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Baby Yoga Big Hit in New York

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

The sound of the Tibetan bowl rings in another yoga class.

But this time the students are a little younger than usual in New York.

Yoga has become more mainstream as a form of physical exercise in recent years. And not just for adults.

At Yogi Beans on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, children also benefit from yoga. The private studio offers classes to mothers with infants as young as 6 weeks old.

Co-owner Lauren Chaitoff says "crawlers" to 15-year-olds can sign up for classes. And unlike most activities, it's not competitive.

"You know the same principles you'll find in an adult class you'll find in a Yogi Beans class. There's going to be the poses so that's the physical. So for a parent that wants their child to have a physical activity you're getting that in yoga. And what's great about the physical component of yoga is that it is non-competitive. It's called a yoga practice."

The physical practice includes strengthening, coordination, balance, and flexibility exercises but yoga also teaches mindfulness, focus, concentration and relaxation, which sets it apart from typical after-school activities.

Chaitoff says she simplifies the exercises for children, but the same principles apply for children and adults.

"You know in ballet, you're usually working up to a recital. In judo or martial arts you're trying to achieve a certain belt. In yoga you're just able to be. You're able to practice. It's not about how good your pose is. It's your own personal practice, so that I think is really important. We're really about making children feel good and confident in their bodies and in their ability."

Mum, Danielle Sanjenis is evangelical about the benefits of yoga in her life, and her children's.

"I wish I had this, the benefits of yoga as a child. I didn't get into yoga until I was around thirty and it's changed my life completely. It's given me tools to deal with everyday stresses, big problems, little problems. It's a way of life for me and to see my kids growing up with the benefits of this. I mean they can rule the world."

Chaitoff started Yogi Beans with co-owner Alexa Klein. The two have been fielding inquiries from around the world. Klein says they've received calls from people in Sydney, Australia, Dubai and Japan who are interested in yoga for children.

It seems to be catching on.

"Over the last year or two more and more schools are reaching out to us rather than us going to them to try to tell them about yoga, " says Klein.

Alexa Klein says it calms children down in the classroom.

"Over the last year or two more and more schools are reaching out to us rather than us going to them to try to tell them about yoga. They're actually seeking out yoga for the benefits that it has especially in a school setting. It's not just an activity where kids get to run wild and then they go back to a classroom because it has shavasana and these elements of quietness at the end and meditation and we do meditative games. Administrators love it because they get focused children to come back into their classroom."

And the children seem to agree too.

9-year-old Sofia Miller says yoga is: "a place where you can build your confidence for yourself and a place where you can become a better person."

Her younger brother, 5-year-old Jacob Miller says he's "learned not to be crazy and to be quiet."

Their classmate 8-year-old, Lilly Bick says it calms her: "I usually do yoga after school so I feel really hyper and when I leave yoga I feel really calm."

Kimberly Schlosser brings her two daughters to Yogi Beans for weekly classes. She says she worries that in today's fast-paced and competitive culture children can get stressed out.

"There's all sorts of hard things in the news and it trickles down, definitely," says Schlosser. " I found when I did yoga for it to be very calming and I think for my children it is as well."

During a 45-minute class the children go through a number of poses including "frog," "tree," "mountain" and the popular "downward dog." They practice breathing exercises and exercises that teach them to be confident and comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings.

Seated on their mats the children pass a stuffed flower to each other with their feet while saying aloud what they are grateful for, and one child in the yoga class, she feels very lucky.


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