Childhood education is changing every year. It feels like almost every day, a new study comes out telling us of new ways to raise and educate the children of tomorrow. Well, there’s a kids’ yoga program on the scene that has found a way to incorporate relaxation and life lessons into the school day while ensuring fun ways to learn. Lil’ Yogis is your go-to destination. And in addition to offering plenty of fun, Lil’ Yogis has recently turned their focus to giving back to the community around them as well.
Based here in NYC, Lil’ Yogis is a children’s yoga company “designed to help children develop better physical awareness, coordination and flexibility, while enhancing self-confidence in a non-competitive and non-judgmental environment.” It incorporates yoga, play, and school lessons into one curriculum.
The founder, Erica Held, is a mother-of-four and founded Lil’ Yogis in 2008 as a way to combine her passions for yoga and children. She developed the concept for her company while entering a competition at business school. The company originally started by giving private lessons in a park. Since then, her program has changed to become an “in-school model where [it’s] part of the school’s curriculum.”
“We still do private lessons and birthday parties but we have come to the realization that yoga really works well in schools,” Held explains.
Lil’ Yogis primarily focuses on preschool-aged children. The in-school portion of the company initially started in the Saul and Carol Zabar Nursery School but has now expanded to include five schools and two camps, including the Saul and Carol Nursery School, Habonim Nursery School, PS 65, the Learning Through Play Pre-K Center, PS 199, the Child Mind Institute, the JCC Manhattan Day Camp, and Camp Settoga.
However, Held and her team wanted to go beyond the schools and nursery programs they were already working with and find a way to give back and bring yoga to those in need. Their newest initiative, which they launched this past fall, involves bringing yoga to underserved youth, free of charge. It is a six-week program where they provide once a week lessons to the students. The initiative has started with schools in District 7 in the Bronx, with hopes of it expanding to more schools in more districts.
Lil’ Yogis does not want their reach to stop within their personal bandwidth either. They are currently developing plans to create a curriculum and training session that allows teachers to incorporate the Lil’ Yogis’ lessons into their own curriculum for students to gain maximum benefits.
Lil’ Yogis is not the first to realize the benefits of teaching yoga to children in school. Schools across America are starting to add yoga to their curriculums. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, middle school students who took yoga reported having positive mood and attitude changes, increased energy and improved ability to relax, and improved posture. Research has also shown that yoga can improve concentration, classroom behavior, self-esteem, academic performance, in addition to many other psychological benefits.
“Yoga is about getting to a place of peace and meditation in the mind,” notes Allie Paddock, one of Lil’ Yogis’ company managers. She adds: “That is something we are inspired to do with our kids through working in a really fun and playful way but also so we can start creating an association between that physical activity and relaxation [for the kids].”
The company also partners with teachers to incorporate elements from their daily lesson plans so the children can relate everything they learn in the day back to each other.
Held points out that yoga has tangible benefits for other sectors of a child’s life as well. “The skills that the kids are getting through the yoga practice are beneficial for school,” she notes. Their lessons teach breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, meditation, and movement to help the children succeed better throughout the day.
Held decided to target younger children because she says are more open-minded and malleable to new innovative ideas. “An early introduction to yoga, before any preconceived notion, is most beneficial,” she explains. With Lil’ Yogis, Held aims to make younger children’s first experience with yoga fun and enjoyable in hopes that they continue the practice through their growth.
In the future, Lil’ Yogis hopes to create a foundation to bring yoga to even more underserved communities. They also hope to reach out to many more schools and develop more curriculums to keep the program fun. Held encourage teachers, principals, and other faculty in schools to reach out to them to bring yoga to more schools. The company is also available for afterschool nursery programs and offer a free first trial.
To learn more, visit lilyogisnyc.com!