From infants to teenagers, practicing yoga offers numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits. The gurus at Downtown Desert Yoga explain why it might be just the extracurricular your child needs.
Written by Jessica Muncrief
Photography by Donicio Madrid
When Colleen Boyd, owner of Downtown Desert Yoga, first invited her 13-year-old son’s baseball team to practice yoga at her studio, they were bouncing off the walls and completely unfocused. “We had to set some boundaries at first,” she remembers, “but over time they started to respect the space and gain more focus. They started looking forward to the Shavasana at the end of the class where we lie still and essentially meditate. A lot of the adults that practice at the studio say they come in specifically because they crave those few moments where their brains can just rest. It’s really cool to see that transition into the kid’s classes too.”
Colleen, originally an architect by trade, started practicing yoga while living in San Francisco. After returning to her hometown of Las Cruces, she took over Downtown Desert Yoga about seven years ago. She credits practicing yoga with decreased stress levels and increased mental focus, not to mention the physical payoffs—and she hopes to extend those benefits to even the youngest Las Crucens.
Downtown Desert Yoga currently offers Mommy and Me classes for infants, toddler classes for up to age five, and children’s classes for ages five and up. (Colleen says children are welcome to accompany parents to regular classes as long as they’re able to stay focused on their mat and participate to the best of their ability without disruption.)
“In the children’s class, the format is different than an adult class,” explains instructor Loreli Alveraz. “We have to capture and hold their attention so it’s more about using their imagination and playing.”
Lorelei bases each lesson around a popular story, like the Wizard of Oz, which the children act out through yoga moves and poses. Lightning Bolt pose, for instance, represents the bad weather leading up to the tornado that transports Dorothy to Oz, and of course, Downward Dog comes into play when Toto makes an appearance. “I try to choose popular stories that also have a moral. The Wizard of Oz has elements of mindfulness, working together, and overcoming fears,” Lorelei notes.
It’s never too early to start little ones. Downtown Desert’s baby classes incorporate sensory integration and developmental activities, all while focusing on that connection and interaction between baby and caregiver. “We don’t wait to talk to baby. We don’t wait to sing, read, and dance with baby. Why not begin encouraging that healthy respect for body and mind and start the path to exercise now too? Babies chart a more direct path of growth and development because yoga promotes cross brain function, aids gross and fine motor skill development, and improves baby’s sleep patterns in both frequency and duration. Plus, it’s fun for everyone involved,” Baby & You, Too instructor Annie Pennies says, adding that the class also offers the caregiver stress release, socialization, and muscle building.
And even before baby is born, yoga can be beneficial for expectant mothers. While Downtown Desert doesn’t currently have any regularly scheduled classes geared specifically to prenatal women, they do offer special workshops from time to time, and Colleen says many of their classes are accessible to pregnant women. “There are certain poses that you just don’t do when you’re pregnant and our instructors are familiar with that,” she explains. “Later on in pregnancy it may not be appropriate, but in the early stages, the more gentlyeclasses can be very beneficial—after you’ve received clearance from your doctor of course.”
Beyond the physical aspect which can be helpful in preparing a woman’s body for labor, Colleen likens the benefits of prenatal yoga to Lamaze. It develops focus and integrates breathing which can help with the pain of labor.
No matter what age the new yogi may be, Downtown Desert offers an outlet for coping with whatever stressors might come up in life. Lorelei says, “A lot of parents come in saying their son or daughter has been dealing with a lot of anxiety. My goal for them is to have a completely non-judgmental, non-competitive format where they can be happy and just be themselves.”
Get Started at Home
Need to introduce a little Zen into your household? Colleen says the internet is a great resource for finding easy, kid-friendly yoga poses. She also recommends checking out your favorite bookstore for books and card decks specifically geared towards young practitioners.
“Yoga’s lineage is such that a lot of the poses are named after animals,” she points out. “One of the best ways to get your kids started is to make it a game. Have them make up poses emulating animals, shapes, characters, or superheros, like the Superman Pose.”
Downtown Desert Yoga | 303 S. Alameda Blvd. | 575-647-YOGA | downtowndesertyoga.com