On Feb. 9, 10-week-old infant Frances Spruce had plenty of reasons to smile.
“Frances rolled over for the first time this morning and now we’re taking a yoga class together, so this is a big day for her,” said the girl’s mom, Laura, as her baby cooed softly. “Besides, I thought it would be fun to try yoga, meet other moms and have a good time.”
Hosted at Library 21c, the Baby Yoga and Family Yoga classes provided youngsters from crawling stage to age 12 with an opportunity explore breathing techniques, body movement and mindfulness in a playful and engaging environment.
About 60 parents and infants attended both classes during which they learned traditional yoga postures that focus on balance, strength and fun.
Participants were thrilled with whimsical yoga instructor Lynn Shepherd who, with her psychedelic workout pants and blue-green streaked dark hair provided a positive, upbeat experience. “We’re going to practice some traditional yoga postures that will be fun while getting a good workout,” Shepherd said as participants nodded their heads.
Babies participated in the classes, though parents did most of the work. Shepherd instructed parents to rub their babies’ stomachs clockwise and gently work their limbs. She then instructed parents to hoist their infants above their heads and breathe deeply. Babies filled the air with laughter as parents lay on their backs and stretched their legs toward the ceiling.
Woodmen resident Kathryn Kuper brought her son Tyler, 6 months, to the class “to get some exercise and have something fun to do.”
Residents Ryan and Claire Johnson and their son, Luke, 6 months, also participated in the class. “This is about our fifth time here. It’s always great to get some exercise and have fun,” Ryan said as Luke nuzzled closer to his dad.
Shepherd kicked off the Family Yoga session by instructing participants to perform deep-breathing exercises, and stand on one foot and raise their arms over their heads. “Pretend you’re waving to the sun,” said Shepherd as some participants laughed.
Shepherd said yoga benefits everyone because participants can control their bodily emotions without fear of ridicule and articulate their experiences to others. Yoga has a huge effect on the body and supporting digestive, nervous and respiratory systems, influences behavior and emotions, and affects mental health and creativity, she said.
Though adults combat stress in many ways, children also are as stressed and, in some cases, more so. Children are expected to keep pace with competition in schools and colleges, deal with peer pressure, be engaged in extracurricular activities, and meet their parents and teachers’ expectations. For these reasons instructors, parents and psychologists recommend introducing children to yoga by age 8 since immune system health is established by that time.
As for adults, it’s important to exercise daily to maintain strong muscle tone and prevent serious injury, especially as they age, Shepherd said. Practicing yoga is a great way to launch a healthy exercise regime, she said. “It’s easy to fall off the exercise wagon, but when that happens get back on board and pick up where you left off,” Shepherd said.
“The Pikes Peak Library District does a great job with these yoga classes, and I recommend that everyone try it,” Shepherd said.