Yoga builds healthy and balanced body and mind, teacher says

Ventura County Star
by Alicia Doyle 

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg


Children who practice yoga are more relaxed, function better in and out of school and sleep better at night, according to yoga teacher Julie Markovitz.

“Children receive many benefits from having a yoga practice,” said Markovitz, of Agoura Hills. “As children learn age-appropriate poses, they build confidence and self-esteem in addition to developing strength, balance, coordination and inner calm. Yoga is fun, playful and creative and provides a safe environment for kids to be imaginative, curious and joyful.”

Starting in August, Markovitz will teach a class for children ages 5 and older at the Camarillo Yoga Center.

“My yoga classes for young children incorporate safe, age appropriate poses,” Markovitz said. “I include simple breathing techniques to help children relax, feel good and enjoy the present moment. … In addition to practicing individual yoga poses, children learn partner and group poses, which build friendships.”

In a typical class, children place their mats in a circle. They begin seated, and take a few centering breaths.

“Then each child shares something special about themselves — their favorite thing to do when they’re not in school or their favorite fruit. … Every week, the children learn more about themselves and each other,” Markovitz said. “Then the theme of the day is introduced and the yoga adventure begins.”

For instance, “the adventure could be a pretend bike ride to the park,” Markovitz said. These pretend visions are then combined with yoga poses. For instance, “if he or she sees a dog, they practice a downward-facing dog pose. If they see a cat, they practice a cat pose — if they see a tree, they practice a tree pose.”

Yoga is something kids can do for their entire life to stay healthy and balanced in body and mind, said Audrey Walzer, owner of Camarillo Yoga.

“How many kids actually pursue ballet or soccer as adults?” Walzer said. “Yoga gives them the mindset of cooperation, determination and also compassion and teamwork. Yoga also helps kids who are athletic balance their bodies to reduce the likelihood of injury.”

Tara Stivers, of Camarillo, enrolled her 8-year-old daughter Kyla. Yoga has made Kyla more aware of her body’s strength, the mom said.

“Julie also really encourages the kids to use their imaginations, something Kyla loves to do,” Stivers said.

Kyla said: “Yoga is relaxing. It has helped me be more flexible for things like musical theater.”

Sherry Yilmaz, of Camarillo, enrolled her 9- and 6-year-old sons.

“It helps us all with focusing, flexibility and relaxation,” she said.

Yoga “is fun and helps teach my boys to make time for their health … and they help mom stay healthy by taking class with me.”