It’s no secret that the media isn’t kind to girls. From unrealistic, Photoshopped pictures of women in fashion magazines to overtly sexualized images of tweens and teens on television and in movies, many girls grow up with diminished self-esteem, believing they’re neither pretty enough nor thin enough to hold worth in our society.
Enter Kids Yoga Instructor Jen Hess and her GirlPower! program, designed to help girls in 4th and 5th grades focus on personal strengths and self-empowerment, instead of the negative media messages surrounding them.
“Girls this age are at a confusing stage in their lives, “ says Jen. “My goal for this yoga-centered program is to help them increase their level of self-awareness, channel their feelings, and connect those feelings to actions and words.”
In addition to yoga, each girl will be given a book for journaling, and will create an individual magazine to capture the positive messages learned in class.
“I want to affect change in girls’ lives before they hit high school, and absorb the baggage that comes from strong peer influence, and influence from the opposite sex,” Jen stresses. “Girls need to learn how to recognize and trust their own voice, to choose wisely when something doesn’t feel right to them, and to be confident enough to do so. This program will absolutely help with this.”
As a longtime yogi, a certified instructor of children’s yoga for the past 4 years, and the mother to a young daughter, Jen knows firsthand how yoga can foster feelings of self-empowerment and trust. Yoga has been transformative in her own life, and she is passionate about giving kids the same opportunity to find ways to manage stress and how to listen to—and nurture—their bodies and minds. She hopes to teach girls in her GirlPower! program how skills learned on the mat can translate into their everyday lives, a topic she often covers on her yoga-inspired blog, karmaspotkids.com.
Each class will begin with 45 minutes-to-1-hour of yoga, followed by discussion and writing in journals. The class will be a safe space where girls are encouraged to talk freely about their feelings without fear of judgement. Jen, who holds an MFA, will then assist each girl with the creation of her personal magazine.
This amazing program is open to Midtown members only, and girls are encouraged to reach out to their friends and invite them to enroll. I wish my own two daughters were old enough for this program. Clearly, they believe they’re ready now.
GirlPower! takes places on Sunday afternoons from September 9th through October 28th from 4-6pm in Yoga Studio B. The cost is $140. Membership is not required.
Contact Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mind/Body Director Randi Lattimore at email@example.com with questions. And to learn more about the benefits of yoga for kids, click here and here.
If you have a daughter in 4th or 5th grade, the lessons she’ll learn in GirlPower! will prove invaluable for her as she navigates through the confusing and often negative world of our media-driven culture. We hope to see her (and her friends) in class.
Three days a week, my morning begins with a 5am run. I arrive home, get three kids under six (including three-year-old twins) out of bed, dressed, fed, on the bus (or in the car) and off to school. On my off-days, I’m up at the same hour, working before the wee ones arise.
My days are scheduled down to the minute with work, meetings, shuttling children to various destinations, and trying to remember deadlines, doctor appointments, and dinner plans.
I attempt to keep my calendar static, but it never stays that way. I try not to worry about the things I cannot control, like when my nanny’s grandmother died during the same week my son stayed home sick from school and I had a looming deadline, but I never stay nonplussed for long.
Bottom line? I run hard(ish). I work even harder. And I am stressed out.
In the fall, as I was circling the drain of “Too-Much-On-My-Plate” despair, I sat down with Randi Lattimore, Mind/Body Director of Midtown Athletic Club in Rochester, NY, to conduct this interview. Something she said while we were chatting hit home for me.
She said, “Yoga is for everyone.”
“That’s a nice thought, Randi. But yoga isn’t for me,” I said. “I’m too tightly wound. Yoga is for people who are more chill than I am. I can’t relax.”
Then I realized the irony in what I was saying.
And the next day, having never before taken a single yoga class, I enrolled in Yoga School, Midtown’s unique program for those new to the practice or those who have been away from it for awhile. Small class sizes ensure personalized attention, which was something really important to me as a Type A, because why do something if you’re not going to do it exactly right? Who’s with me here?
Over the course of the four-week program, taught by the amazing Lindsay Hildreth, I learned:
Basic yoga poses with an emphasis on proper alignment
The importance of breathing (who knew?)
That I am not the inflexible and uncoordinated mess of limbs I once thought I was (although I have a long way to go)
That shavasana (the quiet time of personal reflection that concludes each class) is like a tonic for the soul
The personal approach to yoga (it’s an individual practice and there’s no “beating” anyone, as I was accustomed to with running races) is one I could totally (and surprisingly) embrace
Yoga School ended two months ago. I’ve practiced yoga almost every week since.
Starting the practice of yoga didn’t eliminate my stress. It’s still there, a product of a busy job, needy young children, and a calendar that’s always packed with responsibilities.
But it has taught me that when I’m in class, on my mat, being present within myself, it’s okay to let go for a little while.
Yoga has allowed me to relax and center my thoughts. To focus on my body and what it can do. To let my breathing guide my movement. To stretch my mind as well as my limbs. To embrace the hour of practice as my own, and to shut out the distractions and pressures that often circle me like wolves.
It’s not the high-energy, cardio-heavy workout I’m accustomed to. It’s still very hard for me to slow down, and to accept that my heart won’t be pounding and I won’t breathe heavily at the end of yoga class.
No, instead yoga is something entirely different. It helps me feel less anxious and more calm. Less like my busy life is spiraling out of control, and more like I am in charge of it, instead of the other way around.
