Toddlers lay in a circle breathing quietly. No, it wasn’t nap time — yoga time.
Yoga is having its moment nationwide, as trendy and often expensive studios pop up from coast to coast. But at its root yoga is about moving your body, being mindful and controlling your breath.
That’s why Emily Bedell thinks it’s a great fit for little ones.
“We only teach breathing when kids are upset,” Bedell said. “But what about while they are happy?”
During a July 24 class in Miller Park Children’s Learning Center kids ran around in a circle, getting some of their jitters out first. Then they sat on their mats and did a simple “peace begins with me” chant to begin. Unsurprisingly, some toddlers were more focused than others.
“It’s fun to see the silliness,” Bedell said. “They don’t really know I’m doing yoga.”
Bedell had the children stretch out their arms by miming sitting and watching TV and reaching around to grab pretzels. Then they alternated being animals — cats and cows — as they moved through more traditional yoga poses.
The sound of “moos” and “meows” filled the air as children made noises along with the poses. That included barking and howling during downward facing dog. Other positions were taught through a story that flowed along with music.
One story took them through a trip to the beach. Another talked about professions that parents do — for example, a character’s father was a gardener — so kids worked their way into tree pose.
Bedell received her 200-hour yoga certification from the Teton Yoga Shala in 2014 and became a certified children’s yoga instructor this spring. As a practitioner of yoga for over 15 years she shows no signs of stopping and now devotes time to offering free yoga for teachers in Teton County School District 401 in Idaho. She also teaches yoga in her Victor Elementary School kindergarten classroom.
Bedell teaches her own style of a global program called Kidding Around Yoga, a curriculum designed to encourage children to be active, build confidence and manage their emotions. The program sneaks yoga poses into partner exercises, games, activities, storytelling and even music.
“It’s so much different and so much fun,” Bedell said. “I’m not interested in alignment, and it’s not about the pose. It’s more about the movement, and it’s boisterous — as it should be.”
The skeletons of yoga, Bedell said, like breath and deep relaxation, are the same. The only rule? Stay on your mat unless otherwise asked.
Bedell’s program for Children’s Learning Center consisted of a four-week stint with 30 minutes of yoga each week.
At the end of the program families were invited to a free yoga night — where kids could share what they learned — and Children’s Learning Center teachers were given a starter kit to continue yoga in their classrooms.
Bedell sees an opportunity for children’s yoga to expand in the area in the future. She says she is an advocate for kids yoga, especially in schools. As a dancer, she said, she is “drawn to movement.”
She notices a difference in her elementary school class when they practice yoga.
“It can bring us up and bring us back down again,” she said. “I love it. The main goal is for them to rest at the very end.”
Bedell feels at peace with kids and understands some might have traumatic pasts to come to terms with. She hopes yoga is one way for them to cope.
“Little kids are my people,” she said. “How would I have been if I had been exposed to something like this when I was their age?”