There are all sorts of avenues for yoga on Martha’s Vineyard. Prenatal, yoga for seniors, broga for guys, but when it comes to yoga for kids, there aren’t many options. Anne Caldwell discovered this in the midst of a tough year for her family, and decided to do something about it.
“In January 2015, my 9-year-old daughter, Samantha, was diagnosed with brain cancer,” she said. “We needed something.”
Although Samantha’s prognosis was promising, Ms. Caldwell and her husband knew they had a long road ahead of them. Ms. Caldwell has practiced yoga for about 14 years, and her two daughters would join in when she was doing it around the house. While waiting for Samantha’s MRI results, she was on Facebook and saw an ad for “Kidding Around Yoga” (KAY), an internationally recognized yoga teacher-training program for adults who want to teach kids yoga.
“I thought this might be exactly what I needed with my daughters to give them tools for healing and self-calming,” Ms. Caldwell said, “and, of course, another way for us to bond.”
She took two KAY weekend trainings off-Island, and one on-Island with a visiting company, Creative Kids Yoga. Certification in hand, she had enough hours under her belt to be a licensed KAY instructor, but decided to go her own route, using her own name — Kids Yogamotion.
“It’s not just yoga,” Ms. Caldwell said, “A lot of these classes are about getting heart rates up using creative movement, physical activity, games and tools for teaching kids self-calming, self-regulation, and mindfulness.”
She likens the dynamics of Yogamotion to Gymboree, from back in the day. Since starting in September, Ms. Caldwell has brought Yogamotion to preschools, the Vineyard Haven library, and Spindrift Studios, where she teaches several classes per week. Yogamotion can be tailored to kids as young as 12 months up to teenagers graduating from 12th grade. Each class can look a bit different, depending on the age group.
“With the younger kids, I’ll start them on their mat in crisscross applesauce, and tell them to put on their upside-down yoga superhero glasses, so their fingers are in this position,” she said, gesturing the index finger–to–thumb OM mudra position. “Then I’ll ding a chime and tell everyone to explain everything they’ve done since they woke up. This brings awareness to how many decisions we make, and I’ll provide a kid-friendly explanation about meditation.”
The kids then get moving with games, poses, and partner activities. “You’ll see a lot of the same asanas as you’d see in an adult yoga class, but I’ll use stories, themes, props, and a lot of silliness to go along with it,” she said.
“The kids love it, and they respond really positively to Anne,” said Dawn Warner, co-director of the Garden Gate preschool, where Yogamotion is taught. “The class is becoming part of their vocabulary and conflict resolution skills.”
For the older participants who want to delve deeper into their practice, classes may include a variety of breathing techniques, when to apply them, and the anatomically correct names for the body parts they’re moving.
“One 10-year-old I teach thought I said ‘Nutella’ instead of ‘patella,’” Ms. Caldwell remarked. “There’s a lot of yoga laughter going on.”
Class sizes generally average between six and 14 kids. Her pajama and glow-in-the-dark nights bring in a lot of interest, as do her longer yoga and craft workshops, so she’s hoping to add more themed classes to the mix each month.
Although Ms. Caldwell has never taught yoga before, she’s taught computer and technology classes in K through 8 in the public and private school systems for the past 20 years.
“My confidence level was so much better than I thought it would be right out of the gate,” she said. “I could break up age groups, read an audience, and know when to slow down. My past experience has been a really great gift.”
As was her family’s time spent together during that difficult year.
“This has become another thing we can do together as a family,” she said. “Samantha is my school kid. She’s more serious, organized, and likes to have a plan. A huge part of that year was learning to trust instincts, go with the flow, and keep trying.”
She continued, “My family was able to stay very positive and confident, and the Vineyard really just cushioned us along the way.”
Samantha finished her treatments and has been cancer-free for months now, though she’ll be closely monitored for several years. She loves participating in her mom’s classes at Spindrift, and happily tries to play assistant.
Ms. Caldwell is excited to continue her creativity with Yogamotion, and to expand it this winter. The Farm Neck Foundation recently donated $1,700 to secure a year of twice-monthly yoga classes, along with new yoga and meditation materials, for Garden Gate students.
Ms. Caldwell hopes to get more preschools involved and teens interested, and to offer classes at other studios. She’s also beginning her 200-hour adult-yoga teacher training at Fly Yoga School this winter.
As far as keeping her little yogis happily coming back for more, “I don’t want to give away too many surprises,” she said. “People will have to come check it out for themselves.”
For more information on Yogamotion, visit Ms. Caldwell’s Facebook page at facebook.com/mvkidsyoga.