In these enlightened times, it doesn't take a guru to know the best age to start learning downward facing dog is as a young pup.
This month, Kidspace, the 28-year-old Pasadena children's museum with the emphasis on arts, science and the humanities, begins offering five-week sessions of yoga for children. Classes start Tuesday for youngsters ages 3 to 5. The following day, kids ages 6 to 9 can begin to get a leg up -- and possibly over their heads -- en route to exact chakra location.
"Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them," wrote Marsha Wenig in Yoga Journal earlier this year. The presumption is that the sooner tykes get lotus down, the sooner they can decide among hatha, kundalini or Bikram. "Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface," Wenig explained.
"Believe it or not, doing yoga with babies has become a popular thing, although a child can't do the poses exactly," says Valerie R. Oguss, education director of Kidspace. "It's interesting: If you combine yoga with things they are familiar with -- things in nature such as animals or plant life -- it's a great way for children to build up their strength and stamina -- and also build their focus and mental stamina and pre-literacy skills."
Role-play will be at the center of Kidspace's approach. A scenario might be cultivated in which the class goes on an imaginary journey. In encountering the sun and other living "characters," the acting out of a narrative takes place. Through basic yoga poses and breathing, an especially vivid and engaging kind of storytelling unfolds. Fundamentally, it can't help but be a good thing to get the heebie-jeebies about "corpse pose" out of the way as soon as possible.
Oguss shares excitement about the critical thinking skills cultivated through early-childhood yoga, and the bonding that's a natural offshoot.
"The best part," Oguss says, "is that they can do this with their caregiver, side by side."
-- Donnell Alexander
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KIDS YOGA AT KIDSPACE
WHERE: 480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena
WHEN: Five-week sessions for 3- to 5-year-olds begin 3 p.m. Tue.; 6- to 9-year-olds class begins 3 p.m. Wed.
PRICE: $50 for entire session
INFO: (626) 449-9144; www.kidspacemuseum.org