It’s a late winter afternoon at Body, Santa Fe’s popular wellness complex. As sunlight slants across the studio’s polished wood floor, instructor Kathy Walsh and Helen Young, her assistant, welcome their small group of youngest yoga students, one of whom comes barreling down the hall ahead of his mom to get there. Kathy gives everybody a few minutes to settle into places in the circle on their day-glo orange and neon pink “magic carpet” yoga mats, smiling, addressing each child by name. “You can be anything you want to be!” Kathy says. “My grandma told me that, and I believed her.” The two five-year-old girls, Afsana and Danika, stare at her solemnly; Jahio, who’s three, keeps hopping around on his knees, laughing, rolling, crashing into his sister.
Kathy starts by reading a picture book, one of several she’s written. Listening as the engagingly simple story unfolds, all three kids relax against their mothers, silently curling the edges of their mats between their fingers and rocking. After the story ends, “We’re going to be eagles today!” she tells them. First, though, Kathy and Helen model deep breathing, instructing the children to breathe along with them. Kathy shows them how to modulate their breaths with an extremely kid-friendly “breathing ball,” which they pass around the circle. It’s a sphere made of Lego-like components that you can expand and contract. Danika and Afsana shyly give it a try but Jahio is fast unraveling; his mother, after repeated attempts to settle him down, calmly takes him by the hand to sit with her against the wall and watch. Then Kathy and Helen lead the girls in a series of yoga poses, including a twisty stretch, cat pose and sun salutation. One of the girls is—quietly, happily— especially limber. Then it’s time for the magic carpet ride! “Today we’re going to a mountain,” Kathy says, instructing everybody to grip the edges of their mats on their way first to a magic forest. Girls, instructors and the remaining mom take a walk in the woods, noticing trees, birds, rabbits. With the mountain in sight now, everybody does mountain pose, then a tree pose. “Let’s jump over the river!” Kathy calls over her shoulder, the others hopping from mat to mat behind her. Now they’re eagles, perched on a cliff, then flying. After a rain dance, they come back to the room, give each other “a big hug of love,” and Kathy and Helen bow to the girls in turn, telling them, “You are a bright shining star,” as, lastly, the girls lie on their backs in corpse pose as Kathy puts a small jewel on each one’s forehead. “Who wants to color what we saw on our walk?” she asks, handing out paper—and who should suddenly appear, crawling across the floor, jumping over mats, but Jahio, who wants to color, too. “I’m glad you’re back!” Kathy tells him. “And I hope you’ll come next time, with your sister—then you’ll already know what we do!” He smiles a secret, pleased smile and hunkers over his paper. Continue reading