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Students participate in Yoga Kids at Seibert Hall.

Looking for an after-school program for her 6-year-old son, Corbin, Manchester resident Darcy Schiess found Yoga Kids. And while the program is new to Schiess and her son as well as to the Manchester Parks and Recreation Department, it’s proven to be a hit for everyone.

Offered by the Parks and Rec Dept. for children five and up, Yoga Kids is taught by Joni Puffett, who is certified to offer yoga to children and believes children can enjoy all the health benefits many adults discover through yoga.

“There is a quote from the Dalai Lama that says ‘if every 8-year-old child were taught how to meditate, then we could end violence in one generation,’” Puffett said. “That is my goal, to introduce kids to a practice that they can use to calm and regulate themselves and kind of empower themselves to realize everything about them is special and that is feels so good to live your best life and be true to yourself.”

Puffett said those things have become even more important these past six months of people living in a pandemic. “Everyone has increased anxiety, everyone is grieving those experiences we can no longer do. We are social distancing and not being together. That all plays a huge toll on our emotions and physical well-being. Kids aren’t exempt from that and are going through the same things we are.”

Studies show the practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness lead to better performances in academics and improved test scores.

“Some of the techniques I introduce in class using our breathwork or mudras all have an effect on our mental and emotional responses,” Puffett explained. “That calming effect can lead to improved test scores and more participation in class.”

Puffett said behavioral issues may also be improved. “Using some of the breathing techniques and the movements of yoga deal with a decrease in aggression, social withdrawal hyperactivity and a reduction in irritability”

Puffett added that studies have linked yoga with a child’s ability to better handle Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). “Those children are better able to stay calm and in control when faced with challenges compared to those who haven’t had yoga in their lives.”

Manchester Parks and Recreation Director, Doug Foley, is pleased with the class. “This is a unique offering we are happy to provide. Most towns would be really jealous to have an instructor certified to teach yoga to kids as well as to have a nice facility to offer it in.”

Schiess said she is happy with the program. “Personally, I’m hoping Corbin gains some more self-awareness of his emotions and how to handle those. Yoga is one of the best ways for children to learn more about themselves and the area around them. I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses.”

Schiess said she was curious to see if Corbin would enjoy the class. “I wanted to see how it would go,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if he would be interested in it because he’s a boy. It was after school, so I didn’t know how he would be energetically. But after the first week he asks every day, ‘is it yoga day tomorrow.’ So we are really happy to have that excitement and him looking forward to the classes.”

Puffett said parents who aren’t sure may bring their child to a class to check it out before committing to a month. “If they contact me or the city park and recreation dept., we would let them try a class for free to see if they like it.”

Yoga Kids is offered every Tuesday from 4-5 p.m. at Seibert Park. In case of inclement weather, the classes are offered in Seibert Hall. Costs for the class is $40 per month. Those wishing to register may do so at: www.manchester-ia.org and click on the Program Registration Button, or click on the SHOP NOW button on the Manchester Park and Recreation Facebook Page.