A Yoga Monsters student in Cobra pose

Yoga Monsters of Brighton Heights teaches little yogis

Moms and dads use yoga as meaningful personal time to relax, exercise and unwind. But what about kids? Can they also benefit from the power of Ohm? Brighton Heights’ Yoga Monsters thinks so.

Shannon Carnemolla started Yoga Monsters in 2013 with the mission of giving children the tools to have a relaxed body and mind through yoga instruction designed just for them. “When Yoga Monsters began, it was the first program in the city designed for children only,” says Carnemolla, who notes that Yoga Monsters remains the only year-long children’s yoga program in Pittsburgh.

Weekly classes for children ages 3 to 12 are held on Wednesday evenings in a newly-renovated space at the JP Gallery for Performing Arts at 3577 McClure Avenue. During the hour-long 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 imagination and knowledge of the natural world to “play” yoga.

“Beginning yoga at a young age improves posture, coordination, strength, flexibility and focus,” says Carnemolla. “All of this truly helps children in activities outside of class, whether it be improving focus during school or preventing injury in other sports through improved body awareness.” The Yoga Monsters experience also helps to build self-confidence and self-expression, she adds.

Classes are all-ages in the summer, but during the school year are divided into ages 3 to 7 and 8 to 12. Both the teacher and the students take the lead during class, and parents are invited to participate (particularly with younger children). However, kids often need less support as they become more familiar with the structure of class and gain self-confidence.

Carnemolla has a master’s degree in special education, is a Bikram Yoga Certified Yoga Instructor and has a certification in children’s yoga as well. With this kind of experience, she knows how to create a multi-sensory experience that delivers the benefits of yoga to all children, including those with autism spectrum or sensory processing disorders.

In preparing for a Yoga Monsters class, Carnemolla likes to remind parents that Yoga Monsters is not like an adult class. “It’s an opportunity for children to be introduced to yoga through games and stories. Often, parents want their child to sit still on their mat, but for a 3 year-old, they should be encouraged to run, dance and play.”

For first-timers, Carnemolla also adds that parents shouldn’t worry if kids are shy during class. She often hears stories of these same shy students heading home and enthusiastically practicing everything they learn.

Carnemolla also teaches children’s yoga at Lawrenceville’s Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh studio for three-month sessions during the fall and winter months. Additionally, a special $5 drop-in “Yoga in the Park” series takes place on Saturday mornings in Arsenal Park until August 8th.

Is your child ready to play yoga? Classes are $14 for drop-ins or $50 per month, with discounts for siblings and for families in need (on a case-by-case basis). Visit yoga-monsters.com to view the complete class schedule/pricing and to register online. Classes are frequently added and updated.

Featured photo: A Yoga Monsters student in Cobra pose. Photo courtesy of Yoga Monsters.