LIVINGSTON, NJ – This summer at the Livingston Public Library, certified Children’s Yoga Instructor Betty Larrea ran the first annual Kids’ Yoga program, which attracted an average of 20 children per session. The four-week program invited local youth to come together and expand their minds and creativity through yoga.
At first, the program was available to children in grades K-4, but as the weeks progressed parents began to participate in sessions alongside their children. Attendance also extended to infants as young as eight months old.
Each week, Larrea incorporated music and picture books to teach the children about breathing techniques, stretches and balance. Using a story for guidance, she asked the kids how they think a certain character might look and perform different actions accordingly. Many books have been written intentionally with instructional yoga references, but Larrea found that free form stories, like Marion Dane Bauer’s “How Do I Love You?” allow for greater imagination amongst the kids.
The Librarians often attempt to expand their involvement in the community by offering new and exciting activities. After hearing positive results from the yoga programs in surrounding towns, the Livingston Librarians decided to look into it.
“Yoga is something that enables kids to be creative and express themselves,” said Youth Service Librarian Gina Vaccaro. “We knew people would be interested and since we’re more of a cultural center rather than a traditional library, we’re always looking for new and exciting things.”
Larrea has been teaching yoga to kids for 13 years. She said the difference between adult and child yoga programs is that for kids it is about discovery first and poses later. When children are given the opportunity to express their creativity, she said, they are not only connecting with themselves but discovering new things about themselves as well.
“The connection of integrating the mind and the imagination is a holistic aspect that is already so natural to them,” Larrea said. “At the end there is a state of inner peace, being in their own space and finding a connection with themselves and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Vaccaro said that there was such a positive response from parents that the library intends on continuing the yoga program in the fall and expanding it to interested adults. One child even asked Larrea if she would be interested in helping him throw a yoga-themed birthday party.
“My favorite part of this summer’s experience was seeing the parents engaged,” Larrea said. “We played and had fun and it was a very bonding experience for the families.”