Move over ballet and soccer -- kid's yoga is apparently a thing. But before you roll your eyes at the thought of a roomful of children quietly gathered in a circle chanting 'omm' -- wait until you see exactly what it entails (hint: superheroes, juggling balls and an alien you get to smell.)
Paul Karantonis, founder of kids yoga business Yoganauts has been delivering his unique 'superhero yoga' classes to a number of schools through NSW and Victoria for the past year now (though he says he has plans to expand as the demand grows). His mission? To help equip kids with learning techniques for focus, balance, positivity and yoga breathing, which he argues are vital tools in a world of short attention spans and the increased use of screen-based media.
While you think it might be difficult to tear a child away from the TV and get them to focus on their breath, his sold-out pop up classes at The Sydney Fringe Festival suggest kids (and their parents) are digging it.
"Yoganauts is based on the fundamentals of yoga -- things like breath, gaze, and the need to practice practice practice," Karantonis told The Huffington Post Australia. "We talk about vitality, strength and balance, willpower, happiness and serenity -- and about it not being a competition."
"I think what's most important, though, is we have created a delivery process to engage the whole group and explain things to them in a way they understand and find interesting. The equipment, for instance, looks unique, inventive and enjoyable, and I think the same of the way we deliver it. We talk about these superpowers we all have."
Enter the four 'superheroes' of Yoganauts -- two boys and two girls named Goru, Kaizen, Zazen and Airon. As for their superpowers, Airon represents breath and vitality, Goru is all about focus and gaze, Kaizen is symbolic of willpower and Zazen reminds kids that yoga is non-competitive and they should feel relaxed and happy while practicing it.
Karantonis also provides a kind of yoga obstacle course with activities that represent elements of yoga. For instance, one station will involved kids having to bend down to smell a toy alien (inhaling and exhaling is big on the agenda) while another sees the kids trying to balance a juggling baton on their hand -- using their gaze to help them focus.
Each class ends with a wind-down relaxation, which Karantonis says proves useful to send them back to class.
"There is new research from Time magazine which says mindfulness exercises can help kids maths scores by 15 percent," Karantonis said. "In our experience, it does settle kids down and we've had teachers say to us 'my class was more settled last week after your morning class.' Of course, we love hearing that feedback but the real achievement is seeing how the kids themselves benefit."