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Willow School kids get a chance to learn yoga poses, breathing exercises

For six weeks, certified yoga instructor Tricia
Butcher led first- and second-grade students
at Willow School through yoga exercises. 


  Lucia Bushong strikes a perfect pose during
Yoga Club at Willow School. 
(Marilyn Thomas
photos/H-F Chronicle)

The first- and second-graders moved through a variety of poses.

But this wasn’t ballet class. This was Yoga Club at Willow School in Homewood.

For six weeks, certified yoga instructor Tricia Butcher had the 12 kids gently stretching through yoga poses and learning to breathe. The lights are off and mood music plays softly as each child is in place on a yoga mat in the small gym.

Butcher is an assistant at the school. When she learned Willow offered after-school clubs, she asked if she could offer a yoga session. When her own children were younger, she would encourage their gym teachers to include yoga in the classes, and she did mindfulness exercises for students at test time.

Yoga instructor Tricia Butcher leads first and second graders in the Yoga Club at Willow School.
  Yoga instructor Tricia Butcher
  leads first- and second-graders
  in the Yoga Club at Willow


The Yoga Club “is just for fun. The kids choose to do it,” she said. “When I set up the club, I made sure the parents knew it wasn’t just an exercise class. We do games, we do stories” that relate to yoga. 

The children seem relaxed as they listen to the teacher.

“Cross your legs. Sit up tall. That means the shoulders are right on top of those hips,” Butcher instructs. “Wave with your right arm. Bring it to the opposite side. Now bring your left behind you and look behind you over your shoulder.” 

  Hartley Shulman holds the
  tree pose as a member of
  Yoga Club.

With this pose, the students are gently twisting their shoulders, back and bellies.  The teacher encourages them to breathe in and out. After a few seconds, they reverse positions to twist in the opposite direction. Then Butcher has them “unwind your back and shake it out. Good job!”

Butcher said poses, such as the cobra, downward facing dog, tree and airplane may sound like they are meant to get the kids’ attention, but they are terms for poses that she uses in adult classes, too.

“The difference with kids is making the animal noises,” she said.

As the 40-minute session is about to wrap up, Butcher has the class lay on their backs for deep breathing.

“Relax your face and your teeth and your jaw and your neck. And feel your breath in and out,” she encourages them.

Eliana Falk, a second grader, said she’s enjoyed the class “because I like the breathing” part of it. Lucia Bushong, a first grader, said: “I really like it and it makes me feel good.”

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