PITTSTON — On the day before Easter when most folks shopped for chocolate or hunted colored eggs on the lawn, half a dozen youngsters stretched out on yoga mats and learned how to relax.
It was Kids’ Yoga, sponsored by Home Yoga and Barre, of West Pittston. The two yoga studio owners, Alyssa Miller and Jonelle Dickson, commandeered the gym on the third floor of Pittston City Fire Rescue Station 165 and helped their charges navigate the mind-body connection that is Yin Yoga.
“Yoga has really made a difference in my life,” said Dickson, who has been a practitioner for just over five years. “I was teaching at a gym in some high intensity programs, and someone asked me to try yoga training. I fell in love with it and the connection between mind, spirit and breathing. And now I am sharing it with others.”
And share she did. She wandered around the sunny gym, guiding the youngsters through a relaxation exercise. The kids stretched out on their backs and closed their eyes.
“Breath in through your nose,” she said in a low voice. “Fill up your tummy like a big balloon. Now, give the balloon a color. Inhale. Exhale. Fill that balloon.”
Although one or two of the youngsters had a bit of trouble with lying still for minutes on end, the small bodies on the yoga mats finally relaxed with the deep breathing and then practiced imagining their troubles floating away.
Then, the “other” fun began.
Miller, who fell in love with yoga and its relaxation eight months ago, took over to play a few “yoga games,” versions of Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light and musical chairs with a yoga twist. Literally. The youngsters found themselves working muscles and limbs into yoga poses that emphasized strength and balance.
“We’re adapting the yoga to things the kids understand and like to do,” she said. “But they’re building a mind-body connection at the same time. And they’re stretching those muscles out.”
And she pointed out the muscles that were getting stretched as the youngsters held the “mountain pose,” the “tree pose” or the “warrior pose.”
But the games part of the afternoon was definitely a hit with the boys in the room.
“I love Red Light/Green Light,” said Jeffrey Ross, 9, who said he plays baseball and likes to play other games. He was one of the fastest runners in the gym before he had to stop and go into a yoga pose.
It wasn’t just the kids, either. Jillian Matyjevich, who works out at Home Yoga and Barre on a weekly basis, got onto a mat herself next to her 12-year-old son, Ozzie Dobrowalski.
She hopped off her own mat to help the youngsters who had difficulty with one or two of the more complicated poses.
“It’s not always easy to stretch your legs into some of these poses,” she said. “It took me a while to get them, and trying them for the first time can be tough sometimes.”
Her daughter, Olivia Matyjevich, though, sailed through the complicated poses and watched her brother turn himself into a pretzel.
“I like to do this,” Ozzie said. “It helps me stretch out my muscles after I play baseball.”
The kids got into a musical-chairs variation that had them pretending to swim as they ran around the circle of yoga mats, then diving onto a mat — or “raft” — when they heard the call, “Shark!”
Gracie Mangan, 11, who attends Wyoming Area Catholic School, said she enjoys the fun on the yoga mats, the stretching, and especially the relaxation.
“But I like it, too, because it helps me when I run,” she said. “I can feel how it helps when I run cross country.”
The event helped to share in other ways as well.
“We at the studio make it a point to share part of our profits with a different charity every month,” Dickson said. “For March, it’s the Little League in Pittston.”
That means the proceeds from the $10 a person admission March 26, any donations that came in during March toward the charity drive and part of the studio profits.
“You give back to the community,” Dickson said. “It’s just the right thing to do.”