Veteran elementary school teacher Eliko Ozeki began incorporating mindfulness tools into her classroom about a decade ago. She observed that expectations for children were rising, and that the world around them was moving faster than ever. Ozeki wanted to implement activities that would allow students opportunities to slow down and get in touch with their bodies and thoughts.
First, she introduced her students to tai chi, teaching them how to perform gentle stretches and postures and to focus their minds on these slow movements. Elements of chi gong came next. She taught the kids how to tap their bodies lightly, how to learn to notice and describe physical sensations in their limbs. Like Ozeki, other educators have carved out time for yoga in the classroom and report that these mindful strategies have improved their students’ physical and emotional regulation.
“These practices help kids identify their feelings and body sensations more readily, and that helps them express themselves and connect with others better,” Ozeki says.
The mindfulness doesn’t have to end inside the school classroom. Want your child to have a more mindful summer? Here are a few studios and camps with mindfulness-related classes for learners of all ages.
As its name implies, Yoga Rascals is all about getting kids to stretch and strengthen their bodies through yoga. There are weekly classes at La Mesa Community Center for learners ages 5-10. And Yoga Rascals’ summer camp is back in action this year — in La Mesa and Carlsbad. Both locations will have two weeks of half-day camps that include plenty of yoga, plus arts and crafts, nature walks and more. Check the website for exact dates and registration information.
Mindfulness facilitator Brooke Campenelli teaches in schools, studios and offices around L.A. And in the summer, her Mindful Kids LA Camp combines mindfulness lessons with games, yoga, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts and more. Camp can be a week-long experience or a day camp, and kids ages 5-12 are welcome. Refer to the website for camp information and registration.
Pronounced as “as i am,” the Aziam studio has locations in Santa Monica and the Luxe Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. There are multiple kid and teen classes, each aimed at increasing strength, mental awareness and self confidence. There’s a class that includes a combo of hip hop dance and yoga for kids ages 5-10; a class that includes yoga, meditation and a sound bath finale and a yoga and meditation class for students ages 10-15. Summer camp dates are pending (camp is two hours a day, five days a week), but registrants can expect to learn and practice the eight “limbs” (or pillars) of yoga with some hip hop dance infusions.
Zooga Yoga is a Culver City-based studio that offers a variety of classes year round, both in the studio and in Tellefson Park. Yoga classes for young learners incorporate animal poses, partner poses, music and more. Breathing and meditation are also part of some classes. Detailed descriptions on the website can help families find the best-fit class for their child. Week-long summer camps for kids ages 3-8 are now listed online and include yoga, art and playtime at the park.
Be Like Water Tai Chi
Tai chi is sometimes described as moving meditation, or internal martial arts, with participants moving through poses slowly and deliberately while also concentrating on their breath. Be Like Water Tai Chi hosts classes outdoors in both Santa Monica and Westwood. Though all ages are welcome, tweens and teens may be more successful with these 60- to 75-minute classes. New students can take their first class for free.
Chi Gong — online
“Chi” means life force, or the energy that powers us. Similar to tai chi, practitioners of chi gong go through a system of slowly repeated movements, focusing the mind on how internal energy is flowing through the body. According to California chi gong teacher Lee Holden, even just a few minutes of practice a day can lead to noticeable improvement in stress level, mood and overall energy. The practice is suitable for all ages. Holden’s YouTube channel offers numerous chi gong videos to try at home, including a 13-minute practice for kids.
Tai Chi at home
Want to bring tai chi into your house for the whole family? Ozeki recommends Tai Chi for Kids, created by Cari Shurman, another educator and a longtime student of tai chi. Shurman believes in the power of tai chi so much that she made multiple instructional video collections that kids (and parents) will love.
Chelsee Lowe is a writer and mom in L.A. who writes about food, culture and travel.