“Gigi reaches up into her sun salutation. She steps back into her high lunge and kicks her legs straight into plank pose, a push-up she holds without wobbling for 10 seconds before looking up impatiently at her yoga teacher. It's close to 6 p.m. She's had a long day. She collapses on her mat, rolls on her back and closes her eyes. And then sends one finger digging up her nose. What? C'mon, she's only 5. This is yoga for kids. Once an oddity reserved for only the crunchiest communities, downward dog for the grade-school set is now being taught in studios from Minnetonka, Minnesota, to Moscow, Russia. And educators, including Chicago's Namaste School, which serves mostly poor kids who speak a language other than English, are turning to yoga to connect with a generation that many say has been dismissed as deficit this or hyperactive that. At Decatur Yoga and Pilates studio, just outside Atlanta, Georgia, Dylan Laakmann, sits quietly next to his mother. The lanky 12-year-old whose fashionably shorn hair hangs in his face, describes himself as a ‘downer’ before he started taking yoga two years ago.
‘I wasn't really that happy a kid, I guess, and my grades, they weren't that good,’ he says, his taut mouth easing as he relaxes in conversation. ‘I wasn't that joyful.’ Dylan's stoicism is broken for a moment by a dozen miniature yogis who've been unleashed in the studio. Kids like Gigi, some as young as 3, can take seven-week long sessions with names such as Charlie and the Chakra Factory and the Wizard of Ohm.”