Yoga has developed a strong following in our area with studios popping up across Bucks County. Now children and teens of all ages are discovering the incredible benefits that yoga delivers for both body and mind. Yoga, which means unity, is the practice of integrating all aspects of our selves – both mental and physical – and has been credited with increasing physical strength and flexibility, stress relief and mindfulness.
While yoga classes are extremely popular with adults, we often associate yoga with intense periods of concentration, challenging poses, and quiet relaxation, leading us to ask… can this really work for kids?
Michelle El Khoury, owner of Yogamazia in Richboro, answers with an enthusiastic, YES!
Michelle has been practicing yoga for about 10 years, and is a certified yoga instructor for both adults and children. Michelle, who has a PhD in public health, began practicing yoga casually while working as a pharmaceutical executive. Over time yoga and meditation became a more prominent part of her daily routine. When she became pregnant with her second child, she incorporated elements of yoga and mindfulness exercises in preparation for birth with remarkable results. The experience left her a true believer in the power of yoga – so much so that she became certified to lead classes in pre/post-natal yoga and yoga for children. Michelle also practices yoga as a way to balance her mental health and introduced yoga to her own kids who also independently started their own practice. She was so impressed with the way yoga transformed their lives that she said good-bye to corporate life of 20 years to pursue her passion full time by opening Yogamazia – a studio aimed at parents-to-be and children from babies to teens.
There is a common misconception that yoga has a religious association or cultural message, but yoga as practiced in most studios is simply rooted in the philosophy of developing a strong mind-body connection. Extensive research also confirms how the benefits of yoga for children and during pregnancy are substantial and wide-ranging. A few of the most important benefits include:
Improved physical strength and flexibility: Yoga offers many physical benefits derived through movement, stretching and exercises. These range from increased flexibility, to muscle strength, stamina and better posture.
Stress management and emotional regulation: Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques help during childbirth, and children learn to handle stress, peer and school pressure, anxiety and anger management.
Increased self-esteem and confidence: Mindfulness exercises teach children to focus on gratitude and the positive aspects of their life experiences. This can have a profound impact on every aspect of their lives by shaping the way they react to, and perceive situations. Exercises can help children combat self-doubt and negative self-talk, while empowering them to tackle challenges with confidence.
Yogamazia’s values of G.R.A.C.E (gratitude, respect, authenticity, community, equity) are also important aspects of the classes, modified to offer a kid-friendly yet supportive experience for the older children and pregnant persons:
The emphasis is on fun. Yoga for children is designed to keep kids engaged and feeling empowered. Classes may incorporate upbeat music, games, and weekly themes that expose children to important life lessons (e.g. “Under the Sea” teaches geographical elements about the world's oceans and “From Inner Peace to World Peace” brings in aspect of acceptance, kindness and resilience).
Classes are tailored by age group. Each class incorporates a mix of movement and relaxation techniques that is age appropriate. Classes for toddlers and pre-schoolers focus more on physical activities with shorter segments designed for breathing and mindfulness exercises, while classes for older children and teens address more advanced physical and mindfulness exercises with elements of leadership. Prenatal classes are also structured based on all trimesters using appropriate modifications.
Classes are designed to enhance, not replace, other activities. Yoga classes for children are designed to supplement other activities they are involved with whether it be sports, music, or academic endeavors. For athletes, yoga is an outstanding activity to improve flexibility, endurance and strength, prevent injury, as well as balance the mental aspect of competition. Yoga can also have tremendous rewards in terms of academic performance or to enhance activities requiring concentration and focus such as preparing for exams, music training, dance, or theater.
Michelle says that once children begin to incorporate yoga into their daily routine, bit by bit, the results are often life-changing. “I feel really great about this endeavor. I saw what an incredible impact yoga has had on my children, especially during the pandemic where their academic and social lives were irregular. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that this will be benefitting expectant persons and parents and children of all ages.”
Yogamazia also offers events for the whole family including, family yoga, birthday parties, “Parents Night Out”, as well as collaborations with local schools and childcare centers. Visit http://www.yogamazia.com/ for more information or call (855) GOMAZIA. 130 Almshouse Road, Unit 106, Richboro, PA, 18954. FB/IG: @yogamazia.