Every Thursday, Phillip Collazo welcomes kids with the sounds of It’s a small world, after all, streaming from “The Bear Hall” situated right outside his classroom at the Miami Children’s Museum.
The children take off their shoes, then place their socks designed with shapes and animals into their shoes before walking onto a large red carpet. As others begin to arrive, the ones already there play with bouncing balls and tracks on the floor designed to balance.
“OK, let’s all sit on the special blue carpet,” says Collazo, a special education teacher and certified yoga instructor.
,For 45 minutes, children stretch, breath and jump at the museum, where Collazo, 35, teaches a yoga class for children, ages 3-5.
Marie Charlotte Harbour, a mother whose 5-year old son, Remington, practices yoga, said he loves learning how to do new poses in class.
“It connects him to his body and surroundings and helps him get grounded,” said Harbour, who also practices yoga. “I get to exchange with him on his yoga experience and connect with him on this level.”
Collazo said yoga for kids offers an alternative way to learning because sometimes children are overwhelmed in traditional classroom activities.
“We understand that kids learn by listening, but a lot of times kids learn kinesthetically,” said Collazo, who believes it is easier for a child to learn by getting involved in a physical activity rather than just listening to a lecture or watching a set of instructions.
“If you show me how to do something, I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Collazo, who has been teaching for six years. “If you give me a set of instructions, I’ll probably never be successful.”
Daniel Rossy-Vega, a medical massage therapist and certified yoga instructor, agrees. He said yoga for kids offers many benefits.
“Yoga definitely helps with body awareness, and it is a great way to get energy out,” said Rossy-Vega, 44. “The biggest benefit that I see for kids is the increase in focus.”
The classes focus on basic yoga positions and breathing, which are combined with teaching strategies used by Collazo and Rossy-Vega.
“If you tell a child, take a deep breath, they won’t quite get it, but if you tell the child “RAAWWR” like a lion, they will be able to take a deep breath and get that energy out,” said Rossy-Vega, adding that yoga increases the oxygen a person takes in.
“During yoga, kids are able to get more of that oxygen into all of their organs deeper into their abdomens, which also calms their central nervous system,” said Rossy-Vega.
At the end of class, the children touch their heart to remember to love, touch their mouth to remember to say kind words and touch their head to know the right things to say.
“We want to instill in the children that you have access to the power of your breath from childbirth. That not only heals your body, but it energizes you,” said Rossy–Vega. “It reduces stress. It creates endorphins in your system, which makes you feel good about yourself and about life.”