And it’s helped my five-year-old daughter too, who in the fall finished her own first session of yoga at the club, through the Midtown Varsity program, and is starting her second this week. She adores yoga, and the lovely “Miss Jen” (Hess) who teaches it. The benefits of yoga for kids are numerous, including its ability to foster a bond with your three-year-old little sister.
Check out the schedule for Kids Yoga and other complimentary Midtown Varsity classes here.
The Winter Session of Yoga School begins next week. Morning, afternoon, and evening sessions are offered at a variety of times. Grab a registration form at the club, or contact Randi for more information at 585-461-2301 x103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trust me on this: Randi is right. Yoga is for everyone, even scary Type A’s like me. If I can embrace (and love) yoga, then anyone can.
Yogis, please share with us. Why do you love yoga?
Member Kathleen Hermann takes over the blog today to talk about how you can use your Midtown membership to give your kids the gift of health and wellness.
Take it away, Kathleen!
Imagine that you could purchase the gift of lifelong health or endow it in a will.
What parents wouldn’t sacrifice to secure such a valuable asset for their children?
Unfortunately, we cannot acquire health with cash alone; however, we CAN armor our children against a host of chronic diseases and set them on the right track for a flourishing, balanced life. We don’t have to wait to give this gift – we can start right now!
Of course, there is no lack of obstacles to raising healthy kids. Recent statistics show 1 out of every 3 children in America is overweight. We are reminded of this with every McDonald’s arch we pass, every cartoon character encouraging the consumption of sugary snacks, and every child we pass tapping away on his portable Nintendo.
Now, more than ever, just as we protect our children from tetanus and diphtheria, it is of equal importance to immunize them against the growing childhood disease of obesity.
Here are four ways you can use your Midtown membership to help your children on their lifelong path of health:
Midtown Varsity Programs
The fall session of Midtown Varsity children’s programming is under way. Offered in addition to the excellent sports camps that Midtown offers over summer and school breaks, these classes have many benefits:
They are designed not only for exercise, but also to show our children how to have fun in their physical pursuits and develop confidence in their abilities.
The age-appropriate yoga classes teach body awareness and coordination in combination with giving kids the relaxation skills needed to counter the pressures of modern life
Parents are not just delegated to a tiny waiting room or the sidelines. Rather, we are able to simultaneously recharge ourselves in Midtown’s facilities, making great use of limited time and ensuring both parent and child head home recharged.
Other than a nominal family sign-up fee, these classes are free to Midtown members.
2. The Gift of a Lifelong Sport
Our Midtown Junior Tennis Program is nationally recognized and our Midtown Currents Swim Team excels at local competitions. If you want the best place in the greater Rochester area to get your children hooked with the confidence and skills they need to enjoy these sports, look no further than Midtown.
It was the USTA that coined the phrase, “Tennis, the Sport for a Lifetime.” And it’s true. Because the level of play is controlled by the person playing, children can start tennis in the preschool years and still play competitive singles past their 80s.
In truth, although you should encourage your children to try any sport they show interest in, certain sports have a much earlier “retirement age” after the scholastic years of organized leagues. It’s difficult to find ten people, equipment, and two goals for a lacrosse scrimmage, and rounding up volunteers for a cheerleading pyramid in your 40s will likely be near impossible. However, tennis and swimming will always be available, often for free, in countless parks nationwide. They are not only competitive sports but also lifetime skills you can enjoy through the years.
3. Kidtown and the Café
In most gyms, your snack choices are limited to the five rows in a standard vending machine.
Luckily, Midtown isn’t most gyms.
At Midtown, in addition to myriad healthful choices offered on the full Bon Marche and Gould Street cafe menus, there are choices catered expressly to the tastes, needs and portion sizes of children.
It’s much less tempting to stop for a Happy Meal to appease a hungry whining child on the way to the gym when you know he or she can enjoy a nourishing, appetizing meal right in Kidtown.
The children’s meals are offered with sides such as carrot sticks, fruit, and applesauce; soda is not even listed as a beverage option. There are few eateries that offer a healthy salad as a kids meal option or which serve their kids meal sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Of course, we should expect nothing less from Midtown.
Kidtown is more than accommodating of bagged lunches brought from home and also offers the children fresh water while they play. And play they do. With a kid-sized basketball court, tumbling mats, riding toys, bouncing balls, and access to the gym, my kids often leave Kidtown in a good sweat.
4. Leading by Example
The first step in encouraging a certain lifestyle for your children is believing that it matters.
Your family will sense you are passionate about staying fit and eating right by witnessing your own commitment to these values. When they are young, children accept our convictions without question, but even older children and teens are influenced by what their parents believe and do. That is why the best tool that we have in fighting childhood obesity is staring us right in the mirror. Much more than a celebrity spokesperson or clever cartoon, we have the power to encourage healthy habits in our children simply by our own demonstration.
When I pick up my kids in Kidtown, they often ask me how many miles I ran that day, or if I took a class with one of their friend’s mommies. To them, physical activity is as typical a part of daily living as brushing their teeth.
I can’t help but feel proud to see my example rubbing off when my three-year-old packs her doll in the play stroller and announces that she is taking her baby for a jog, before trotting up and down the sidewalk. I got the same feeling watching my five-year-old challenging herself to swim “laps” like the “grown-ups” in Midtown’s pool this summer.
Watching how they are forming habits at a young age further reminds me of the importance of introducing fitness and healthy living in their lives now. I know that the example I set will be the key to enforcing these values.
Luckily, most days setting that example is as simple as going to Midtown.
How do you encourage your kids to lead healthy, active lives?