Yoga Springs Studio


Yoga for Youngsters

By Zhenya Karelina, Staff Writer Dayton Daily News

Featured in the Life Section of Dayton Daily News, July 27, 2007

Yoga for youngsters
Learning the activity at an early age helps children develop self-esteem, discipline and concentration while strengthening bonds with parents.

YELLOW SPRINGS — Bent down on hands and knees, toddlers and their parents practice the “cat pose.” The group packs together on a cushy rectangle made from yoga mats, all arching their backs. Some children “meow” out loud.

This is Yoga Sprouts, a class designed for young children, which takes place each Saturday at the Yoga Springs Studio in Yellow Springs.

For Aimee Maruyama, the Yoga Sprouts instructor, the idea to teach the class came about organically. Practicing yoga in the living room, she found her two toddler-age children mimicking the stances. “Whatever I was doing, they wanted to do. I started teaching them little bits.”

Inspired by her children’s “natural flexibility,” Maruyama took a training course with Itsy Bitsy Yoga. In June, she introduced the class to the Yellow Springs studio, which is making an effort to turn yoga into an activity for the family.

The calm, sunlit studio is in sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. “Kids get so much stimulation,” Maruyama says. This class is meant to be “a place to learn focus, breathing and concentration in an indirect way.”

Soft music brings the chirping of birds into the room. Here, a parent and child can focus solely on each other. “It’s hard to find activities that are just you and me. A big part of the class is helping to deepen the parent-child bond,” Maruyama says.

Attending her third session, Elizabeth Lutz-Hackett of Yellow Springs wanted to share her love of yoga with her son, Liam, 3. “Yoga is something good he can add to his life. For me, it’s good for my body and brings emotional balance.”

While Liam was slightly unfocused during one Saturday class, Lutz-Hackett says he usually goes home and practices the poses.

Each session uses a variety of methods to gain student participation, including stretches, yoga-adapted song, games and storytelling. However, the class doesn’t follow a set program, but changes in accordance with the children’s energy level. “It’s very fluid. Sometimes they just need a lap around the mat,” Maruyama says.

For the young yoga students, the poses take on a literal meaning. In mountain pose (palms together with fingers pointed upward, held at chest level), the students stand sturdy, like rocky peaks. Next, they move into volcano pose, imitating an explosion by jumping into the air with hands flying above their heads.

The seemingly simple exercises have strong positive effects. It’s a “playful way to bring children into exercise” and sends “a great body-image message.”

For the final minutes of the session, the class reforms a circle. One shy toddler sits close beside her mother while another is cradled in his parent’s crisscrossed legs.

Maruyama asks parents and children to exchange an affirmation, a positive statement about the day’s class.

Liam proudly declares to his mom, “Sharks live in the ocean.” The final sound before dismissal is her happy laughter.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2270 or