Yoga for youngsters

>> Instructor gets kids in on the stretching act


Name: Kate Hudson

Age: 36

Occupation: Yoga instructor

Bio: This spunky St-Henri gal had been “working in an office and hating it, looking for a way out” when “one day while lying on a yoga mat, I decided that,‘This is it, I’m going to be a yoga instructor.’” Having welllearned her stuff at the Natural Health Consultants Institute in N.D.G., when the gods decided soon thereafter that it was time she be unceremoniously laid off from her office gig, Kate hooked up with her bud/business partner Michelle and Ambaa Yoga ( of St-Henri was born. “We opened in St- Henri because our focus is really on family and community and there was nothing like that here—and now 95 per cent of our students come from the neighbourhood.” For the past year or so, Kate has taken it upon herself to teach yoga to children as young as 20 months old, and in the fall will once again be offering courses to daycare workers, educators and the like on how to do the same. She drives a 1993 Mazda Protégé.

Why bother teaching yoga to toddlers?“Oh, there’re so many reasons. It’s teaching them to be who they are, but in a way that works for them. It’s about the children expressing themselves through art and movement and music and having fun while learning how to stay calm and focused. Like, we’ll have them do something really exciting and then we’ll help them calm down, so in their regular lives when they do really exciting activities, they’ll know how to bring themselves back again. We really try to incorporate all the ideas of yoga philosophy and bring that to children. It’s yoga as a way of life—a happier, freer way of life.”

Are they offering any nude yoga classes for children yet? “Um, no.”

Has she ever come across a kid who actually wanted to learn yoga on their own, who wasn’t forced to attend by their hippie parents? Yes, once. “Most kids though, once they start, they really love it—boys especially.”

One species of child that can really benefit through yoga: Special needs kids. “Yoga’s particularly great for kids with learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, behavioural problems or ADD/ADHD. We structure the class so the children always have something to do, so rather than asking a child to meditate and sit quietly for five minutes, we ask them to practise listening to things, which is very different than asking them to sit quietly and do nothing. It’s really about approaching each class with love and seeing each kid as an individual, as who they are.”

Couldn’t the same effects be achieved by simply pumping these nutty kids up with drugs and actually getting to the root of their problems? “Ha, that depends on what you read. Drugs might be appropriate for some children, but not all.”

Last book read: A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth.

Musical preferences: Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, Krishna Das

Words of wisdom: “When you’re stuck in a decision and scared and don’t know what to do, always ask yourself if you’re acting from fear or from love, and go with the love.”


Yoga, Parents and Children, from Yoga Montreal -

May 1, 2009

From pregnancy to the late teenage years, the path of yoga has specialized practices for parents and children -- that set the conditions for children to grow with healthy bodies, minds and spirits. 

Prenatal yoga classes prepare expectant mothers for childbirth, and help them deal with aches and pains. A mindful, safe gentle yoga class lends itself well to prenatal yoga, with some adaptation for the physical condition, preparing for childbirth, and an intention that focuses on the mother-baby bond.

“People are busy, and sometimes they may not have time to simply assimilate what is happening when they are pregnant,” notes Isabelle Lemay, manager of Ambaa Yoga in southwest Montreal. “This is a chance to be present with their bodies; to have meditative time with themselves and to joyfully accept the life that is growing inside them.” As the term of pregnancy advances, the unborn child also has an experience of the class. “Even at 20 weeks, the baby can hear the sound of a deep OM. That’s a sound that can give reassurance for an entire lifetime,” said Lemay. 

Whether or not they started with prenatal classes, many mothers take their newborns to mother-baby yoga for quality time with baby. Here the focus is on relaxation techniques, and socializing between mothers. There are breathing exercises, simple stretches, baby massage, simple movements for babies, and tips like reflexology massages of baby feet. The baby is involved in all of the mother’s movements. 

When babies begin to crawl, it’s a different scene. Kate Hudson, a Montreal yoga teacher who trains teachers in the Little Lotus system of yoga for children, describes a yoga class for toddlers (starting around 18 months): 

“It can be chaotic, if you are used to a serene class in a yoga studio. But the children learn how to go from excited to calm, and to understand their own states and transitions. Most of all, though, they are having fun: when toddlers do the tree pose, for example, they profoundly embody every aspect of the tree.”

Children’s yoga is increasingly offered at schools and after-school programs. “It’s hard to schedule yoga classes for children,” notes Hudson. “Yoga at school is much more accessible. We are finding a lot of daycare and elementary school educators taking the Little Lotus training.”

Angie Continisio, the founder of Kids Butterfly Yoga, describes classes for preschool children as “very lively. Kids act out animals and nature. They love moments like the lion breath, and in a playful way they are introduced to poses they will learn more precisely as they grow up.” 

Up to age 4, classes are short, typically a half hour. As attention spans and endurance lengthen, classes become longer. By age 5 the classes will go 45 minutes, and by age 8, one hour. 

When it comes to the pre-teen period, yoga can help young people accept their bodies and the changes they are going through, says Continisio. She also observes lots of boys coming to yoga classes. “Boys need this ability to focus that comes from yoga practice. Many of them are playing sports, and know that yoga helps with concentration and avoiding injuries through flexibility. Boys playing hockey, soccer and other sports also read about their heroes doing yoga, and are eager to follow them.”

While most children are physically ready for regular yoga classes by age 14, teen yoga classes can be very good for them as well, says Kate Hudson. “This is a very challenging time in their lives, as they develop the 3rd chakra attributes, develop ego, talents and gifts. A yoga class for teenagers has a slightly different intention, aimed at helping them reach adulthood and autonomy, and offering help and guidance for that particular stage of life.”


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