Three-year-olds aren’t known for their inner calm, but they are a fast-growing yoga demographic. Yoga classes for children, pioneered by Midwestern yoga teacher Marsha Wenig, have grown so popular that there are studios devoted solely to pint-sized yogis (ages two and up) and pre-schools and grade schools are adding yoga to the curriculum. Namaste to that!
Not surprisingly, their classes are shorter than ours (about 45 minutes) and a good deal more playful. A specially trained teacher leads them through a sun dance (basically sun salutation A) and then on an adventure to a forest, for example, where they’ll imagine and act out the movements of the animals they encounter—frogs, fish, butterflies, and snakes. Many poses, inversions for example, are avoided since their bones are still developing and their cervical spines are delicate.
Given that the practice is so different, do children get the same calming, strengthening, centering benefits that we do? Jennifer Cohen, founder Manhattan’s Little Flower Yoga notices the poses build “better self confidence and the willingness to try unfamiliar things.” Founder of Karma Kids Shari Vilchez-Blatt says, “I’ve watched kids get stronger, more flexible, and more centered. It’s amazing how kids learn to use the tools in yoga, such as breathing techniques, and apply them in other parts of their life.” In fact, a study done by California State University in conjunction with Gaiam and Yoga Ed. showed that yoga improves self-esteem, physical health and grade point averages among children.
So what should you know before signing your kid up? Vilchez-Blatt of Karma Kids suggests making sure that the instructor has been specially trained to work with children. Given the huge and somewhat sudden interest in kids yoga, many adult yoga teachers are simply adding kids classes without understanding all the necessary modifications. You’ll find high-quality kids classes at these local studios:
Karma Kids Yoga offers classes for babies (Mommy & Me yoga) up to 12-year-olds at its main studio near Union Square, as well as a selections of classes at several other locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Little Flower Yoga offers kids, family and adult classes at various schools and youth programs in the boroughs. Many allow public drop-ins.
Bend and Bloom Yoga is a Park Slope based studio offering classes for tots, and kids that often coinciding with adult classes so kids and parents can practice simultaneously.