The children were intent yet relaxed on their mats. Their bodies started slowly shifting into shapes — stretching forward, raising a leg, reaching arm and body high while balanced on opposite arm and leg.
They met weekly in the summer in St. John, at Sarah Johnson’s Now Yoga Club, which offers classes for kids between the ages of 6 and 11. Each 90-minute session included yoga poses, guided meditation, yoga games, breath work and art projects.
The kids made mantra boxes decorated and filled with words that inspired them, and mindfulness jars they used to help them breathe and gain presence during upsetting moments in their lives. With school now in session, Johnson plans to resume the classes at Now Yoga Club monthly.
“These sessions were hands down the highlight of my summer,” Johnson says. So it's not surprising she also offers them at Grimmer Middle School in Schererville, where she teaches sixth- and eighth-grade technology.
“The teachers and administration at Grimmer are always trying to offer a variety of activities for our students, and yoga has shown to be an excellent outlet for students to be active and learn something new,” she says. "I also wanted to create a haven for students where they could find peace and calm amidst the chaos. They can challenge themselves in a fun, supportive environment."
The free yoga club meets weekly — with some teachers joining in.
Johnson’s experience with the yoga club at school inspired her to start Now Yoga Club, which has classes for kids, teens, families and adults. She says her goal is to create “a welcoming oasis” for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to practice yoga.
“Yoga (for kids) is calming and relaxing, whether it's at Now Yoga Club or yoga club at school,” says Kaya Blankenship, a seventh-grader at Grimmer. “It gets my mind off anything I am stressed about, like homework. I never regret going because it always makes me feel better."
Alex Johnson, also a seventh-grader and no relation to Sarah Johnson, is in the family yoga class at Now Yoga Club. “It’s wonderful. It helps the spirit and improves my grades, and it also helps us deal with any stress or anxiety," she says. "I would suggest yoga to anybody and everybody.”
Parents are enthusiastic, too.
“All three of my children loved their yoga experiences. They repeatedly came home excited about the different ways they learned to pay attention to their bodies and techniques they could use to relax or calm their minds. I especially liked the way Sarah included lessons and kid-friendly projects,” says Shawn Killeen.
Heather McGoldrick adds: “The classes taught my daughter so much about how to manage stress through awareness, body movement, breathing and meditation. It’s such a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn at a young age how to identify and positively cope with their emotions and feelings in a healthy way.”
At Grimmer, Johnson coaches volleyball. When that season ends, Grimmer Yoga Club will begin again weekly after school, transforming the choir room into a makeshift yoga studio open to students in grades six, seven and eight.
As for her studio, Johnson says: “I call it Now Yoga Club because the present is the best place to spend our lives. By letting go of past regrets or future worries we can learn to embrace the power of right now and live to our fullest potential.
“I feel so honored to be able to guide these children, to learn how to breathe in a healthy way, equip them to handle confusing emotions, learn to calm themselves, and teach them to move their bodies and challenge themselves physically and safely.”