SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 1, 2013

Helping kids breathe deeply

Peabody library offers free yoga classes for children

By Alanah Percy
Gordon College News Service

---- — PEABODY — Betsy Reid, 52, is a professional when it comes to relaxation. As she leads her children’s yoga class to shavasana, which is a period of relaxation, she is reminded that life is at its best when experienced in the spirit of peace.

“I tell my kids they can’t control what’s going on around them, but they can control how they react,” Reid said.

A librarian, Reid holds several free yoga classes for children at the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody. Incorporating stories, poems and songs, they include both traditional yoga exercises and upbeat activities to keep the kids engaged.

The library began included yoga in its calendar events five years ago after receiving a grant from Metropolitan Life called “Fit for Life,” to support community health. They decided to use it to teach yoga to children, and children’s librarian Carol Bender encouraged Reid to offer the classes.

“It’s a perfect fit for her,” Bender said. “She is great at what she does.”

Thrilled by the opportunity to share her passion for yoga and health, Reid said she was first certified to teach children ages 3 to 5. After recognizing a growing interest in the program, she went back for more training and was recertified as an instructor for older children.

“I lead my class in a series of relaxing poses and teach them how to breathe deep,” Reid said. “I remind them to breathe in school if they get a bad grade on a test or if their friends are making them mad. Breathing helps kids make better decisions when presented with challenges.”

The Peabody Institute Library is not the only local venue for children’s yoga. Brown Elementary School in Peabody and the Sawyer Free Library in Gloucester also have classes.

“Libraries are becoming more civil-minded,” Reid said. “It’s not just about books, it’s about the whole child.”

For example, the library also partners with Haven From Hunger and other organizations to provide free lunches for kids during the summer.

Yoga classes not only get children more active, Reid said, but help make students more competitive academically. Rising academic expectations have the potential to place stress on children, making it difficult for those who lack confidence in the classroom.

To help children cope with scholastic pressures, Reid also offers MCAS yoga classes at the Peabody library on Tuesday afternoons from 4 to 5 p.m. for students preparing to take the state’s standardized MCAS exams.

Reid teaches classes in hopes of helping kids feel more grounded and physically fit.

“You would be surprised if I told you how many kids can’t touch their toes,” Reid said. “It’s a sign of inactivity.”

An active woman who takes yoga three times a week, she has personally seen the benefits of such classes and reaps the benefits of increased strength and flexibility.

“Yoga is about appreciating what you have,” she said, “and putting the to-do list aside.”

YOGA FOR KIDS Little Yogis, a child and parent yoga class for ages 3 to 5, Wednesdays, 10 to 11 a.m., beginning March 6 Friendship Yoga, for ages 6 to 10, Tuesdays, 4 to 5 p.m., beginning March 5 Register by calling 978-531-0100, ext. 29 Free admission At Peabody Institute Library, 82 Main St., Peabody