Before I get into this yoga business, I have to mention Shine Integrative Physical Therapy (SPT). For 20+ years, I’ve experienced chronic neck pain, and I’ve tried about everything to fix it. While most of what I’ve tried did yield positive results (including yoga!), the physical therapy and care I’ve received from SPT has made the pain almost non-existent. If you’ve experienced the same-old-same-old from physical therapists, you might want to give SPT a call. You won’t regret it.
Let’s talk about yoga! As you may or may not know, I have been a yoga instructor myself since around 2002. If it were up to me, all schools would be required to begin with various yoga practices including breathing exercises, meditative reflections, and simple postures. I think this would improve the quality of education. I think it would help focus student attention during long days filled with listening and sitting.
Most likely, your kids are not experiencing yoga at school or anywhere else for that matter. SPT not only offers excellent physical therapy, but to help compliment their care, they offer plenty of yoga classes. One class in particular (Parent & Child Yoga) caught my attention while waiting to see one of Shine’s therapists. Instructor Leslie Wilda also has put together a regularly occurring yoga-pajama party. Here is an excerpt from my interview with her.
PFA: Before we get into some specifics for kids and parents, please tell us a bit about yourself and your credentials concerning yoga instruction.
Leslie: I came to know yoga later in life. I was in my mid thirties and living in Sri Lanka when a friend brought me to a class that was being taught by a Sri Lankan who did not speak English very well but could fold himself into this incredibly small pose. It was interesting, so I went back. It wasn’t until the birth of my son in 2007 though that I developed my own home practice as a way to ease the challenges of being a single parent. I then completed a 200 hr teacher training with Shiva Rea as a way to enhance my practice.
When my son turned two I attended a kids yoga training by Rainbow Kids Yoga because I wanted to learn ways to practice with my son, but instead I had this “aha” moment during the training and I immediately knew that I wanted to change my career path and begin sharing yoga with kids. I’ve been teaching kids for two years now and it’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
PFA: While you run a mobile studio (Yoga Playgrounds), it seems that you have a Parent-Child Yoga class setup with Shine Physical Therapy at their Shine Yoga studio. As stated in the introductory paragraph, I had such an incredible experience working on a chronic neck problem with their physical therapists, and I noticed they integrated yoga into their therapy. Can you talk a bit about your relationship with Shine? What are some of the advantages to working with a reputable group of physical therapists and being part of their structure?
Leslie: I think yoga therapy is becoming increasingly widespread as research begins to highlight its many benefits. Last year I completed my first generalized kids yoga therapy training and am continuing my studies to broaden the foundation of knowledge and tools I currently have to enable me to work with kids having a variety of specific health issues. I was fortunate to begin teaching at Shine when they opened last November.
Having a great working relationship with physical therapists who are experts in their field allows me to draw on their vast base of knowledge and apply it to what I already know. This association between kids’ yoga and physical therapy also lends credibility for many people who have never heard about yoga therapy. More and more people are learning that yoga can help kids who face a variety of health issues like anxiety, depression stress, constipation, asthma, ADD and much more.
PFA: I’m a yoga teacher myself, but I can’t imagine teaching a room filled with kids. Yoga is usually such a quiet and reflective practice. What does it look like for kids and parents? Do you let their energy become part of the practice itself?
Leslie: For one thing, a kids’ yoga class is definitely a lot noisier and more-fast-paced than a traditional adult yoga class. And as anyone who has been around kids knows….they don’t always do what you want them to do. Many times I’ve had to let go of any preconceived notions about what I thought class would look like and just go with the flow, which is what yoga tries to teach us anyway. My classes offer a balance of structure and spontaneity so that the kids are learning as well as getting the opportunity to express themselves creatively. Classes for very young kids (ages 2.5-5) and their parents, like the ones I offer at Shine on Wednesdays at 9:30 and Fridays at 10:30 are very playful. Music, fun props, stories, partner poses and giving silly names to poses all help keep the kids interested, and although the energy level in class is always high, kids really love the relaxation time at the end of every class.
PFA: There might be some parents who might not want to go because they do not practice yoga. They might imagine some of the common stereotypes associated with yoga: a dark room, chanting, people meditating, being bent into a pretzel, etc. However, they might think yoga is beneficial for their child. What can you tell these parents to alleviate some of their concerns?
Leslie: For some adults, that is what their yoga looks like. But yoga is a personal activity that looks different for everyone, and I would encourage anyone who has never experienced it to give it a try, especially at Shine where the first class is free. They will find those stereotypes just don’t hold true for my kids’ classes…although many kids do enjoy bending themselves into pretzels with seemingly no effort at all!
PFA: Why should kids do yoga? What are some of the gains you’ve seen with kids who practice regularly?
Leslie: I could go on and on here. The movements, the focus on breath awareness, and the relaxation inherent in a yoga practice all help kids develop better body awareness and improved self-esteem….both very powerful components of a healthy body image. Yoga can also help kids regulate their emotions, manage stress and calm themselves….tools that will be useful to them their entire lives. Yoga also encourages better posture, coordination, focus, strength, self-discipline and self-control…plus it’s non-competitive and encourages positive peer to peer interaction. And it helps kids set the foundation for lifelong wellness…in both their
body and their mind.
PFA: If this sounds interesting to parents, how do they get started with the class at Shine? What do they need to bring to class?
Leslie: The first class at Shine is always free, and parents can sign up for class ahead of time on the website or they can just drop in. I recommend comfortable clothing, but nothing else is needed. Classes for kids ages 2.5 and a grownup meet Wednesdays at 9:30 and Fridays at 10:30, and every other month I offer an evening yoga pajama party at Shine for kids ages 5-9. Kids come dressed in their pajamas and we go on a magical yoga journey while parents enjoy a night out on their own. It’s great for both the kids and their parents.
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