Getting More Movement Back into Schools
By Iris Winston
Photos courtesy of Catherine Lesage
“I want kids to move, be happy and feel the benefits of movement.”
This, says Catherine Lesage, the founder of Littlefeet Yoga, is one of her main goals in introducing youngsters to yoga.
“I discovered yoga in 1999, while I was hiking in the Rockies,” she says. “I just saw someone doing yoga and was interested. So I tried it myself and felt the benefits immediately.”
That, says Catherine, was the beginning of her journey to becoming a yoga teacher, consultant and speaker about the value of yoga from an early age.
As a kindergarten teacher in Québec in 2001, she noticed that her young charges were drowsy in the early afternoon. “We had full-day kindergarten in Québec and I saw how tired the kids were after lunch,” says Catherine, who trained as a physical education teacher. “So I started doing a few (yoga) poses with them to relax them. The parents responded positively right away and the kids loved it.”
The enthusiastic reaction encouraged her to take further training in yoga and in teaching yoga to children. The timing was also right as she was starting a family.
She jokes that her two daughters, Maia, 8, and Sarah, 6, became acquainted with the benefits of prenatal yoga even before they were born. “They were both exposed to yoga when I was pregnant and they are both doing yoga now,” she says. “These days, Maia sometimes helps me by demonstrating some of the poses.”
By 2006, she had completed three levels of certification as a yoga teacher, including a year’s training, specializing in yoga for youngsters, and had started Littlefeet Yoga. She began offering some classes through her company in Chelsea, Québec, five years ago.
“I started there with a few kids, then a summer camp,” says Catherine, who now teaches up to 250 children a week, working in both official languages in various locations in Ottawa and West Québec. “There was a demand there and the people seemed open to kids’ yoga. It is popular now, but back then, it was not that well-known in the region.”
Because yoga is such a great way of getting movement back into schools, says Catherine, she does most of her teaching in schools and daycare establishments.
Expanding the yoga movement
Currently, she is expanding the services that Littlefeet Yoga offers. As well as offering yoga for youngsters of all ages — from tots to teens, she says — she runs family sessions once a month and intends to add more trainers to her roster. A regular speaker at conferences and a consultant in holistic movement education, Catherine now also presents her philosophy to students at the University of Ottawa.
“I have also been fortunate enough to be working with future physical education teachers in the French pedagogy department,” she says. “My philosophy is to bring more movement back into schools because kids are kinesthetic learners. I want them to be more connected with their own movement and see how to bring more meaningful movement experiences to children. I want kids to move, to be happy and feel the benefits of movement.”
As her company slogan says, yoga for youngsters gives them the chance to play, create and cooperate.
For more information on Littlefeet Yoga, visit www.littlefeetyoga.com.
Littefeet yoga objectives
• Have fun
• Spark creativity
• Encourage awareness of the body, the self and breath
• Promote strength, flexibility, balance and coordination
• Increase self-confidence
• Increase the ability to concentrate