Published on July 22, 2015
Yoga for youngsters
The Brunswick News
The lights dimmed as the yoga instructor seemingly glided to the front of the studio on Tuesday. She instructed participants to breathe in slowly with deep breaths. Her calming tone sent vibes throughout the studio that it was time to focus.
Typically, this calming workout is associated with adults looking for a good stretch and some stress relief. The injured and the elderly turn to yoga for a workout that can be tailored for their needs. However, the discipline of yoga isn’t usually applied to children.
Kids have been participating in children’s yoga at Infuse Yoga studio on St. Simons Island during the month of July. It is the first time the studio has offered children’s yoga since they opened in May.
Parents stay with their kids during the classes, with some even choosing to participate with the children.
“Honestly, just depending on how it goes, we can do poses that my adult classes do, just a little bit more animated,” said AshleyAnne Brown, Kripalu yoga and children’s yoga instructor.
“Beyond strength and flexibility, it really gives kids a connection and awareness of their bodies,” Brown said.
Brown tries to guide her students into poses they can achieve even at a young age. She said that the kids begin to pick up on the fact that even though they are different, each person is capable of achieving the poses in their own way.
“It’s OK that everyone looks a little different and if you fall, you get back up again,” Brown said.
It may seem like a lot asking four- and five-year-olds to stay completely calm and quiet for a series of yoga poses. Brown realizes that kids have boundless energy and uses their energy and creativity to make the class relatable and fun.
“That’s the great thing about being a kid is that you have a ton of energy, and you get to use that in a positive, constructive way,” Brown said. “Why stifle that energy? Just go with it and make it fun.”
She also tries to bring in a bit of discipline to the children without making it seem like a chore.
“There’s an aspect of discipline and bringing yourself back to it, but its really just about going with what’s happening today and making it work,” Brown said.
She tries to keep it lighthearted in class but requires the kids to be responsible for folding their mats properly along with other little responsibilities typically associated with yoga.
“During the class it’s about having fun, and playing and trying new things with your body, but then (using) the kinds of principles like taking your time, and breathing,” Brown said. “I’m always really adamant about how you fold your mat up at the end and putting it away, just keeping that awareness of you in relation to everything outside of you.”
In order to connect with the kids, Brown relates each pose to animals and other things kids know all about so they will enjoy participating.
“In the cow (yoga pose) when your head and heart are lifted, we call that sassy cat,” Brown said. “We let them yell and hiss.”
As the kids made their way into tree pose, Brown instructed them to spread their arms wide like limbs of the tree. She added that every tree is different, so your arms can be spread differently than others in the class, and that’s okay.
“This is a hard one,” five-year-old Jaden Brooker said as he wobbled on one foot.
Brown hopes that by practicing yoga at a young age, children will become comfortable in their bodies and avoid some of the self-confidence issues that tend to arise as children become teenagers.
“I think the ultimate goal would be having that connection with their body and having them become more comfortable in their own skin,” Brown said. “It’s really about feeling good about your body and seeing what it can do.”
For Brown, yoga is a means of expressing what is going on mentally and appreciating who you are in the process.
“On a mental level it’s actually incredible every time when taking them through the series of poses, seeing them connect,” Brown said.
Brown began yoga herself at a young age.
“I was a dancer when I was a little girl, and we always used to do yoga in classes,” Brown said. “I didn’t understand the impact it was having on me.”
She said that she has always been pretty tall, but yoga made her more comfortable with that. Since she was able to participate in yoga and achieve certain goals, that made her feel comfortable in her skin.
“People always freak out and say how can we improve self-esteem, but in reality if they experience their bodies (doing yoga), they will grow to love them,” Brown said.
Yoga can be used for stress relief or a workout, but ultimately Brown hopes that it makes the children comfortable with their own bodies. She also hopes that kids have a little fun in the process.