Children in Athens can take advantage of a new and creative outlet that mixes fun and exercise into one exciting blacklight yoga session.
When Liz Kelley, a children’s yoga instructor, moved to Athens last summer from Huron, she brought the growing trend of glow yoga with her. She has only held one glow yoga session, but plans to hold her second one Saturday.
“We’re trying to offer it every quarter,” Kelley said. “I provide all the paint and glow sticks, so all the kids have to do is come dressed in their bright clothes and then we paint their faces, hands and feet. We give them glow sticks and little necklaces and just have this big blacklight party.”
Kelley’s glow yoga is specifically for children between 8-12 years old. While the children are covered in body paint and decked out in glow stick necklaces, Kelley takes them through many traditional asana yoga poses, specifically for posture, under a blacklight. She’ll go through a modified moon salutation, a series of poses performed in a particular sequence to create a cooling flow of movement.
“The nice part about the 8 to 12-year-old age group is they do stay more focused than preschoolers,” Kelley said. “A lot of the stretches are things they’ve done before in other sports, they just didn’t know they were asanas or other yoga poses.”
Many of the poses Kelley teaches are familiar to the children in one way or another. Whether they’ve taken gymnastics or ballet, or even practice stretches in gym class, they can all find recognizable poses in her glow yoga sessions.
“After the yoga flow, when they’re all dressed up in their paints, we just turn on the music and let them dance,” Kelley said. “They love it.”
The sequences of poses deal a lot with emphasis on the hand and arm movements, and the body paint brings a bit of extra awareness of where the children’s arms and legs are.
“Aesthetically, the body paint looks really neat under the light,” Kelley said. “We do lots of pyramid and star poses, triangles and half moons. Just those poses where their arms are gonna be out and moving and they can see it happening.”
Kelley believes it’s important to teach yoga to children, especially tweens who are going through many changes in just a few short years.
“Yoga is really great because it provides them with a tool to cope with changing bodies, changing emotions and a lot of new anxieties springing up during those years,” Kelley said. “It helps them with relaxation and focusing when they’re nervous or scared.”
Kelley also teaches the children how to embrace their bodies and recognize how capable they truly are.
“I tell them, ‘Look what your body can do, look how great it is, it doesn’t matter what it looks like,’” Kelley said. “It’s to help them with that body image, saying you don’t have to have this one particular body type.”
Teaching yoga to children is also fairly similar to teaching adults. To Kelley, children are “natural yogis” with their flexible limbs and good posture. She’s hoping the tweens who come to her next glow yoga session take more from it than just the glow sticks and body paint.
“I hope they’re interested in yoga itself, not just the party and one-time event,” Kelley said. “Maybe they’re curious and want to incorporate it into other aspects of their lives and routines.”
Jen Mainelli, a yoga instructor at Ping Recreation Center, also believes children can benefit from yoga starting at a young age.
“Yoga can get them to learn how to calm themselves down and incorporate mindfulness at a young age so they treat people well and are nice to themselves,” Mainelli said. “Even in school to take deep breaths and calm down for tests.”
Mainelli recognizes how the element of body paint under a blacklight is an innovative way to keep children engaged while also teaching them a practice that can be useful to them in the long run.
“I think the glow stuff is a really cool idea because it’d be really fun,” Mainelli said. “The body paint and glow sticks would be really cool, because the kids are exercising and having fun, which is ultimately what you want kids to be a part of.”
Aubrei Krummert’s daughter Clara Arauz participated in Kelley’s first glow yoga session and had a blast.
“It was super fun and unique and innovative,” Krummert said. “Certainly nothing like something she’s ever done before. It’s absolutely crucial for my daughter to be active, so I would definitely consider her taking another glow yoga class.”