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The Next Generation of Yogis

May 12, 2011
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Growing up a yogi. Image via

The majority of people who practice yoga probably didn’t discover it until college, or beyond. But with the booming popularity of yoga in popular culture—on TV, in advertisements, and in classes like prenatal yoga, mommy-and-newborn yoga, and yoga for kids—the next generation of yogis is growing up exposed to yoga from a very early age. So what does it mean for wee ones to be introduced to the ideas of mindfulness, breath work, and meditation?

In a wonderful recent Washington Post article, columnist Vicky Hallet explores how exposure to yoga might give the next generation a leg up in life, by teaching important skills like patience, calmness, and focus. A growing number of studios offer opportunities for kids of all ages to practice yoga (in kid-friendly forms), and programs like the D.C.-based nonprofit YoKids, which offers free and low-cost classes to kids ages 4 to 14, have seen demand explode—with plenty of positive feedback from parents and teachers.


“Yoga is one of those things you can take with you anywhere you go,” says [YoKid co-founder Michelle Kelsey] Mitchell, who believes these lessons have the potential to solve the obesity crisis by teaching all kids the importance of keeping active. “You’re not good at it or bad at it. You’re just doing it.”

And you can do it from an astonishingly early age, says Debra Perlson-Mishalove, who owns Flow Yoga Center near Logan Circle. Her 2-year-old son, Jonah, has been a yogi since birth (and if you count in utero, then even earlier). As a newborn, he was a more passive participant, just getting the benefits of infant massage and seeing his mom model healthy behavior. But these days in his Itsy Bitsy Yoga class, he has the posing down and is even starting to tap into other lessons.

“To have my son know that when he needs a little timeout to take a breath is incredible,” she says. “I wish I knew that at his age.”

It’s the kind of knowledge that’s apparently being spread at the playground. D.C. resident Stephanie Donne, 45, introduced both her sons to yoga as babies, but she was still amazed to hear from her 6-year-old’s schoolteacher that he’d been offering up yogic wisdom to classmates. “One day a kid was upset, and Eli said, ‘You can om. I’ll show you how,’ ” she says.

I’m guessing the expression on the teacher’s face that day was a lot like mine when I asked kids at Budding Yogis why they like coming to class. “I love how I can get my energy out in a calming way. It’s very relaxing and mindful,” 7-year-old Ella Farr told me. I paused and asked, “So, Ella, what does the word ‘mindful’ mean to you?” She responded probably better than I could have: “It’s like when I eat a strawberry mindfully, I really recognize the taste of strawberry.”

Do you incorporate yoga into play or classes with your kids?

To read the rest of this fascinating article, hop over to

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