Don’t tell them it’s exercise: Free Yoga Calm class keeps kids engaged

MARYSVILLE – Spread your fingers like a starfish. Move your knees side to side like windshield wipers. Move your legs like you’re riding a tall bicycle.

Any of that sound like yoga yet?

How about make a bridge so a boat could go under it or go into downward dog and wiggle your tail? That kind of sounds more like it.

Sarah Knudsen was teaching a free class called Yoga Calm at the Marysville Library Saturday. It is targeted for children, folks with ADHD and those with special needs.

Language is only one of the differences between this class and other yoga sessions.

Knudsen likes to make sure she shows the participants how to do each move. “This is the bed-bug pose,” she said, drawing laughter.

“They have to see it,” she said, adding she also goes at a slower pace to make sure there is understanding. She also reads slowly from a book and lets them borrow small stuffed animals to comfort them.

If there are kids with ADHD, she likes to have them do some leading or play games to keep them engaged. If there are older adults or those with disabilities, she adapts the yoga movements to keep them safe.

Jamie Rizzo attended the event with her four children ages 5-9. She homeschools them in their recreational vehicle, so she likes to get them out into the community as often as she can. She had done yoga before but they had not.

“We’re going to” do yoga in the future, she said, smiling.

Knudsen will continue the class on the last Saturday of each month at least through March. She also teaches city classes at Jennings Park Wednesdays at 6 p.m. And she teaches at Willow Place to those with special needs every other Tuesday at 2 p.m.

As the hourlong class came to an end, Knudsen turned off the lights. She told them to point their fingers and toes for a long stretch – like slime or bubble gum. They relaxed, closed their eyes, breathed in and out, as their belly would rise and fall like the ocean.

They traced their fingers, breathing in as they went up and out as they drew down. “It’s calming. And you can do it anywhere,” Knudsen said.

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