by: Erika Prafder
Looking for a mess-free bonding activity with the kiddos? Toss the yoga mats in the trunk and head to a family yoga class.
Doreen Foxwell began teaching such sessions twelve years ago through The Children's School of Yoga. Her self-designed classes and workshops are currently offered at over 150 locations throughout the North East, and she says, they’re gaining in popularity for the under-ten age set. “There are so many drop-off activities today. Family-style yoga is something to do together,” says Foxwell. Plus, younger children gain confidence with mom or dad on hand to assist them, she says.
Limited to fifteen participants, Foxwell changes up the themes of her six or twelve-session classes biweekly and includes poses, relaxation and breathing techniques. She advises caregivers to leave their expectations at the studio door.
“Some parent-yogis try to get their child to be in a pose perfectly, but we discourage it, as it can affect self-esteem. It’s all about fun and affirmation,” says the teacher. For over-active youngsters, ADD tendencies or those who are autistic, “We make a point to suggest particular poses, breaths and chants that may help,” says Foxwell.
Working your sillies out together as a unit has long-lasting perks, says Foxwell.“There are wonderful life skills that parents can introduce at this young age, such as stress management, compassion and patience. Kids can practice them throughout their adult life,” she says.
Blood is thicker than water, but try telling that to two siblings going at it like cat and dog. Heather Gobbee has seen her fair share of the ugliness and beauty that stem from this unique relationship. A Kids and Family yoga instructor at Bend & Bloom Yoga studio in Brooklyn, New York, Gobbee says, “Things go well and don’t go well in class. It can be unpredictable.”
Age, birth order and maturity often play a role in the experience. With the three to five-year-old age set, “I’ve had kids who wants to be near their big siblings and do partner poses together, and others who get distracted and just want to play,” says Gobbee. If one sibling is more developmentally challenged than another, “It can be frustrating for a child,” says Gobbee. But, on a positive note, “Partner yoga requires teamwork. They have to figure out poses together, which keeps them engaged and supportive of one another,” says Gobbee.
If siblings bug each other during a yoga session, Gobbee tries to keep things positive. “I address their unique strengths and remind them of how lucky they are to have a brother or sister with such qualities,” says Gobbee.
While yoga can help foster a lovely bond between some siblings, parents should be cautioned about forcing yoga on them as a bonding activity. “There may be times when one sibling genuinely needs a break from another. You’ve got to know your child,” says Gobbee.
As a perfect Summer activity to do together while the kids are out of school, give family yoga a try for yourself!