Little Minnows Yoga makes a splash in children’s confidence
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Shanna Kelly | Seven Mile Satellite
Originally published 27 August 2019
As the hour-long yoga session nears its end, the group of children sit in a circle with a jar of water on the floor between them. Cheri Fandozzi, their instructor, explains that this jar of water represents their “minds at ease.”
“Maybe first thing in the morning, when we first wake up, right, there’s not a lot of agitation or it’s clear, you can even see directly through it,” Fandozzi said. “But then, as we get up and we get our day going, you know, some thoughts and feelings and emotions start to pop up.”
To visualize this, the children go around the circle, sharing an emotion — excitement, nervousness, tiredness — and dump a color of glitter they think represents this feeling into the jar. After everyone puts glitter into the water, the jar is passed in the circle and shaken along the way. With each shake, the glitter colors overtake the clarity of the water, representing one’s mind as they get “swept up” in the day. Then, the jar is placed back in the center of the circle.
“As you can imagine, over the time, and the longer that we sit, the more everything that’s in the bottle comes down to settle at the bottom,” Fandozzi said. “And it’s not that they go away, and we’re never going to do away with all of our thoughts, our feelings and emotions, but sometimes it can help to just stop, take a few breaths, maybe relate differently to what’s happening.”
This mindfulness activity is one of many Fandozzi shares at the end of her children’s yoga sessions with her business Little Minnows Yoga.
Typically based in Manhattan, Fandozzi teaches yoga and mindfulness to adults and children and spends her summers offering yoga classes in Avalon at Sol Luna Yoga. Little Minnows Yoga is separate from Sol Luna Yoga, but Fandozzi has been going to the yoga studio since 2006, so the owner supported her using the studio space.
The idea for teaching yoga to children, however, wasn’t sparked until after Fanozzi started instructing adults. In 2012, she received her adult teaching certification and shortly after, with a three-year-old at home, Fandozzi became curious as to how she could adapt her practices into something her son could do too.
As summer 2019 comes to a close, Fandozzi reflects on the past six summers since founding Little Minnows Yoga. In this time, she has helped children of all ages experience the benefits of this practice.
“It gives them these tools that not only, you know, are we working on our bodies, strength, balance, flexibility, but all of those those same things sort of in our hearts and in our minds, and it can really spill off of our yoga mats and make us show up in a different way in the world,” Fandozzi said.
These tactics can range from breathing awareness to calming nerves and helping one fall asleep if they’re scared. For Fandozzi, this application of techniques into the children’s daily lives is the most rewarding part.
Polly Kluttz has been attending Sol Luna Yoga for 16 years. When she heard about Little Minnows, she didn’t hesitate to get her granddaughters involved. Since then, whenever Kluttz’s two granddaughters visit the beach, she’s sure to schedule a session for them.
When Kluttz’s granddaughters visited this summer, she asked them their favorite part of the week. Their answer: yoga.
“They’ve gotten an introduction to yoga, which I hope they’ll do for the rest of their lives,” Kluttz said.
Kluttz didn’t start yoga until later in life and urges people to start younger.
“I’m just about 75, and I didn’t start till I was 60,” Kluttz said. “I think it’s one of the most important things I do in my life.”
This summer, Little Minnows Yoga has started individual scheduling instead of a fixed schedule in the studio. While Fandozzi isn’t scheduling any more clients for the season, next summer will likely follow suit for those interested. This scheduling flexibility has allowed more children to participate. The sessions were offered for individuals or groups and were held in the Sol Luna Yoga studio or in the client’s house. The classes were $15 for each individual per hour.
For these Little Minnow sessions, Fandozzi adapts her yoga phrases for the children with words such as “bear pose” instead of using the yoga terms that derive from the ancient Indian language Sun Script. While certain components are altered for teaching children, Fandozzi says the practice is very similar to that of adults with a focus on one’s body.
“Yoga is, at the end of the day, is just becoming more aware of and in touch with our bodies,” Fandozzi said. “And so, when we do that with our senses, it’s just another sort of doorway into that.”
Fandozzi stresses the importance of individualizing the sessions and focusing on oneself since “our bodies change every day.”
“Some days, we might have a lot of energy and be fairly flexible and other days not,” Fandozzi said. “So it’s not really about getting somewhere per se, it’s just about showing up in your body and really becoming more aware of how your body is feeling in any given moment.”
Fandozzi stresses the importance of making yoga not competitive and eliminating comparison by focusing on how each individual feels.
“Instead of worrying about what the poses look like on the outside, I always say we’re exploring shapes with our bodies,” Fandozzi said. “I sort of wish that we had this ‘feel good meter,’ like on the front of our chest, that when you looked over, you wouldn’t necessarily see the physical pose, you would see how somebody was feeling inside themselves, how the pose was making them feel and how in touch they were with their bodies.”
The elimination of this competitive atmosphere enables Tamara Wernik’s daughter Ivy Wernik’s to challenge herself with difficult poses and in turn, boost her self confidence.
“Whenever you can instill confidence, or like, positive feedback at such an early age, you know, I think that makes them love Yoga even more,” Tamara said.
Tamara believes that yoga can be a “good foundation for sports.” It has especially helped her daughter, Ivy in the various sports she plays, and it can be a healthy alternative for kids who don’t find interest in most athletic activities. She spoke of Ivy’s friend as an example of this.
The friend isn’t a fan of most sports, but found interest in yoga. Tamara expressed the importance of yoga as “another outlet” in the form of exercise for children who may not find interest in the so-called “traditional sports.”
With children in the midst of their formative years, Little Minnows Yoga allows them to understand their bodies and minds in a new way — and the glitter is an added bonus. While signing up for Little Minnows Yoga may mean one’s living room will be turned into a child’s new favorite place to practice their poses, Tamara vouches for the value in the sessions.
“I really wish more kids and more parents would take their kids to yoga, and I really wish more people would offer it because I just think that is a wonderful thing for children to try,” Tamara said.
Shanna Kelly is a writer and editor for the Seven Mile Satellite. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.