The yoga sessions for three to six year olds have been running Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. since the beginning of July, with two final sessions on Tuesday, July 26 and Thursday, July 28.
The Queens Family Resource Centre applied for a fitness grant through the Region of Queens. Because they received the grant, the centre was able to offer Yoga for Kids for eight sessions this summer free of charge.
Queens Family Resource Centre coordinator Tracy Hatt says from what she has seen, the sessions are really good and fun for the children.
“The instructor is really great. We do allow the children to have a little bit of free time with the toys and stuff here at the centre, then the yoga instructor will let the kids know it's time for yoga,” says Hatt “We provide a snack for them as well. Sometimes if there's enough time they'll read a story.”
Parents stay and watch the show of laughing, giggling, flopping, posing children, sometimes even getting involved themselves.
“They can help if it's a difficult pose or something like that,” says Hatt. “The parents are more than welcome to help and take part if they wish to.”
Yoga instructor Ali Barclay offers different types of yoga through her business Ali Bee Yoga, which she has been teaching at the Seaside Centre in Beach Meadows for a few years now. Although she has diverse yoga experience, Barclay says she finds there to be quite a difference between yoga with adults, and yoga with young children.
“I think of it as a snowflake, because every day is so different," says Barclay. "Especially with this age group because they're quite little, their attention span can range from 30 seconds to seven minutes."
Barclay says she has some strategies she uses in order to make the sessions run as smoothly as possible with the younger age groups. When the children get too worked up or begin to take interest more in what's going outside their yoga mats, Barclay touches her finger to her nose and encourages the group to follow. She then begins breathing exercises to bring back the children's concentration.
“I think of it as a snowflake, because every day is so different. Especially with this age group because they're quite little, their attention span can range from 30 seconds to seven minutes." - Ali Barclay, yoga instructor
"I try and get them to calm down at certain times," says Barclay. "So we'll do some kind of calming exercises where we breathe a little bit, teaching them to use their breath to slow themselves down."
Barclay also incorporates animal poses into the group so the children can relate to the yoga. To make it more interesting, animal sounds are also permitted. However, sometimes even yoga animal poses turn into snake races across the room and dog wrestling on the mats.
"It's literally about two seconds when they're in a pose, then they're off doing something else," laughs Barclay. "Really it's just about exposure and showing them different things. They only last for so long."
As for what parents should expect when they bring their children to Kid's Yoga, Barclay says hopes for a young yoga master should probably be kept fairly low.
"In general we just try and do some light exercises and get them into movement and breath work," she says. "It's exposure, and experiencing something healthy and active, which I think helps them."
Although the chances of a young yoga master emerging from the sessions are slim, Barclay says the experience can be beneficial outside the classes. Not only are the children gaining exposure to active healthy wellness living, which is part of what Barclay says creates a healthy whole child, but they are able to use what they learn in everyday situations.
“I think it's about learning some strategies to cope with different things that happen in life in general. The calming techniques are really for them to have in their back pocket,” she says. “When they go to school they can use that kind of thing, or even at home. My son does that often, if we put him in a time out to slow him down, he'll take a big breath. It's very simple stuff.”
“This age group is very different. Every group dynamic is different, you just have to be flexible,” says Barclay. “I love it. It's crazy, but it's great.”