Yoga seems like a natural fit for kids. These mini-yogis can effortlessly stretch and flex into pretzel-like poses. Yet the real benefits of yoga for youngsters extends far beyond physical exercise.
“More and more scientific evidence is showing what yoga can do for the brain, including impacting behavior, memory and the regulation of emotions,” says Caitlin Lasky, founder of the Pittsburgh Yoga Collective, a nonprofit bringing yoga to underserved and at-risk children in the Pittsburgh area. “Doing yoga is not just a nice idea. It has far-reaching benefits for kids.”
This Kidsburgh family yoga guide can help your child embrace these benefits and cultivate a more mindful lifestyle. So grab your mats and bring your little loved ones to a yoga class!
“Mommy and Me” Yoga
It’s never too early to start the practice of yoga with your children. Pittsburgh offers several “Mommy and Me” yoga classes for the youngest crowds–designed to help postnatal moms get back in shape and bond with their new babies.
This Lawrenceville educational facility offers a weekly hourlong Mommy and Me yoga class for mothers and their children ages birth to three. The class focuses on helping moms regain core strength, rebuild pelvic floor integrity after pregnancy and build a community in an open and welcoming environment.
“Our class provides a safe place for new moms to step out with their babies,” says owner, Deena Blumenfeld, who emphasizes that “mommy networking” is an important component of yoga class at Shining Light.
Blumenfeld tries to create an appropriate mix of mom and baby activities with an intensive focus on postpartum recovery for mom. There’s a big box of toddler toys available to keep little hands busy, the restroom has both a changing table and a potty seat and moms are welcome to breastfeed or bottle feed their babies during class.
Kids Plus Pediatrics has long been known to push the envelope of children’s health. In one of its newest ventures, Kids Plus has started offering a Mom and Baby Yoga class every other Saturday morning at The Well, located adjacent to the Squirrel Hill office.
The class–intended for new moms with babies ages newborn to 15 months–merges physical with mental health, explains Elizabeth Green, the class instructor. Green has a background in both yoga education and mental health counseling and though she emphasizes that “yoga is not going to resolve postpartum depression,” she notes that her background helps her to recognize warning signs of the disease in her students.
“I’m always keeping my eyes and ears open and it’s something that’s talked about and addressed really openly,” says Green, who can then make appropriate referrals through the Kids Plus network. Green is also committed to keeping her yoga class accessible, charging only $10 cash at the door and offering it on Saturday mornings when working parents can fit it in. She is also welcoming of adoptive and foster mothers with babies.
Unfortunately, we were unable to find any “Daddy and Me” yoga classes in Pittsburgh. Please comment below if you know of a studio offering one.
Several local studios offer yoga classes for toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children. Though these classes are geared toward the kids, caregivers (including dads) are usually welcome to take part too.
The Yoga Hive’s Garfield studio offers a yoga class for children ages two to six called Children’s Yoga and Imagination Adventure with Arianna Voight-Cherna, a high-energy early childhood educator. Voight-Cherna engages her young audience through themed “adventures,” each requiring creative thinking, balance, movement and play. The class concludes with special stamps on each child’s “passport” and a brainstorm for the following week’s play date.
This class is usually held seasonally on six consecutive Sundays for a cost of $70 per child plus $15 for each additional sibling, or $15 cash for drop-ins.
Yoga Monsters in Brighton Heights offers a weekly Wednesday evening yoga class for children ages three to 12. During the hourlong classes, children learn age-appropriate yoga poses, sequences and breathing, while listening to music and stories and playing games. Children are always encouraged to use their imaginations and knowledge of the natural world to “play” yoga.
Can’t make it to Brighton Heights? Yoga Monsters also offers a children’s yoga class at Bikram Yoga Studio in Lawrenceville during the cold weather months and a $5 outdoor class in Arsenal Park during the warm weather months. More information here.
Clay Yoga in Bloomfield offers a Sunday afternoon yoga class for children ages seven to 11. The class is designed to teach kids the foundational skills for a lifelong practice of yoga, in a safe and fun environment. “Yoga is a form of play with a couple thousand years of proven benefits,” says Erin O’Donnell, the Hatha-trained children’s yoga instructor at Clay.
O’Donnell’s classes combine physically challenging poses with mindful introspection, and each class ends with a quiet period where kids can take an “imaginary meditation walk.” “Kids are always so concentrated on the external world and the external expenditure of energy,” says O’Donnell. “Yoga can teach these kids to find quiet within their minds and bodies.”
Unfortunately, we were unable to find any teen-specific yoga classes in Pittsburgh. Please comment below if you know of any studios offering one.
If you’d like to make yoga a family affair, you have a couple options within the city.
The Alloy School in East Liberty recently started offering a Saturday afternoon Family Yoga class. This class helps families “cultivate emotional and physical bonding” while learning yoga postures appropriate for yogis of all ages. Classes only cost $7 per family and the fall semester starts September 12.
The Let’s Move Pittsburgh program of Phipps Conservatory is committed to improving children’s health and promoting physical activity and healthy foods. Through a collaboration with Whirl Magazine, Let’s Move recently started offering a free outdoor Family Yoga class on the lawn at Phipps.
“We are fortunate to have a beautiful space for an outdoor yoga class and we are excited to use it as a place where kids and parents can be physically active together as a family,” says Mary Kathryn Poole, director of Let’s Move Pittsburgh. The next monthly family yoga class will be held on August 16 at 10 a.m. and interested families can register here.
Even as our city expands its children’s yoga offerings, individuals like Caitlin Lasky recognize that the beneficial effects of yoga and mindfulness may not be accessible to all kids.
Lasky is the founder of the Pittsburgh Yoga Collective (PYC), a nonprofit teaching yoga to at-risk youth and children with disabilities. “We go into communities that are basically yoga deserts, like Braddock and the North Side—places where the positive benefits of yoga can really serve the kids there,” says Lasky.
PYC’s programming is contingent on available funding and all classes are free of charge. The Sprout Fund, for example, recently sponsored a program on the North Side. The Collective also partners with community groups like the Pittsburgh Public Schools. This fall, classes will take place at the Pressley Ridge Day School through a grant from the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. To keep abreast of class locations and dates, check the Collective’s Facebook page.
In the ‘Burbs of the ‘Burgh?
There are some yoga classes for your family, too.
Eastern suburbs: Yoga Flow in Murrysville
Know of another studio that offers children’s or family yoga classes in Pittsburgh? Please comment below!
This article was written by Gina Mazza with contributions by Nadine Champsi
Featured photo by BanksPhoto