In a sun-dappled studio in lower Manhattan, a young girl and her grandmother stand beside each other on a bright purple mat. They drop to their hands and knees, arch their backs, and meow like cats. Next, they hop to their feet and swoop their arms down to the floor, bending their bodies into an inverted V while barking out a big "Woof! Woof!"
It may sound like an elaborate game of Simon Says, but the pair is actually taking a class at Karma Kids, a yoga studio for children. Here, kids, parents, and grandparents get their ohm on together with hourlong sessions of cat poses, downward dogs — and plenty of animal sounds.
As grandparents seek new ways to bond with their grandchildren — and get them engaged in healthy activities — many are turning to yoga. And with good reason: Recent research has found that kids who practice yoga improve their behavior and their grades, and some experts are convinced that yoga techniques help calm children with attention-deficit disorder. Today, more than 100 elementary schools across 26 states offer yoga as part of their physical-education curriculum, and more kids-only studios like Karma Kids are opening around the country.
"We’ve seen definite growth in the popularity of family yoga," says Jodi Beth Komitor, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga with Kids (Alpha) and founder of Next Generation Yoga, the country's first yoga studio for children, which offers classes in New York City and California. "Our classes used to top off with around three kids and their parents. Today, we usually have 12 per class."
And more grandparents are joining children in the studio, too. "Yoga is an awesome way for kids to connect with their grandparents in a healthy and creative way," says Jessica Carr Phillips, the senior teacher at Karma Kids. "A 72-year-old and a 2-year-old may not be able to run around together, but they can both certainly do a tree pose."
A grandparent need not be in tip-top shape to join kids on the yoga mat. You may work up a sweat and burn a few calories hopping around like a frog, and get a good stretch from doing the cow pose, but intergenerational classes are focused more on fun than fitness. "Most of our poses are based on animal moves, so we’re in there making noises," Komitor says. "You may not get a workout like traditional yoga, but you will bond with your grandchild — while discovering your own inner child."
Interested in locating your own inner child? Grab a grandchild and a yoga mat and try these family-friendly moves at home:
1. Cat-and-Cow Pose
Opens the chest and spine while providing a gentle massage to the internal organs. To make it more fun for you and the children, "moo" or "meow" as you make these poses.
* Facing your partner, begin on all fours, with your hands directly underneath your shoulder and your knees two first widths apart. (You can place a mat or towel beneath your knees to make the position more comfortable.)
* Breathe in deeply and gently release your chin toward your chest as you arch your back like a Halloween cat.
* As you breathe out, lift your head and drop your belly, open your eyes wide and look up. Your back will be arched in the opposite direction, resembling a cow.
* Repeat 10 times.
2. See Saw
Stretches your hamstrings and back muscles while strengthening your abdominals.
* Sit facing your partner, foot to foot, with both your legs in Vs.
* Hold hands while one person leans forward and the other leans back, then alternate, making sure not to yank or pull each other too hard.
* Repeat 10 times.
* Stand side by side with your partner, holding hands, and feel your feet plant into the floor like roots in the soil.
* Reach your arms upward as you pick up one leg and place the sole of your foot above (or below) the knee of your standing leg. Your partner should do the same.
* Find something that's not moving to focus your eyes on, and balance for as long as you can.
* Switch to the other leg and repeat.
4. Cobra Lift
Increases spinal flexibility and fosters a connection with your partner.
* Have your partner lie flat on the mat on his or her stomach with palms facing down, reaching back toward the toes.
* Stand over your partner with a foot on either side of the hips.
* Reach down and take hold of your partner’s wrists, then slowly lean back to lift your partner's chest up and off the mat, lifting just high enough so that the hips stay on the mat.
* Reverse positions and repeat.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.