Toddlers have been learning movement and breathing through yoga at Pine Cobble School.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It may be more about motor skills than meditation, but a new yoga program at Pine Cobble School this winter is helping introduce preschoolers to a life skill they may find handy in years to come.
"The program has yoga elements and different movements that come from advanced yoga," said Pine Cobble teacher Lynn Bizzi, who instituted the six-week free "Beginnings: Yoga/Music" program in early January.
"It helps the little ones with spatial awareness of their body in proximity to other children and teaches great tools to self-regulate and relax."
Bizzi said she has used yoga in her preschool classroom for about five years. This winter, she has been offereing the same lessons to toddlers, with caregivers, on Wednesday mornings through Feb. 20.
Bizzi uses puppets and simple stories to help engage the children, who act out the roles of characters in those stories by adopting poses modeled on traditional yoga movements. The class is joined by another member of the Pine Cobble faculty, Mary Pierson, who plays guitar and leads the youngsters in a singalong.
"With little ones, we stay pretty active," Bizzi said. "We loosen up. We might do something like making the body into a star pose while doing 'Twinkle, Twinkle.' Or we do a tree pose and bird pose and things like that along with the music.
"It's not strictly yoga in the typical sense. I incorporate all sorts of different movement games."
At one point, Bizzi has the children lie down, relax their bodies and focus on their breathing in a technique she calls "floppy yogi."
"I invite them to relax, and each will take a breath," she said. "I'll lift their arm just to get them to relax"
Bizzi said she has taken a few yoga classs herself and has taught a Pilates class for adults that incorporated some yoga moves for the purpose of stretching, but she makes no claim to be a serious yoga teacher herself.
The toddlers at a recent class did not seem to mind. They were having fun forming poses, stretching out and singing along with Pierson's strumming.
"It's remarkable how well young children are able to focus," Bizzi said. "When these little ones take those breaths and breathe, you're able to see it. ... All of us can use that now and then to relax."
And Bizzi said she has seen older children in the classroom fall back on some of those relaxation techniques to cope with stress.
"Kids today have a lot of stress," she said. "[Yoga] gives them coping mechanisms and tools they can use throughout the day. There are so many different aspects and different skills that are being practiced, but all they know is they're having fun."
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