KAPAA — Juliette O’Shaughnessy used the snake breath technique she learned in yoga in school.
“I had to do a really hard test,” said O’Shaughnessy, a student at King Kaumualii Elementary School. “I think, maybe it helped.”
The practice involves a deep inhale and then exhaling slowly, making an “s” sound like a snake.
It’s one of many breathing techniques and poses taught in Kauai Power Yoga’s kids program for keiki ages 6 to 11 held at 3 p.m. Thursdays at the Kauai Power Yoga studio in Kapaa.
The yoga afterschool program is one of several on the island, all aimed at teaching kids to find balance and tune into their bodies.
Increased strength, balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility, body awareness, and alignment are all benefits of yoga, according to Jessica Stein, owner and director of Kauai Power Yoga.
“Yoga (helps) children gain a greater sense of self and how they relate to others,” Stein said.
Keiki yoga is also part of an afterschool program in Hanalei with Rebecca Hart. Her keiki yoga classes are held at Hale Halewai in Hanalei from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
She says she’s noticed the practice helps kids support each other.
“They have developed bonds as they have found this is a safe environment where they can trust themselves and one another,” Hart said. “I have also seen their self confidence and esteem grow as they take turns leading one another through different poses.”
It provides kids a place of belonging, she said, and gives them time to relax.
“At the end of the class in shavasana, students use guided imagery to help them be still,” Hart said. “I also use positive affirmations like ‘I am loved’ and ‘I am peace.’”
Children discover how to breathe to balance emotions and choose reactions while in a pose. Those techniques can also calm the mind and relax the nervous system, the instructors said.
“Children learn how to feel and process their emotions while in challenging poses,” Stein said. “This becomes training for life off the mat as well.”
A 2015 study found yoga among children is also on the rise: the percentage of children ages 4 to 17 who do yoga increased from 2.3 percent in 2007 to 3.1 percent in 2012, which translates to about 400,000 more kids practicing yoga.
Part of the reason for the rise may be the increase in the number of yoga studios and instructors that has occurred in recent years, according to Life Science, making yoga more accessible to a larger number of people, the researchers said.
In addition, there are now more studies suggesting that certain mind-and-body practices, such as yoga, can help people manage pain and reduce their stress, the researchers said. [Best Yoga Apps]
Kalae Odom and Caroline Valle practice the wheel pose during Thursday’s keiki yoga class at Kauai Power Yoga.
In Kauai Power Yoga’s Thursday class, teachers Stephanie Reedy and Courteney Martin taught students the airplane pose. The kids picked the new pose from a list of new ones to learn.
“So the pose today is about focusing and being balanced and about flying,” Reedy told the class.
Then, each stood on one leg while lifting the other into the air and putting their hands out like an airplane.
Everyone wobbled a bit and a few fell over.
“My airplane crashed,” O’Shaughnessy said after she landed in a pile on her mat.
That’s part of yoga, though, Martin said. It’s also a chance for kids to unplug from electronics, and compliments every sport, Stein said.
“We strive to plant the seed that while we may not be able to control life, we can control our reactions to it,” Stein said. “Practicing yoga gives children the opportunity to pause, reflect, and make positive, healthy choices rather than react.”