Be honest, haven’t you always wanted to howl during upward-facing dog pose? Well, now you can! It’s called family yoga, where adults are encouraged to yuck it up. And, as for the kids, they’ve been doing this for years—it’s called being a kid. This is the “yes zone,” where abundant energy and brazen silliness are welcome, says SyteraYoga teacher Marci Love Thomas. But not to fear: there are still traditional asanas in family yoga. There are sun salutations and standing poses like warrior II—better known as “surfing.” The breathing elements are there, you know, “smelling the poopy diaper.” And what about partner poses? Yes, you’ll get to be part of a human bunk bed! Now that sounds like fun (if you’re not the bottom bunk). A growing interest in family yoga has led area studios to offer classes that welcome any number of or combination of family members. Classes tend to vary in terms of style and focus. There is no set curriculum. “It isn’t defined,” Marci says. In fact, a web search under “family yoga” produces an interesting panoply of choices. So, what exactly is family yoga? What is this all about? Building bonds, says Marci. “The driver for me, as with any yoga, is for students to become more connected to themselves so that they can better connect to others, and that is definitely present in family yoga.” Classes for the whole clan have carved out a special place among the many activities that families participate in. Unlike activities where children are dropped off, family yoga allows for the parent and child to practice something together. “I want my kids to see that yoga has profound benefits and that I am practicing it myself,” she says. Whatever comes up in family yoga is honored. A lot of play happens. The class can sometimes veer off on an imaginary trip. Or, kids teach reluctant parents to put their feet up on the wall.
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Families leave class seeing each other in a new light, says Marci. They are more likely to physically engage with one another, and there are many knowing glances and inside jokes. Studies about the benefits of play and touch in human relationships are stacking up. Play has been proven to reduce anxiety as well as enhance intellectual development and creativity in children. Studies on touch find that it can transmit human emotion and improve communication in intimate relationships. There is also growing evidence that kids need yoga. According to YoKids, an Alexandria-based non-profit, yoga can help kids learn to manage stress and calm themselves. And research on school-based yoga programs finds that yoga can reduce problem behavior, ease anxiety, and even improve academic success. Whoa! Studies also show that children who practice yoga may choose better foods to eat and engage in more physical activity, staving off obesity. And, yoga breathing exercises have been linked to helping asthmatic kids control breathing and reduce stress. Marci took her first yoga class over two decades ago while in law school, but it was an acrobatic class she signed up for as a child in rural Ohio that ignited a passion for movement. It just felt really good in her body, she says. Marci is trained in massage and integrative nutrition, and she teaches barre and track as well. She’s taught “Mommy and Me,” kids yoga, and adult classes. “We don’t move our bodies enough in new and different ways,” she said. We have so much more ability to move than we do. And when we do, we tap into different places in our mind. So often we can get stuck in our role as a parent. When we step outside the typical paradigm of parent and child, it can relieve tension. Seeing a parent behaving like an animal blows kids minds, Marci says. So, why not act like a lizard? How often do your kids get to see that? Like never! Meghan Mullan is a freelance writer and SyteraYoga student.

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