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Upward Kids

As a mother of four, Kim Denham knows how chaotic life can get.

As a yoga instructor, she enjoys teaching kids at the Y and her own children how to create balance through breathing.

“At some point in each of their lives they start to stress out or get upset. I remind them to take a deep breath and relax the tension or stress away from their mind and body. Because we learn that calming breathing technique in yoga class, they remember how that works and use it during those stressful times.”

Denham teaches a pre-k yoga class at the Bob Sierra Family Y in Carrollwood. Her Y students range from 3 to 4 years old. Yoga for kids is a growing trend, with classes custom-made for children ages 3 to 11 and teenagers, too!

Denham’s pre-K class is designed around a different theme or concept each week. The classes not only tap into the student’s physical well-being but also aim to enhance their relationships with others.

“For example during the recent Valentine’s holiday, we discussed how we share our love with one another and the different ways we show our love, respecting our teachers and parents, showing kindness to our friends. Then we pretended to be Cupid (dancer’s pose) and then brave warriors (warrior pose) shooting love arrows toward those we love.

“Closing the class we made heart mudras with our hands and rested on our mats with our yoga buddies, reiterating the concept of love and sharing it through kindness in our words and actions. Utilizing music and games keeps kids interested and moving.”

Unlike the adult classes that can go up to an hour, the pre-K class is 30 minutes. “The attention span is of consideration when teaching to various ages, especially preschoolers,” Denham explains. “They need more imaginative play in short burst.”

She says while some of the poses used in the adult classes are the same in the children’s classes, some of the names are changed so that they are simpler and more engaging to the younger children.

“Childs pose turns into mouse pose. Upward facing dog turns into snake pose. The format in an adult class stays on the mat. In the children’s class, we move around a bit more,” Denham adds.

The one thing the classes do have in common is the routine. “Both adults and children operate best when they know what is going to happen next, and I try to keep that consistent in both classes,” Denham says. “We also use music that the children relate to during class.”

And yoga doesn’t just stretch the body but also minds. “They can pretend to be anything they want through poses while being active in their bodies,” Denham says. “Learning the importance of breathing techniques during stressful situations will serve them through their entire lives. Yoga is accessible to all children, enabling a sense of adventure, independence and confidence in their own bodies and minds.”

Yoga is also showing big benefits to children with ADHD and autism. According to a study out of New York University and Autism Key, a support website for autism, yoga helps to ease anxiety and boost motor coordination.

As for the teen students, their classes can go up to an hour, just like the adults. A class with teens “can consist of more challenging poses and also the addition of more pop culture songs to keep them engaged. The group can now emulate a real yoga class and also make connections from body and mind, subconsciously,” Denham says.

She points out that yoga helps children build awareness, strength and flexibility as well as self-control and focused concentration. “They can utilize the breathing techniques as a calming tool outside of yoga class and in their everyday lives,” she says.

Some of the techniques she uses in class have helped her in her busy household when her kids argue or get irritated with one another.

“We learn the lion’s breath in yoga that helps reduce frustrations.” To perform lion’s breath, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and exhale like a lion.

Another technique that Denham says can help kids and parents is calming breath. Fill your belly like a balloon then slowly release the air by pretending to blow out birthday candles.

Denham says yoga even awakens her inner child. “I am a mother of four and still play on my mat every chance I get.”


Lissette Campos is director of community affairs and Kristin Moore is Special Projects Producer for ABC Action News. 

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