Yoga teacher offers kids’ classes in Guilford

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 6, 2008

GUILFORD — For anyone who might wonder at young children’s need for the stress-reducing techniques of yoga, Liza Zapson points to the standardized tests that many local students are taking right now.

Zapson, a new Guilford resident who has started kids’ yoga classes at Lasses & Lads PlaySpace, is hoping to start an extracurricular program in the public schools that would offer yoga lessons to students.

“Children need a resource,” she said. “They’ve got the (Connecticut Mastery Tests), they’ve got the No Child Left Behind — there is so much pressure on these poor kids and they don’t really understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.”

Zapson and her partner, Lasses & Lads co-owner Jacqueline Jewett, are coordinating with the schools’ principals and parent-teacher organizations to start before- and after-school yoga programs. They are still waiting for a formal go-ahead from some of the schools, and are hoping to start the classes in late April.

After moving to Guilford from Weston, Zapson brought the yoga classes from her business, Crystal Children Center, to Lasses & Lads on Water Street. Jewett said she had been looking to start offering yoga for the children who use the center.

“We’ve always had a focus on mind and body connection,” said Jewett, who owns the business with her husband. “So I put my feelers out and through a mutual acquaintance someone said, ‘You need to connect with Crystal Children Center.’ ”

The classes are offered seven days a week and are broken into categories, including younger children, teens and tweens, family and “mommy and me.”

“Elementary is a great place to start because the younger you start teaching these tools, the more effective it’s going to be,” Jewett said. “But middle-schoolers need it. … They’re at a point with their own development where they need to know how to regulate their own feelings.”

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said he recently met with Zapson and Jewett. Most enrichment programs like the one they are proposing go through the schools’ PTOs, he said. Right now, some of the elementary schools offer after-school drama and chess programs, for example.

“There’s a lot of research that supports physical activity and what it can do for kids mentally,” Forcella said. “I know at the high school there are some teachers who, when their kids are taking the (Connecticut Academic Performance) tests, will have them do certain stretches in between.”

Jewett called yoga a “preventative health measure” for children. The classes aimed at younger participants feature some standard yoga exercises but also include kid-friendly activities, like balancing a toy on the belly to keep track of breathing. Some classes end with the teacher reading a story.

Zapson and Jewett recently held a fundraiser for the enrichment program and are also applying for a grant from the Guilford Fund for Education to offset the costs. They anticipate the after-school classes will cost $5 each. More information can be found online at www.lassesandlads.com.

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