- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

It’s finally here, year’s end — a time when many people are drained from mad-rush holiday shopping, intense days with extended family and 12 months of daily grind. It’s time to relax, to calm the mind and re-energize the body.

Whether you’re age 3 or 85, yoga can help you achieve just that, says Annie Mahon, founder of Budding Yogis/Circle Yoga, a yoga studio for families, children and teenagers in Northwest, near Chevy Chase Circle. The studio also features adult-only classes.

“I think people leave the classes with an overall sense of well-being. Physically, emotionally and energetically,” Ms. Mahon says.

The most popular pose — the one most often requested by teenagers in particular — is savasana , a deep-relaxation pose.

“I think [it’s the most popular] because teenagers really are in need of some downtime. They’re physically and emotionally tired,” says Ms. Mahon, who has four teenagers of her own.

When doing savasana, practitioners lie down on their back, feet hip-width apart, palms facing up and eyes closed. They slow their breathing, relaxing, making their limbs heavy, as if they were about to sink through the floor, Ms. Mahon says.

“You surrender to the floor as your body relaxes,” she says. “By just being aware of your breath, it will slow down automatically and deepen.”

This calms the mind, she says, and relaxes the body. When the mind starts wandering, refocus on the breathing, she says.

When savasana was taught to a recent family class, where most children (who have to be accompanied by an adult) are between 3 and 5 years old, instructor Linda Feldman gave out tiny stuffed animals for everyone to put on their stomach. No, not for playing with but rather to aid young and old alike in achieving deep and full breathing.

“Now look down on your stomach and see if your little animal is moving up and down,” she instructed the class of a dozen or so students. “Good. That means you’re taking full breaths.”

The stuffed animals were also used to encourage good posture when doing the tadasana — or mountain — pose, where practitioners stand straight up, feet together, arms along the body.

In addition to the stuffed animals, the class was full of other fun-filled activities, such as parents making a tunnel (by doing the downward-facing dog pose, a pose where the practitioner is on all fours, arms and legs straight) and children crawling through the tunnel.

“This is a place to have fun. There is no wrong. We don’t judge,” Ms. Mahon says. “We want to make sure that we’re not yet another activity that the children and teenagers have to do and where they’re feeling judged.”

There’s no competitiveness or perfection involved, she says. “It’s just yoga.”

But it still has it’s benefits beyond being calming the mind and relaxing the body.

“A lot of kids sit a lot, and yoga helps get the blood flowing,” she says. “And many poses build strength, too.”

The first class of the studio’s 2007 season is tomorrow , a workshop that includes one beginner and one more advanced class for adults. Classes for children and teenagers will start in mid-January.

Young or old, a yoga class offers 60 to 75 minutes of self care, a time when it’s all about you, your own energy, emotions and body, Ms. Mahon says.

“It’s a gift to yourself.”

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