Yoga for the Wild One

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned her daughter’s daycare offered yoga lessons. Knowing I’ve done yoga for years, she asked me if I ever considered yoga for my 4-year-old.

I snickered. There’s no way my kid, the one with the energy level and attention span of a Jack Russell terrier, could ever wind down enough to relax in a child’s pose, right?

Not so, according to Meg Krejci, executive director of Masterpeace Studios at Crestwood Court. “Kids like that do great with yoga,” she assured me. “Those with the highest energy levels who really don’t know what to do with all that energy especially benefit from the relaxation of yoga. And it's fun – they love it!"

For the past six years, the nonprofit Masterpeace Studios has introduced children of all ages to the benefits of yoga. Built around the YogaKids curriculum and Mind-Body Stress Reduction for Kids, Masterpeace’s Move Into Yoga & Art classes combine movement, guided imagery and art, helping children learn how to achieve a state of relaxation and awareness – a skill even the most rambunctious preschooler can use to calm down.

“Through yoga, kids gain awareness of their bodies and breathing and find the tools they need to relax,” said Krejci. “Ultimately, we want our kids to be self-regulating, to be aware of their bodies when feeling anxious, nervous, scared or angry. When you know how to take deep breaths in these situations, you take care of yourself and calm yourself down.”

Instruction for kids

While Masterpeace Studios offers a variety of classes for adults, Yoga & Art Classes for children are its specialty. Each children’s class is built around a theme. During an “ocean” class, for instance, students learn marine-themed yoga poses, visualize themselves on an undersea adventure and paint a watercolor of what they saw during their imaginary journey. Explained Krejci, “The watercolor serves as an anchor. They can bring it home and go right back to that visualization to calm their body once again.”

As children grow older, the classes grow along with them. Junior high students, for instance, start learning mind and body stress reduction through mediation, mindfulness practices and partner poses to increase their flexibility and stamina. To provide students with a sense of familiarity and match their energy levels, classes feature rap and other pop tunes as opposed to traditional Eastern music.

In addition to providing classes at their studio at Crestwood Court, Masterpeace has an extensive outreach program, serving schoolchildren and kids with special needs as well as instructing teachers on how to use in classroom breathing and relaxation techniques to prepare their students’ brains and bodies for learning.

Whether in-studio on in the community, Krejci  has observed how yoga benefits all children, especially those at risk. “Many at-risk kids don’t know how to stop and relax. Their lives are often chaotic, and they use their energy to get attention. When they are able to lie down and rest through yoga, they are amazed at the sense of relaxation they feel.”

Just like their parents, kids have difficulties tuning out from our over-stimulated, over-scheduled lives. Learning how to decompress is a skill many have yet to master. I still can barely do it, and I’m old. By introducing children to yoga, you can provide them with a guide for relaxation they can use for years to come.

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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