By Laura McAlister
In addition to the popular cobra and downward dog poses, Annie Damsky said her yoga classes often include some less conventional postures, like maybe an alligator or a flamingo. It all depends on her students.
Annie is owner of Villager Yoga, opening Jan. 16 in Cahaba Heights. In addition to traditional classes, the former marketing professional also has yoga classes for kids. In these, imagination rules the routine.
“There’s a real creativity side to it,” she said. “We use a lot of the same poses, but if it’s a downward dog, what kind of dog are you?
“Or sometimes it might be that we pretend we’re in a boat. We’ll have them pose like a boat, or we’ll ask them what animals they see, and then try to pose like them.
“It’s definitely not as structured.”
While yoga for children has become popular in some parts of the country, Annie said it’s hard to come by in the Birmingham area. She said the discipline offers the same health benefits to children as it does adults through exercising both mind and body.
Just as yoga classes do for adults, Annie said the classes help children build strength and balance and also teach them breathing and relaxation techniques.
“The main difference with kids is they are coming when they are developing flexibility, strength and balance, whereas adults are trying to recapture that,” she said. “A good thing about it, too, is it’s not based on competition — not that there is anything wrong with competition. It’s just that competition might not be for all.
“This gives them an alternative while allowing them to stay fit.”
The classes for both boys and girls last about 45 minutes each and are offered in eight-week sessions. Age groups are 3-5, 5-8, 9-13 and teens.
Annie said adult classes also will be offered, some to coincide with the children’s classes, as well as classes for the whole family on Saturdays.
Three might sound young for a yoga class, but it’s not the youngest participant Villager Yoga will see. Annie also has classes for toddlers and parents and infants and parents. While different from the traditional adult yoga classes, Annie said these classes still focus on that exercise of both the body and the mind.
“These classes are a little bit more about that bond,” Annie said. “It might be the mother holding the baby or the baby next to her. We focus on strength in the hips.
“There’s also a lot of focus on postpartum care. With the toddler classes, it starts becoming more about the child, since they are at walking age then.”
Annie said the classes tend to serve as a type of support group for the parents involved.
As for the children participating, she said, it gives them exercise in a group atmosphere while keeping them entertained and engaged.
“This is just really beneficial for kids,” Annie said. “It teaches them to work hard and go through the process, to push their limit, but not go beyond it.”
Annie has been practicing yoga for about eight years. She was certified to teach by Birmingham Yoga two years ago.
She said she started offering classes to adults during her spare time, and then in San Francisco she was trained in child-focused yoga.
“I just saw this as an option that was missing in the area,” she said. “It’s just so great for children physically, mentally and emotionally.”
For those curious about the classes at Villager Yoga, Annie said classes will be free during the week of Jan. 16, when the studio opens. There also will be an open house Jan. 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with giveaways, chair massages, henna tattoos and more.
For more information on Villager Yoga and class offerings, visit villageryoga.com.