Could you get a class of a dozen kids to relax and just breathe for more than 15 minutes? It would be a stretch, right? For Sally Moona, that's exactly the point.
The YMCA of Beaufort County wants to get kids excited about fitness. So the Port Royal club is offering a weekly yoga class by Moona to members and after-school children ages 3-15.
"Getting children involved in fitness at a young age is a great way to encourage a healthy lifestyle that they can continue throughout life," membership marketing director Holly Cordray said.
Moona works with the children for 20 minutes every Tuesday afternoon. Moona has a background in special education and early childhood education in addition to having practiced yoga for a decade. She enjoys teaching the ancient discipline to the younger crowd.
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She said she believes everyone should practice yoga because there are many benefits to it. It builds strength, flexibility and balance. It is known to help prevent injuries, one reason many athletes use it. Yoga can reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem. It can enhance sleep and even help with concentration.
Moona, who has been teaching adult yoga classes for the past five years at the YMCA, said the children attending summer camp at the Y showed an interest in yoga. They were peeking in on her adult classes. So she volunteered to teach one class for the kids. They liked it so much that it became a weekly program.
For the first few minutes of each class, Moona's students work on slowing down their breathing, an essential part of yoga.
"It kind of helps them to concentrate and to just allow their muscles to relax," Moona said. "It helps them to relax and just to become more focused and more aware of their environment and also of their bodies."
After the breathing exercises, participants do different poses to improve strength and flexibility. They wrap up each session with more breathing and relaxation exercises. In addition to the health benefits, Moona said, the kids enjoy themselves.
"And you know what surprises me -- how much the boys like it," she said. "I thought girls would take to it, but the boys really enjoy it."
She said she's noticed when the kids are told to sit cross-legged with their eyes closed, the girls look around the room to see what the others are doing. The boys are the ones who keep their eyes closed.
Moona's class is open to children as young as 3, but she said so far her youngest student was 6. She said there are usually 10 or 15 kids in each class.
"I think it's really a fun way for children to exercise," Moona said. "Anyone that can breathe can do yoga."