Small children stretched themselves into tiny pretzels as yoga instructor Rachel Dzagulones led the youngsters in learning the “happy baby” stretch one Thursday morning at the Butler YMCA.
The children, ages 2 to 5, laid on their backs, grabbing their feet and rolling back and forth on purple yoga mats, all with the help of their mothers nearby.
It's all part of one of the latest programs added at the Butler YMCA in which area mothers can bring their preschoolers to learn yoga stretches and breathing techniques.
The classes started last fall after Dzagulones saw the impact yoga has had on her life and her family.
She originally started doing yoga for the health benefits and soon became an instructor, teaching classes at the YMCA and bringing the lessons home to her children.
“It (started) after my second son was born. I didn't realize until about six months that I was battling post-partum depression,” she said. “I started to go to some yoga classes to get in better shape and soon realized the mental and emotional benefits.”
She soon began teaching her children as well, leading them in stretches and breathing exercises at home and teaching them techniques to take a breath and calm down when feeling upset or overwhelmed. Dzagulones said it has made a noticeable difference.
“I think it helps them develop coping skills,” she said. “Whenever they're feeling frustrated or sad or angry, they know they have these skills. They can sit quietly, do some breathing.”
And parents with children in the program say they've noticed these benefits as well.
Sarah Drew began taking the class when it first started — first with her son, Bennet, 2, and later adding her daughter, Ayla, 4.
“We love it,” Drew said. “It's good for calming down.”
Since they started, Drew said she has seen a huge difference.
“I think everyone should give it a try,” she said.
Back in the class, Dzagulones led the room in some breathing exercises, pointing out one of the children's “Star Wars” T-shirts.
“You know how Darth Vader breathes?” she said, demonstrating. “I think Darth Vader (could) be a yogi.”
The class wrapped up and Dzagulones invited her students to sign up for next week's class as mothers rolled up the mats to put away.
Dzagulones's classes are available to anyone with preschool-age children and are held from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. Thursday mornings. The classes are free to members of the YMCA.
She also teaches yoga classes for students in an afterschool program and adults.
For more information or to register for classes, visit butler.bcfymca.org/pre-k.
Dzagulones added that anyone who wants more yoga classes that better suit their needs can call the YMCA and file a request, adding that the organization is always looking for recommendations for new classes or offerings.