by Sue Austreng
A delightful melody ripples around the candlelit studio, salutations dancing for the sun. Birds chirping, bells tinkling… the environment invites gentle movement, meditative breath and a harmony of life celebration.
Yoga instructor Jacki Knudsvig welcomes parents and children to Synergize Yoga’s Earth Studio, where she leads the group in moving, bending and stretching mind and body during a Saturday morning family yoga session.
The studio, located in an underground space on Anoka’s First Avenue, is a simply decorated, dimly lit, quiet area that sets the stage for joyful, playful self-expression for kids and their parents during Knudsvig’s family yoga classes.
Knudsvig began practicing basic yoga 10 years ago when she and her husband lived on a North Dakota farm.
“I wanted some kind of exercise besides walking. I signed up for a yoga class for the stretching – and for the community. Then I got hooked,” Knudsvig said.
Soon after she and her husband relocated from North Dakota to Coon Rapids, she became a certified yoga instructor and now leads yoga sessions at Anoka’s Synergize Yoga studios and in local elementary schools through Anoka-Hennepin Community Education classes.
“What allows kids to use lots of energy, make funny noises, relax and learn to focus all at the same time? Yoga,” said Knudsvig, describing the power of yoga to move, bend and stretch young minds as it moves, bends and stretches the body.
Asked what yoga does for children, Knudsvig said, “It’s teaching them to take time for themselves. Teaching them how to breathe. Giving them moments of quiet guided meditation… teaching them they can still have imagination,” she said.
Yoga also teaches children to develop coordination and posture, strength and flexibility, Knudsvig said.
“Yoga is a healthy and fun way for kids to exercise, play and grow together. And it’s a great way to bond as a family. The schools love it. Kids sign up for it. I never dreamed it would catch on like it did,” Knudsvig said.
Knudsvig’s own six-year old son practices yoga on a regular basis, she said.
“He does lots of yoga. He wants to be flexible, wants to learn a new pose. He comes home from school, gets out his mat and stretches,” she said.
Knudsvig currently teaches family yoga, adult yoga and children’s yoga classes (for children age kindergarten though fifth grade).
And the certified yoga instructor continues to stretch her expertise, recently returning from San Diego, Calif., where she became certified to work with disabled kids.
Through community education classes in Anoka-Hennepin schools, Knudsvig works with children with behavioral problems, autistic children and those with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
“Yoga is for all children,” said Knudsvig, who is currently studying with the Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program, which has an emphasis on meditation.
“I’m just always learning and growing and I’m glad to share what I’ve learned with anyone who’d like to see what yoga is about,” said Knudsvig, who said she’s thinking about offering a yoga class for teenagers at Synergize Yoga or as an Anoka-Hennepin Community Education opportunity.
Practicing the physical postures, breathing exercises and meditations of yoga promotes a healthier body, mind and spirit. Yoga invites those who practice to tune in, chill out and shape up, all at the same time, Knudsvig said.
For more information about local yoga classes, call Synergize Yoga (612-396-9967) or visit its website (www.yogainanoka.com). Family yoga classes at Synergize are $10 for the first member, $5 for each additional family member.
To view opportunities offered through Anoka-Hennepin Community Education, visit www.anoka.k12.mn.us/communityeducation. Those classes are $12 for the four- to six-week series of classes.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]