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Doing Yoga Can Help Calm Kids Down

Posted: November 19, 2009

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Dylan goes to an Atlanta school known for its highly serious curriculum that offers German to first-graders and lessons in "circle games" and "beeswax modeling." His mother, Hanlie Laakmann, wanted her son to get involved in something and thought his sensitive nature might take to yoga. She's been especially glad about the move lately since she and her husband told Dylan that they are divorcing. "Like, it's hard, with the divorce," he says, sitting on a yoga mat, replying to a stranger asking him to open up in front of a television camera. He tunes it all out for a moment, crosses his legs and closes his eyes. He begins to breathe deeply and then slowly lifts himself into a headstand. When he comes down, he's ready to answer more questions.

Dylan's stoicism is broken for a moment by a dozen miniature yogis who've been unleashed in the studio. Kids like Gigi, some as young as 3, can take seven-week long sessions with names such as Charlie and the Chakra Factory and the Wizard of Ohm.

Watching a class is like watching puppies. It's adorable. They bark in Downward Dog and hiss on their bellies in Snake pose. They imagine aloud what color their gum would be while repeatedly breathing deeply for "Bubble Gum Breath." They act out "Go To Your Room" by bending over, grabbing their ankles and stomping backward, squatting down and mimicking slamming a door.

Except for a few tears and a brief tug-of-war over a mat, it all seems nothing more than cute until this stunning moment: Many of these first- and second-graders remain completely still and quiet, in a meditative pose, for nearly five minutes.

"It's just incredible," Al-Yasha Williams said, shaking her head in disbelief when her 6-year-old daughter Sole Williams-Brewer walks out of class much more dialed back than when she bounded in. "My daughter has a lot of energy and this has channeled it."