Yoga for youngstersThis isn’t your momma’s yoga. Participants in the “Downward Dog” pose bark rather than stay in quiet meditation. The “Tree” pose prompts shouts from the group to specify the types of trees they are, whether of the real or imaginative species.
By: Laura Kruse, Staff Writer, New Richmond News
This isn’t your momma’s yoga.
Participants in the “Downward Dog” pose bark rather than stay in quiet meditation. The “Tree” pose prompts shouts from the group to specify the types of trees they are, whether of the real or imaginative species.
At this class there is no wrong way. In fact, Family Yoga instructor Tonya Schmitt encourages and participates in the silliness.
Schmitt offers weekly classes for children ages 3 and up along with their caregiver at the Hammond Community Library.
Schmitt said the classes are a combination of yoga and telling stories from around the world. She uses a globe in the class to help the kids understand where the stories come from.
This week, Schmitt told the story of Ghanisha to the class. In it, a little boy pretends to be a warrior and shoots toy arrows at his cat, only to find out that the cat is his mother. After telling the story, Schmitt explains the moral of the tale and what the kids can do to learn from it.
The second time through it, she prompted the class to bend into yoga poses to represent what happened in the story.
For instance, if there is a bridge in the story, the kids do a bridge pose. Schmitt said the kids help come up with the ideas. Sometimes they think of ones she hadn’t even considered.
“Storytelling is so critical for all of us,” Schmitt said. The stories motivate change because the listeners want to be like the hero in the story, she explained.
Along with storytelling, the kids sing songs and play games all with a hint of yoga movements or thoughts to them.
Meditation sessions, or resting as they’re more often called in the class, only last for about a minute. During those moments, the kids lay on their backs with their eyes closed while Schmitt creates an image for them to imagine or strikes a note on her Tibetan Singing Bowl.
The kids are quick to remind Schmitt of any parts she might have forgetten during the session. She also hears a lot of requests to re-do activities from previous weeks.
This week’s favorites were the rollercoaster game and the parachute. Schmitt’s sure to hear about them, especially the parachute, in the upcoming classes.
While doing the activities and poses, the kids aren’t expected to have perfect form. “We don’t worry about proper alignment with them,” Schmitt said.
She said when a child doesn’t do a pose technically correct but has a big grin on his or her face, it’s beautiful and right.
“You should only do what’s appropriate for your body. Some people can’t do some of the poses, and that’s OK,” Schmitt said.
In the end, Schmitt said her goal is to teach the kids to respect their bodies, minds and spirits.
The kids don’t know that though, they’re just having fun, Schmitt added.
“The kids are responding so well,” she said.
Yoga differs from other activities in that the concern is with the body, mind and spirit of the participant, Schmitt said. That can prompt different responses in the children than traditional activities like team sports.
She said yoga isn’t the only good way to get kids moving. “It’s all good as long as the heart of it is for kids to have good experiences and feel good,” she said.
In the first month and a half of classes she estimated there have been 15 kids and their caregivers total. Usually a typical class only has four to seven kids and their chaperone.
The summer classes end on July 28 for Family Yoga. However, Schmitt said she plans to do another session in the fall.
Also on her fall schedule will be a yoga class for adults, tentatively set for Wednesdays at the Hammond Community Library.
After their hour long workout, the kids were still smiling. To them, yoga was a chance to play games with friends. Schmitt hopes they’ve left with something more.
She said, “I want them to have fun and feel good doing it.”