Story Time Yoga
NORTH LIBERTY– Yoga is known for its physical, mental and spiritual benefits. It can increase strength, facilitate flexibility and reduce stress.
At the North Liberty Community Library, it is also helping kids get more out of books read at story time.
Youth and Teen Services Librarian Melanie Harrison and Circulation Library Emily O’Sheridan-Tabor came across the idea when attending a library conference last fall.
On a recent blustery and snow-packed day in February, yoga instructor and business owner Dana Robinson, of Sweet Feet Yoga in Coralville, visited the Saturday morning story time group to show them some yoga moves.
This wasn’t a typical yoga class; the more traditional downward dog and mountain poses were interspersed with snowball rolls, duck waddling and even a little boat rowing, conducted under Robinson’s guidance as she sang child-friendly tunes and encouraged the children to be playful, use their imaginations and laugh, sing and move however the spirit might take them.
There were no inhibitions here, when toddlers were asked to imitate a seed growing into a tree, stretch like a cat or rise and shine like the sun.
As part of Robinson Family Wellness, the business owned by herself and her husband, Dr. Ron Robinson, Dana Robinson teaches pre-natal yoga classes for pregnant moms and children’s yoga classes for babies, toddlers, tykes and teens. Adult yoga classes are also offered at Robinson Family Wellness, in addition to Dr. Robinson’s chiropractic care and a team of professionals who offer massage therapy, nutritional counseling, cold laser therapy and acupuncture. Focused on overall well-being and the mind-body connection, Robinson said adding yoga poses and movement to story time for toddlers is a natural fit.
“Especially at this age, it helps them use their imagination, gives them body awareness and gives them confidence in their bodies,” said Robinson. For example, doing the tree pose while the story time librarian reads a book about trees puts a visual in their minds and helps them gain balance. Cross-body poses and movement connects both sides of the brain, Robinson said, which builds a stronger foundation for reading, writing and language skills in the future.
“Body awareness helps a lot with self esteem, as their bodies grow and change as they get older,” said Robinson.
O’Sheridan-Tabor said she and her daughter took one of Robinson’s yoga classes together. They enjoyed the classes, but O’Sheridan-Tabor saw long-lasting benefits outside of class for her daughter as well.
“It really enhanced her socialization,” said O’Sheridan-Tabor. “She became really interested in the yoga poses, and we’d do them together at night before bed as part of our nighttime routine, along with reading books and quieting down. It helped her settle down from the chaos of the day.”
So when O’Sheridan-Tabor learned that Robinson was presenting a session at the library conference last fall, she was excited to attend.
“During part of Dana’s yoga time she would read stories, and I thought that would be great for a library story time as well,” said O’Sheridan-Tabor. “She had so many great ideas for incorporating movement and presented it in a fun way, we thought we would try it here.”
Movement is a natural state for children, so when they can engage in purposeful movement, it helps them relax, which in turn helps them get centered and pay attention.
“That goes along with early literacy and the things our library tries to promote,” said O’Sheridan-Tabor.
Now every other Saturday morning, O’Sheridan-Tabor or Library Page Kristen McElhinney will conduct story time and incorporate the things they’ve learned from Robinson, encouraging kids to stretch and reach, balance and bend, jump high or lie low as they pretend to be lions on the savannah, frogs in the pond or half moons in the sky, following the imaginative direction the story might dictate.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Robinson. “It helps kids truly embody the story, and it gives them a new love for reading. Some kids can’t sit still and just listen to the story, but movement helps them connect to the book and they can become part of the story line.”
For more information about Sweet Feet Yoga, visit sweetfeetyoga.com or call 319-331-3689. For more information about the North Liberty Community Library’s programming, visit northlibertylibrary.org or call 319-626-5701.