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Downward-facing puppy

Yoga takes a holistic approach to kids’ health through concentration, flexibility and creativity.

Christina Nihira August 8th, 2012

Kids can get stressed. Spending the afternoon in “tree” position, flitting around like a butterfly or mimicking a cat may be the remedy.

 The Yoga Room, 4027 N. Classen Blvd., holds yoga classes for youngsters that emphasize flexibility and focus through various postures and breathing exercises. Led by instructor Kelly Wessels, the next session begins 3:45 p.m. Monday. Geared toward children ages 5 to 12, the class will have a backto-school theme.

“It will be fun,” said Wessels. “The focus will be on getting them ready for school and on [teaching them] to concentrate after a summer of having no structure or routine.”

She noted that children’s yoga classes concentrate on more simplified movements.

“I feel I have a natural affinity for kids,” said Wessels. “I get inspiration from my own practice.”

Each 45-minute class engages both the mind and body by way of strengthening, stretching and balancing.

Wessels adapted “musical chairs” into “musical mats.” When the music stops, the yoga mat on which they’ve landed holds a card that illustrates a particular pose.

Dance is a theme throughout the class. Wessels believes free-form movement is an important element between structured poses.

“I encourage the kids to come up with their own moves,” she said. “It’s important for the kids to be creative.”

Following the physical portion, time is allotted for relaxation. Deep breathing exercises are introduced to enhance the process.

Wessels helps students practice guided imagery in a resting pose. She lets them think about what they did in class, as well as imagining a restful place like a beach.

“I was really surprised about how well they responded to laying down,” she said. “I’ve never had an experience when the kids are restless at the end.”

An unexpected benefit Wessels has observed is a distinct change in some of the children’s demeanor. In previous classes, several students appeared shy and nervous. As the class progressed, however, they flourished with greater confidence and self-esteem.

Since spring, Jacquelynne Self, age 5, has become a regular participant.

“She would come home showing me her new yoga poses and she got to make some really cool art,” said her mother, Erin Self. “[As parents], we feel it’s important that she be exposed to many different activities as possible.”

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