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Children respond to preschool yoga at South Fayette library

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Linee Green with her children, Paxton (left) and Lilly, partake in the preschool yoga class at South Fayette Township Library. It is a new program for ages 2-6 with caregivers being held on Monday mornings.
Kate and Erin Heirendt take cautious first steps on their yoga mat during the preschool class.

Imagine 20 children, ages 2 to 6, in a small room, just being quiet and focusing on their every breath.

That's what Britney Kwiatek, yoga instructor, encourages at South Fayette Township Library every Monday morning. This is her first class for children, but one that has captured the attention of at least 30 caregivers eager to have their children participate. The class was made possible by a donation from the Friends of the Library.

“The class has been embraced,” said Jody Wilson, library director, “and it's a fun class to observe.”

Kwiatek, who has taught the ancient art to adults for years, now brings meditation, basic yoga postures and activities that make kids giggle together.

One class started with cotton balls, straws and the children, kneeling on their mats. After inhaling through their noses, each exhaled through the straws moved the cotton ball – and calmed the students. What they had just learned was the first technique of yoga.

“You connect with each breath and stay in the present moment,” said Kwiatek, 40, of Bridgeville, who sees the need for this kind of understanding in an age filled with technology.

“It pulls the kids away from the screens and the Iphones.”

The networking is good for the caregivers, who also can participate in the activities.

Following the relaxation, she takes the children on an interactive adventure. The first class took students to a zoo; the second, to the sea; and the third, to a rain forest. In these imaginary settings, they learned basic yoga poses, such as becoming an airplane by standing on one leg with arms extended. Later, they would be an elephant or a lion.

“Be as much of a lion as you want to be,” said Kwiatek, who makes up each story.

Wilson had done yoga with her 2-year-old daughter after reading a few books.

“You make it into play,” Wilson said. “They pretend to be animals and then make them into yoga poses.”

One student took his knowledge of the elephant posture to school to share with friends. Parents have told Kwiatek their children practice at home.

In yet another activity during the class, the children were rolled up in their mats, pretending they were burritos. They wanted to play “the snack game” over and over.

After the play and the pauses, classes end with the lights off and the children resting on their mats.

Kwiatek finds yoga to be a powerful tool and a gift.

“When they come in, they're tired and ready for a nap,” Kwiatek said. “Then, they get excited. As they leave, saying namaste, they seem refreshed to me and ready to take on the day.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or

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