Daycare center features yoga, meditation for youngsters (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Rebekah Scott, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Eighteen tiny yogis sit on miniature mats, their eyes are closed, hands still, palms up and fingertips forming O’s.

Hunter and Cameron, Angelina and Jamal, Gabe, Emma, and Mitch are all 4, 5 or 6 years old, and this is Tuesday afternoon yoga time at Wisdom and Wonders day care center and preschool in Greensburg.

The lights are low. The silence is total, but very, very temporary.

Angelina has the giggles, and Brendan’s got the wiggles. Austin has sniffles. But Tracey Thomas — “Miss Tracey” to this crowd — has a plan, inspired by a Sunday comic strip.

“We’re going to make the alphabet with our bodies!” she tells the class. The tots jump up, grinning and stretching and ready to “do yogi-ing” again.

A is an alligator, a belly-down upward kick with feet together and gnashing jaws made of both arms. Some would call it a “modified locust pose,” or even a shalabha-asana.

These “alligators” roar and wriggle…

B is a butterfly, with flapping knees and elbows and twitching antennae. C is a cat, an on-all-fours, up-and-down stretch for back and belly. And D is the much-loved “downward dog,” where 15 hands-and-knees “cats” transform in a single breath to howling hounds, their bottoms in the air and bodies forming perfect inverted V’s.

Small children are yoga naturals, Thomas says, because they’re energetic and unafraid to try things their friends are doing. They’re not self-conscious, and often their elastic little bodies know no bounds.

Kids’ yoga isn’t new in Western Pennsylvania. Yoga centers from Coraopolis to Carnegie offer classes for youngsters, but Thomas says she doesn’t know of another daycare center with its own yoga studio, meditation room and yoga gym.

Wisdom and Wonders is 1 year old, but Thomas has been a grammar school and day care teacher for more than a decade. She opened a day care when she needed one for her daughter and could find nothing suitable.

“Think about it,” she says. “A child’s life is full of stress, with upheaval at home and constant stimulation from television and lessons and siblings. … And when they go to day care, that’s stressful too. All those bright colors and flashy entertainment. We take an opposite tack here. Neutral colors, low light, soft music, quiet voices. And yoga. The kids love it. We’ve opened the classes to their parents, too, but so far we haven’t had a single taker. Everyone’s so busy.”

Many children see yoga as just another part of their day. Little Austin, at times a “holy terror,” somehow finds solace in yoga. When it’s time to sit quietly in mediation pose, he’s there on his mat, perfectly still for five minutes at a time.

“It’s not time out, It’s just like quietness all around,” the little boy says.

“This isn’t religion. It’s really just quiet, no matter what you might have heard. No worship going on here,” said Mary Furlo, a preschool teacher and co-owner at Wisdom and Wonders.

An after-school yoga class for older kids meets late in the afternoon, but it’s not working out too well, Furlo said. It’s a victim of its own success.

“The parents come to pick up their kids while the class is going on, and the kids don’t want to leave,” she said. “We don’t want to cause family fights, so we’re re-thinking how to schedule this.”

Thomas teaches a round of adult yoga classes, too, starting at 5:30 a.m. and extending to 9 p.m. “It’s a long day, and I shouldn’t have the energy to do it all,” Thomas said. “But I’m doing yoga. That’s what keeps me going.”

‘It’s not time out; it’s just like quietness all around’ Read the rest of the article…

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