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Going With the Flow

Taking the time to relax, breathe and stretch has many benefits for children.

Child’s pose, or balasana, is a resting posture in yoga that involves several steps to achieve proper body position. Once learned, it’s the perfect pose for reconnecting to your breath. Getting into it the first time can be challenging, unless you are practicing kids’ yoga. “We use our imaginations,” says Colleen Weiglein of Fusion Yoga & Wellness in Estero, explaining that in child’s pose she instructs her students to pretend they are polar bear cubs, scooping snow over their little noses with their paws as they settle into position and focus on their breath. “They start to learn that when they breathe, they can calm themselves down,” she says. To teach kids the process of using their breath, she has them reach their arms up and pull down a cloud, then smell it, and blow the cloud away.

Breathing is also a key part of Julie Frizzi’s yoga classes with students in Collier County Public Schools. She began practicing yoga 15 years ago after taking a class with other teachers, and was surprised by how calm and relaxed she felt afterward. “I knew that if I felt the difference, one tiny person in this one little class, I kept thinking what it could do for children,” she says. She started a before-school yoga class after writing a grant for yoga mats, and the program took off from there.

As a district school counselor and author, Frizzi integrates breathing and stretching into her lessons. “The big buzz word is self-regulation,” she explains. “Regulating those strong emotions, being able to tap into that internal state and recognize how you are feeling.” When students use their breath, Frizzi notes that it helps calm fear and anxiety by balancing the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Other benefits include self-awareness and social awareness, topics Frizzi explores with her students and through her Powerful You website, books and YouTube videos.

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The videos became an essential part of students and teachers continuing their yoga practice when schools moved to virtual learning last March. As studios, like The Yoga Sanctuary in Port Charlotte, had to pause kid’s classes over pandemic concerns, and other studios in the area closed their doors for good, virtual yoga has become a more important tool for relieving stress and anxiety.

Salima Silverman, yoga instructor and mother from East Naples, notes that now is the perfect time to start practicing yoga as a family, no matter your children’s ages. She encourages her older students to become their own yoga teachers so they can go home and teach their parents. For pre-K, she recommends starting with 10 minutes, focusing on movement, stretching and breathing. With her 6-year-old son, they wake up, stretch, sing a morning song, then sit and practice meditation for one minute. Keeping it short and simple, eventually blossoms into a longer practice. “A lot of kids in pre-K like to mimic, so if they see mom and dad doing it, they want to do it too,” she says. “To create the space, any time of the day, for parent and child to practice, is so wonderful.”