On a recent Tuesday evening, my son was a lion and I was a laughing hyena.
Together we took a family class at Yoga Buttons, the city’s newest yoga studio and one of the few that caters to children and teens.
As a group, we worked to come up with a symbolic pose for the animal we each chose. There were horses, hippos, dragons and cobras. It was great to see the excitement build as sounds and facial expressions were added to the standard physical representation of each pose.
Yoga Buttons Studio, which is located in Kitsilano, is a place where kids and their families can breathe and play together in a colourful, safe space, said founder Carolyn Lundie. A single mom, Lundie returned to Vancouver after a solo, soul-searching trip to Goa, India and six months later opened Yoga Buttons, which celebrated its first anniversary in September.
The studio’s name has a personal connection to Lundie’s family, she said. “My dad called me buttonni, which in Italian means ‘my little button.’”
The main difference between kids and adult yoga is play, said Cari-Lee Stevens of CLS Fitness. “Kids’ yoga can be very playful and fun. It gives them a sense of power with what their bodies can do,” she said. “If you start them young enough on the principles and philosophies of yoga, it’s a great foundation for daily life.”
Stevens brings yoga into the classroom at elementary and secondary schools like L’ecole bilingue, York House and Winston Churchill. As long as the yoga instructor is qualified, Stevens said even headstand poses are low risk because children’s bodies are much more limber and naturally flexibility than older youth or adults.
Children need a variety of different physical activities, said ‘NSTEP founder Deb Hymers. Those include flexibility, strength, endurance and most importantly, she said, “unstructured play.”
‘NSTEP is a non-profit organization that brings nutritional and physical activity programming to B.C. and Alberta schools to prevent obesity. Yoga can be part of a balanced lifestyle, but children should pursue multiple and diverse activities.
“While yoga is beneficial, […] children should be having a variety of activities so they have the healthy habit of being active for life,” said Hymers.
For Lundie, stress and the go-go-go pace of city life became boldly apparent while working as an elementary school teacher. Parents make time for yoga practice in their own hectic schedules, so why aren’t we guiding our kids to do the same? Better yet, she asked, why aren’t we doing it together?
When my son Cash and I participated in Lundie’s Family Buttons class, our favourite moments were working on our breathing by passing a ball and placing little buttons on our forehead over our “third eye” to stay focused. Before the relaxation exercise Savasanah, Lundie sprinkled each participant young and old with sparkles and lavender mist, reminding each of us to honour our child within and to sparkle every day.
“Kids love visuals,” she said. “The message is that we are not expecting kids to be adults.”
My son was resistant when I asked him to join me for this yoga play date, but after class I asked him what he liked best. He said he liked the “calm,” the “stretch,” and “us being happy together.”
Visit yogabuttons.com for a schedule. Sunday Family Buttons classes are by donation with proceeds given to a children’s charity of choice. For a great one-stop shop for sourcing family yoga classes at community centres, visit butterflyyoga.ca.
Stephanie Florian is always chasing her next adventure and plays with her family in the mountains and on the sea. Get in touch at www.playoutdoorsvancouver.ca and Twitter.com/@PlayOutdoorsVan.
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