In January 2015, preschoolers and their grown-ups grabbed colorful yoga mats and circled up at The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum for the inaugural session of The Art of Yoga. A seven-week series, this creative movement class was inspired by the book You Are A Lion!: And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo. It combined child-friendly yoga activities with corresponding art programming to offer yoga practitioners of all levels, both young and adult, the opportunity to connect to their bodies, engage in physical exercise, and enjoy special bonding time. As an active Let’s Move! museum, The Magic House aligned its newest class with the work of the Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens initiative to get kids moving.
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class attended by adults, you might associate the practice with meditative quiet, building, and holding complex poses for minutes at a time, and the entire class moving in sync. Yet, if you’ve ever taught a yoga class attended by preschoolers, you know this doesn’t translate. In fact, it’s best to shed all preconceived notions of “yoga” in exchange for enjoying a vibrant class spent exploring the playful, celebratory (and sometimes noisy!) world of connecting our minds and our bodies.
Our activities were based in engaging families with the basic tenets of a modern yoga practice with kid-friendly application: keep breathing, listen to your body, get moving, and have fun! We use our breath to float feathers in the air; stretched our arms into airplane wings and flew around the room en route to the jungle; and recreated the shapes, movements, and sounds of familiar animal friends. The class didn’t always resemble a traditional zen-ready “yoga class,” but the heart and intention of the practice radiated through at every moment!
After the yoga practice, the class paraded down to the museum’s Art Studio, where art educators led a unique program inspired by one of the animals the kids met on their yogic journey. From colorful butterflies to lion masks to slithering snakes, each student concluded the series with a safari’s worth of projects to take home and remember what they practiced.
The class was offered as part of “Fit for All Kids,” a two-year project supported by an IMLS Museums for America Grant to enable the Museum to become a more prominent family health resource in the St. Louis community. This was just one of the many initiatives that the Museum has implemented as a part of this grant.
As the museum prepares for its second session of The Art of Yoga, we look forward to welcoming 60 new big and little yogis into the all-ages art of yoga.