- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Molly Schreiber softly asked her little yogis to bring their hands to their heart center.

Four-year-old Via Castaneda-Henkel, who sat contently in her daddy’s lap, placed her palms together. Her little feet dangled over his crossed legs.

With an effortless bow, the little yogis and their adult counterparts welcomed each other with namaste at Body & Soul Wellness Center and Spa.

More and more children are learning to meld their body, mind and spirit through the ancient practice of yoga.

Children substantially increased the practice of yoga between 2007 and 2012, according to a February 2015 study published in National Health Statistics Reports. Overall, 3.1 percent of children ages 4 to 17 years used yoga in 2012, up from 2.3 percent in 2007.

Schreiber, owner of Challenge to Change, encourages parents to “give your child the gift of yoga.” She said yoga helps calm the mind in a fast-paced world.

This year, Schreiber started to teach her toddler yoga class for children ages 2 to 5. It incorporates deep-breathing exercises, poses and peace within yoga.

“In the toddler setting, I like to keep it really small. Then you can give them special attention,” Schreiber said.

The Telegraph-Herald (http://bit.ly/20I0bzh ) reports four children are enrolled in her 9-month toddler yoga session. Parents practice yoga with the youngsters in class.

“It actually made me a little nervous,” Schreiber said. “I was surprised at how much I love it.”

Lora Fuller, with Kneaded Health and Wellness in Peosta, Iowa, instructs various sessions for children 6 weeks to 12 years at Unified Therapy Services.

“It helps with stimulating and calming reflexes, builds muscle tone and promotes bonding with parents,” Fuller said of toddler yoga.

Schreiber offers multiple sessions for toddler and kids yoga for children up to 12 years old.

Dubuque resident Jason Henkel and his wife, Kristina Castaneda, routinely practice yoga with their daughter, Via.

“It’s awesome,” Henkel said “Yoga has made a huge impact in my life and her mom’s life.”

Schreiber’s toddler yoga class is the first time Henkel has participated in a yoga class with his daughter.

Four-year-old Maggie Pape, of East Dubuque, Illinois, practices yoga poses with her mother, Melissa, in Schreiber’s toddler yoga class.

The youngster’s favorite pose is downward dog. “I don’t know why. I just like dogs,” Maggie said.

Melissa Pape, whose 8-year-old child, Marley, participates in a kids yoga class, said she has seen numerous benefits from yoga. Breathing techniques, for instance, come in handy at home. Pape said whenever her children enter tantrum mode, she asks them to breathe through their nose and out their mouth.

“They can learn to be calm and control their emotions,” she said.

Kara Bunte, of Dubuque, watched her youngest, 3-year-old Sam Klavitter, develop skills to calm himself through yoga. She enjoys their yoga time together.

“For me, it’s a time that we can do something that is together,” Bunte said.

Routine is key for toddler yoga. Schreiber begins with Om chants, a welcome and sun salutation.

“That’s what they know is going to happen,” she said.

She tells the toddlers what they’ll do for the day, which includes literature and at least one new activity.

“With the toddlers, I have to constantly be changing the activity,” Schreiber said.

Routine continues at the end of class. Toddlers either snuggle beside their parent, rest on their parent’s belly or lay next to their parent to meditate. It ends with namaste.

___

Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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