lion or, in one of the more baffling scenes in Frozen Yoga, in cobra pose, hissing like a “snow snake”.
Amor, 40, grew up doing group exercise classes. Her mother was an aerobics teacher, and often took her along to classes or rehearsed new routines with her. “I was just like, in thrall to my mum through the Eighties and Nineties, because there she was religiously, five times a week, in some form of fluorescent leggings, and the leg warmers and the head band and her hair up in some crazy high ponytail,” she said.
Amor became involved in youth theatre while at school and studied acting in Bristol before moving to London for work. She worked in theatre for many years and between jobs made a living as a children’s party entertainer. To keep herself sane in the competitive, unpredictable theatre industry, she took up yoga. About ten years into her acting career, performing The Picture of Dorian Gray at a theatre in Poland to a student audience that was lost and bored, she realised she wanted out. She retrained as a yoga teacher and began teaching in schools and nurseries near her home in Henley.
In 2012, her husband Martin encouraged her to start posting her videos online. They brainstormed ways to make the classes look more exciting on screen – “by putting a weird background on it and me wearing a weird onesie so that I look kind of like a Teletubby” – and then filmed three videos. Four days after posting the first video, they had attracted 89 views and were “ecstatic”. They built up viewership from there, learning over time how to promote their videos and maximise search results. Sometimes Amor draws inspiration from famous children’s books for her routines, such as We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, or films, such as Moana, Trolls or Star Wars. At other times, she writes her own stories.
At the end of last year, Amor toured Australia and New Zealand, giving pop-up yoga classes. “It was mind-blowing for me,” she said. “To be able to travel all over the world and find myself in the South Island in New Zealand, in a community centre with 120 people in it. I was gobsmacked!” And then the pandemic hit.
In recent weeks, the Amors have been responding to a flurry of interest and new queries. They have partnered with a studio to begin developing a TV series and are thinking about hiring their first employees.
As well as producing yoga videos, Amor posts meditation and mindfulness videos for children. She helps them think about scenarios they can relate to, such as feeling angry because they aren’t allowed a toy they want, or not liking their dinner, or feeling worried during the coronavirus outbreak, and then talks about ways to accept and then let go of difficult feelings.
“One of the big drivers for me doing this is I wish I’d had this when I was six. I wish I had some way of understanding objectively what my feelings were, because I feel like it would have helped me make better decisions growing up,” she said. “Kids need to hear that their feelings are OK. That’s how you develop a healthy relationship with them.”
Amor’s parents divorced when she was six or seven. “And I remember thinking, I need to now just be as nice and as good as I can be. In order not to rock the boat anymore, I need to please them.” It took until her thirties for her to overcome these instincts.
Now, finally, she feels that with Cosmic Kids she’s come “full circle”. She’s found a creative outlet, a cause she feels passionately about, and a way to make a living. Cosmic Kids’ daily viewings have dropped to about 800,000 views a day, and she expects they will go down further once schools reopen. But there are new opportunities to pursue, and she has a guiding principle when deciding whether or not to accept them. “Does it help more kids do yoga, is the question I’m always asking myself. And if the answer is yes, I’ll do it.”