Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Preschoolers stretch and pose in Trinity yoga class


Alexandra Marzo stood straight and tall and with serious focus placed the bottom of one foot firmly against the inside of her other leg. For several seconds, she was motionless in a tree pose.

"I usually fall down," she said with a grin.

The most unusual part of this scene is Alexandra is only 5 years old and she's one of eight preschoolers — five girls, three boys — who've participated since August in a yoga class with instructor Sarah Hawks at Longleaf Learning Center.

Bella Arwood, 5, and Sophia Young, 4, focused on accomplishing the tree pose. Around the room, small bodies lost their balance and toppled in giggles.

"Sophia has been hooked on yoga since the first class," says her mom, Maria Young.

Hawks, certified Kidding Around Yoga (KAY) instructor, gathers the children each Monday afternoon for about 30 minutes of activities that include mindfulness, self control, kindness to others, cardio exercise, meditation and deep relaxation known to the children as "the secret garden."

"Preschool is my favorite age," said Hawks, who's been teaching yoga for six years. "We listen to directions, read and act out poses from a story, imitate animal movements and at the end, we relax."

Including the Monday children's class, Hawks teaches eight classes a week, including Mommy and Me at the New Port Richey Library at 10:30 on Fridays.

She emphasizes the importance of yoga in her own life. Six years ago, she was newly divorced, back home living with mom Karen Flood with a 6-month-old baby daughter, and she tipped the scales at 200 pounds. This was not a good picture for a 30-year-old. Her mom, experienced in yoga, spoke up, said she'd watch the baby and sent Hawks off to yoga class.

"She said I needed to center myself," Hawks says and admits it was exactly what she needed, recalling the empowerment she felt when she could first touch her toes.

Now toned, muscular and filled with enthusiasm, she directs the children to their mats. They scurry as she calls, "Crisscross applesauce."

They sit, hands on knees, palms up with thumb and forefinger creating an "O".

"Yoga is a-okay," they say in unison, followed by, "Peace begins with us, peace begins with us," falling from crisp voices to soft whispers.

Hawks invites activity suggestions and "Pizza" pops out rapidly. Hawks directs the kids to sit tall, spread their legs and reach far out in front, pretending to roll pizza dough. Little arms are flying in make believe, as they stretch and push toward the floor. The children suggest toppings and reach high and twist to bring down pretend sauce and sprinkles. They carefully lift their pizzas and push them into a pretend oven.

Pizza's ready! They inhale deeply and echo, "Yum-m-m-m-m-m-m-my!"

The children "swim" like dolphins and stand like herons. Fast-paced "jogging through the jungle" to music comes next, with more imitations of animal moves.

Then comes Jemma Shriver's favorite activity — "toga." Hawks dumps out dozens of colorful marble size pom-poms. The children concentrate to pick them up with their toes.

The 30 minutes fly, the children are breathing hard and Hawks directs Jemma to turn off the lights as she hands out colorful feathery scarves. The preschoolers lie on their mats, scarves over themselves.

The room is quiet.

Hawks speaks calmly, "Be very still, imagine flying away to a meadow and sitting under a tree reading a book or fishing in a lake. Butterflies come and light on your tummy." She walks quietly around the room placing a small butterfly on each child as they lay motionless.

Hawks asks the children to breathe in three times through their noses. Little tummies rise and fall in unison. Finally, they sit back in yoga position and end their session with "Yoga is a-okay. Peace begins with us …" their young voices again fading into whispers.

Focusing on kindness and being helpful seems to have worked. The children are asked to help by rolling up another's mat. They do the job quickly and offer eager smiles to their friends and to Hawk as they leave.

>>fast facts

To learn more

For more information about Kidding Around Yoga, visit or email Sarah Hawks at

Preschoolers stretch and pose in Trinity yoga class 04/22/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 7:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: Rain, heat prevails for Tampa Bay through weekend as tropics gear up


    The summertime pattern of mid- to late-day showers and scorching temperatures will persist across Tampa Bay on Friday and throughout the weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Is Bucs kicker Nick Folk a significant upgrade over Roberto Aguayo?


    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter made it clear.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk is entering his 11th NFL season. He spent three seasons with the Cowboys and seven with the Jets. [LOREN ELLIOTT  |  Times]
  3. Florida education news: Student discipline, online learning, solar eclipse glasses and more


    STUDENT DISCIPLINE: Everyone wants their child to behave in school. But sometimes defining what that means causes dissention. That was the case this week at a Pasco County elementary school, which A Pasco County elementary school has adopted a new behavior model that encourages cooperation and responsibility. Some parents are upset that it also seems to support giving in to peer pressure.

  4. Pinellas wants to see impact of tourism bucks spent on big events

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– Pinellas County relies on more than just beaches to attract visitors. County government also spends millions to help sponsor big-name events to draw even more tourists.

    The Pinellas County Tourist Development Council awareded up to $250,000 to help sponsor the 2018 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Zephyrhills begins residential lien forgiveness program

    Local Government

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A new program is under way to forgive liens on certain residential properties in the city to combat blight, encourage improvements to properties and spur home ownership.

    City Manager Steve Spina said after the council’s unanimous vote, the new lien forgiveness program is up and running.