Yoga for youngsters

Classes celebrate Month of the Young Child, improve children's fitness

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Yoga instructor Nancy Spooner had never taught children before Friday.

She was unsure whether her new students would be jittery and full of energy or eager to try out the yoga positions she wanted to teach them.

After a 20-minute session --uring which 10 South Routt Early Learning Center preschoolers laid on mats, stretched, swayed like trees and extended their limbs like puppies -- Spooner realized that teaching children wasn't much different from teaching adults.

"Yoga is so good for children. It teaches them to build body awareness," she said.

Spooner's yoga lessons were hosted by the Let's Dance studio in Oak Creek. The activity was one of many events scheduled throughout the month to celebrate the "Month of the Child," a time for education and childcare experts across the nation to focus attention on young children, families and the people who work with them.

The Oak Creek Town Board declared April the "Month of the Young Child" during its Town Board meeting March 24.

Renee Donahue is the early childhood manager for First Impressions of Routt County. She was excited to bring free yoga lessons to South Routt children, especially those who never had been exposed to it.

"We've never tried (yoga) before," Donahue said. "We always are looking for new and unique activities for our programs."

Donahue said she was a little nervous that the young participants would not be able to maintain the attention and focus needed for yoga. But she found herself surprised when the session was over.

"It was great. I think it went really well. The kids didn't wiggle at all or move from their mats," she said.

The South Routt Early Lear--ning Center brought groups of students for a morning class and an afternoon class, and Spooner offered three free classes throughout the day for other children. Yoga, a discipline that uses intense concentration, requires deep meditation, specific postures and controlled breathing.

Donahue said she was glad the children could try yoga because it is important for youths to vary active times during the day with times set aside for relaxation and quiet.

"Yoga seems to help children with the different domains of their growth. It helps with language, social skills and emotional well-being. Yoga does a lot for them," Donahue said.

Spooner agreed.

"(Yoga) is something that will change the scope of their lives. It is a self-discipline. If you develop that at a preschool age, you will be able to control your entire life. The greatest gift you can ever give yourself is quiet time and to get used to it," she said.

Spooner's lessons began with the children introducing themselves and talking about their favorite animals and the sounds they make. Spooner then had the children lie on yoga mats and practice being still. Spooner said after the exercise, she had the children imitate their favorite animals because many yoga positions are based on the movements of animals.

The children then stretched like puppies, hopped like frogs, swayed like trees, waddled like penguins and neighed like horses.

Jacoba Stauffer, 4, said her favorite animal is her black fish, also named Jacoba, and that her favorite yoga pose was acting like the fish.

Jacoba said she would try yoga again.

Spooner said Jacoba's attitude was exactly what she hoped to see from the children after introducing them to yoga.

"Now these kids can go home and teach their parents something," she said.

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