Part one of two
Filling a yoga class in Prince George used to be a stretch.
It wasn't long ago that the ancient body/mind/spirit practice would have been out of place in a community fixated more on iron-pumping and team sports.
These days, yoga has contorted itself so far into local society that even kids are regularly doing yoga.
Children's yoga is Sufey Chen's specialty, bringing it to Prince George from her years of personal yoga training in Asia, New Mexico, Hawaii and from peer mentors here in her home town.
"I'm holding regular adult classes too, but I have this passion for working with kids," said Chen, who also teaches piano and coaches figure skating. "I'm the oldest of five, I've been teaching since I was 11 years old. I believe if we give children the right tools to make it in this world, everyone would be a lot healthier and happier."
The next round of classes for children gets underway on Monday. Chen held previous yoga workshops for kids on a trial basis and was overwhelmed by the lineup of participants so she has refined the process into age brackets: 6 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 and teens.
Each age bracket has its own afternoon session, once per week, for 45 to 60 minutes. They are shaped into six-week sessions and participants can't join the process once the series starts.
"The classes are different in style" depending on the ages, she explained. "A teen is more self-aware so we can go deeper into the practice itself, the younger kids are more energetic. I get to tap into their inner curiosity and inner joy, and give them the space to play and dance and move and be free."
The classes are not a free-for-all, however. Yoga is methodical body movement and a centuries-old discipline for improving physical fitness and mental health through slow-moving flexibility and strength conditioning.
"The kids are learning things. We teach traditional asanas - the postures, and breathing forms," said Chen. "Also, we talk about how to apply that into their daily life. It's actually very similar to how I teach adults. If kids learn to love this at their beginning, they have a practice they can go back to their entire life."
All of these child/youth-centred yoga sessions will be held at Chinook Yoga (corner of 3rd Avenue and Vancouver Street). For times and other details call Chinook at 250-564-9642 or visit their website at chinookyoga.com.