Stepping into the Magical studio of Karma Kids Yoga transports city kiddies into a whimsical yogi world of bright décor and floating butterflies. From special glow-in-the-dark mats to spongy green floors, straight down to the mini drinking cups— everything about this playful space is child-friendly. And as Manhattan’s only studio 100% devoted to kids,
Karma Kids Yoga is an extraordinary place for little ones to experience fun and flexibility. Not to mention, focus.
On a recent winter day, about two dozens little ones, from babes to tots, are fidgeting (and oh-so excited) while waiting for Story Time Yoga—a free half-hour class offered twice a week—to begin. Owner and Founder Shari Vilchez-Blatt kicks things off with a sing-a-long song. “Rub your hands, sit up tall, take a deep breath…OM!” The kids are engaged and animated as Vilchez-Blatt brings them along for a yoga adventure. Her passion for the practice and teaching it to children is evident in every pose and activity she leads.
As Vilchez-Blatt can attest, children gain a lot from practicing sun salutations and downward-facing dog. But before every class, she explains to parents that their child may not pay attention every second of the program. Kids don’t necessarily have the attention spans to stay engaged for a full class and will often become distracted. But Vilchez-Blatt insists, “They are taking in a lot more than you realize… They participate in their own way.” So while moms and dads shouldn’t expect a quiet, serene yogi experience at Karma Kids, Vilchez-Blatt maintains that they will still gain the benefits of yoga. “It’s kids yoga so we play,” she says. “We make it really fun.”
Surprisingly, it wasn’t always “om”s and “namaste”s for Long Island native Vilchez-Blatt. Prior to opening Karma Kids, she spent 11 years in advertising, working for companies such as Hasbro, Binney & Smith™—a division of Crayola—Heineken and several smaller firms. When she got laid off unexpectedly, she decided to take a summer vacation from the breakneck pace of the advertising world and spent her time reading, resting and getting back into her yoga practice.
As she continued her daily poses, Vilchez-Blatt noticed that her little nieces and
nephews were imitating her. “I wasn’t sure if it was okay so I looked online and…it was.” She soon discovered there was a New York teacher training for kids yoga on the horizon. It was serendipitous. Without thinking twice, she enrolled in the course.
Summer was drawing to an end and within a few months, Vilchez-Blatt found space on 14th Street and opened the doors to Karma Kids Yoga in 2003. Nine years later, the studio is flourishing with a slew of popular classes, teacher training events and a growing clientele looking to capitalize upon the practice’s physical benefits, along with improved body awareness, confidence, self-discipline and relaxation.
Karma Kids offers a variety of classes, ranging from a quick 30 minutes to an hour and a-half session. For the itty bitties (six weeks to walkers), there’s Baby Yoga where mom or dad plus baby move through basic yoga concepts. Once a child is a secure walker, he or she can advance into Parent and Child Yoga. This class turns yoga into playtime with puppets, songs and games. By the age of three, kids only classes are their chance to grow and learn without a grown-up by their side.
While the studio primarily caters to children, it also offers adolescent, prenatal and adult restorative classes. Teen Yoga caters to the ups and downs of adolescence by incorporating components of meditation, nutrition, restoration and games. Most of these classes take place in Karma Kids’ newly acquired second space, the Peace-In studio, which has more of an “adult studio look,” according to Vilchez-Blatt. With the additional room, Karma Kids plans to expand its class offerings to include a post-natal core class and a beginner baby-free class.
With a surge of interest in kids yoga, Vilchez-Blatt claims her biggest business challenge these days is staffing her classes. She currently has 32 certified teachers and Karma Kids has been conducting their own youth yoga teacher trainings since 2005, but it’s still not enough to meet the growing demand.
Taking the widespread interest in youth yoga into consideration, Vilchez-Blatt has aspirations to expand her company within NYC and eventually throughout the country. Karma Kids is already extending its reach into pre-schools, daycares, elementary schools and high schools throughout Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
It goes without saying, Vilchez-Blatt wants to share the benefits of yoga with as many families as possible. And with an abundance of classes to choose from and a staff of devoted yogis, it’s no surprise that Karma Kids Yoga is prospering so rapidly. The studio has evolved into a safe haven for New Yorkers to escape the everyday chaos of the city and get the whole family moving in partnered positions and salutations, creating a bonding experience that can “last a lifetime.”
Yoga On A Budget
To ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of yoga, regardless of your economic situation, Karma Kids hosts a community yoga class four times a week. For only $10, children ages 2- to 5-years-old can drop-in and downward-facing dog with Vilchez-Blatt and her staff of certified instructors. Parents should bring their children dressed in loose, comfortable clothing, which allows the young yogis to move freely.
Yoga Poses For Little Ones