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Its a Stretch for the Allen Family

With work and sports and ballet and school and swimming and everything else, it’s no wonder that stress is a factor in the Allen household — even down to Adam and Bella. When we set up the Allen family with a private family yoga class at Prana Studio (2901 Riva Trace Parkway; 410-266-3401; pranastudio.com), Margaret said, “we’re hoping to gain at least one or two things we can do to relax, that [the kids] can use to relax when they’re stressed.” Chris and Margaret took a class “years and years and years ago,” says Margaret, when both were working long hours. Since then, they’ve gone nowhere near a mat and a floor.

Both kids have a grasp on what yoga is. Adam knows it involves “stretching, losing your stress and gaining more flexibility,” while Bella hopes it will “help me to relax and not get crazy anymore.”

nstructor Kathleen Schuman meets the family, then takes all four into the spacious, candle-lit studio. Each Allen has his or her own mat; as the class begins, it’s clear that the kids are pretty wired. Questions about the candles, the mats, the room, about everything start flying. Adam is particularly concerned with a mood ring he’s brought along to guage his stress level. Schuman, though, gently redirects the kids’ minds and brings them towards breathing. In the basic lotus postion, she instructs the family to “bring your palms onto your belly. Press your belly away from your spine, so you’re going to fill your belly up.” She tells them to breath in for a count of four, then out. “If you’re really stressed, make your exhale count one more than your intake count.”

As the class progresses to easy, basic stretching, the kids get less distracted. When Bella takes a tumble off a yoga block Schuman provided to help her with a stretch, Schuman smoothly goes on with the class, and Bella quickly recovers.

The family goes through the stretches, and occaisionally Schuman gets up to help each of the family members with an adjustment. She helps the (admittedly) inflexible Chris with his back, then helps Margaret get her hips into the right position. When she corrects Margaret’s posture, it makes a noticeable difference; instead of looking strained and uncomfortable, she suddenly looks relaxed and in control.  When Chris has trouble with a pose, Schumann reassures him, “yoga is a 50-year plan. Nothing has to happen tonight.” Some of the poses the kids can do without even thinking, while Chris and Margaret struggle and grab at their ankles.

Schuman says that usually parents and kids aren’t taught together. The kids need more activity and the poses are often accompanied by a story to help keep their attention. It’s true that, when practicing the “fierce warrior” pose, Bella takes it a bit too literally and attempts to kick her brother in the stomach. Separate classes also allow parents to not worry about disciplining the kids and can instead focus on their own work; Chris did have to take a moment to speak quietly to Adam.

“Really, [Adam and Bella] were beautiful,” says Schuman. “Any yoga class for kids is going to be prepared for this.” 

At the end of the class, Schuman gets the entire family lying down in the dark and says “And now we practice quiet. We practice stillness.” And, almost amazingly, the kids do.  For a good three minutes.

After the class Adam says he feels more relaxed, and claims that the light blue color of his mood ring proves it.

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