Happy Body, Healthy Mind: Bunnies add fun, playful energy to yoga classes for children

KIRKLAND – Children at Franklin Township Park stretched, breathed, wiggled their noses and hopped like bunnies on July 5 while rabbits – the inspiration for their exercise – sat nearby.

The youngsters, ages 5 through 8, participated in a yoga class taught by Kara Schabacker. After the class, they spent time with rabbits from Clucking Clarks humane farm in Kirkland.

Schabacker spent the last decade in Chicago, and when she moved back to Kirkland, she realized that something was missing: yoga.

This summer, she is hosting classes for all ages, but making sure to specifically offer classes for children to introduce them to yoga.

“It’s a totally new program, and I don’t think yoga has ever been taught in Kirkland before,” she said. “For children, I teach them mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga poses, songs and games. For adults, I offer a basics class that’s a great introduction to yoga.”

On Mondays through Aug. 23, she will host Happy Body, Healthy Mind yoga classes in Franklin Township Park on Third Street in Kirkland.

Classes meet at the covered stage and then set up for class in an open spot in the park or inside a shelter. Participants should bring a yoga mat or towel, clothes that are weather-appropriate and comfortable, as well as water and snacks if needed. Parents and guardians are asked to stay nearby in case their child has special needs that require more individual attention than she can provide during a group class.

Classes will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. for ages 5 to 8, 5 to 6 p.m. for ages 9 to 12 and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. for teenagers and adults. Cost is $15 per child per class or $10 if bringing more than one. Payment can be made in cash, via PayPal at kara.schabacker@gmail.com or Venmo at Kara-D-Schabacker.

Schabacker says yoga is for everybody.

“Yoga helps with whole-body wellness, including strength, flexibility, balance and mental benefits, such as helping with stress and anxiety,” she said. “Yoga gives you the how-to tools for mental, physical, emotional wellness.”

The class on July 5 featured rabbits, but Schabacker plans to bring different animals in the future, including chickens or goats.

“The animals make the session more playful and fun, and everyone can learn something from them,” Schabacker said. “Animals can read body language and react to your emotions.”

Kaitlin Harrington of Kirkland brought her 5-year-old son Fox to the class for exercise and socialization.

“He tried yoga for the first time when we were in Florida on vacation, and he loved it,” she said. “I think yoga is great for self-care. Learning it as a child can help them relax, stay calm and present and to be comfortable with themselves.”

Miki Hewitt of Hampshire’s 5-year-old son Maverick also attended the class.

“Yoga helps you relax and stretches your whole body,” Hewitt said. “It’s a good form of physical activity. It’s something anyone can do on their own. Adding animals in is optional, but it can make yoga a lot of fun.”

Sandra Clark of Clucking Clarks humane farm in Kirkland said that practicing yoga with animals “allows energies to sync up.”

“When you’re around animals, you have to calm your energy and remain calm,” Clark said. “It’s a way to bond with animals, relax and have fun.”

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.