Beyond the Mat: Benefits of Yoga

The holiday season is behind us, with presents, memories, and decorations put away for another year. One practice, however, continues to bring health and happiness to children and families all year long. The gift of well-being found in the ancient methods of yoga is not just for busy adults; children of all ages can benefit from a break from our active lifestyles. Kids learn quickly to "hurry up" to keep up with the frenetic pace of our modern-day society, and all of that rushing around can bring undue stress to young bodies and minds. Excessive screen time, competitive sports and school environments, and social media pressures can overwhelm our kids and barely leave breathing room for rest and relaxation. Yoga, a comprehensive system for health on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels, focuses on postures and breathing techniques designed to enhance fitness, offer stress relief and mental clarity, and bring a sense of peace to harried lives.

Billings is fortunate to have not only options for adults seeking to learn more about yoga but also several teachers who are specially tuned in to helping kids embrace a practice of their very own. YungBen Yelvington is a Billings native who offers a unique perspective, lifting kids high above the ground as they learn the ropes of aerial yoga. He says, “It is a blast, and everyone is smiling! We hang from hammocks and do yoga poses and breathing exercises. It teaches body and spatial awareness as well as giving the spine a chance to be counterbalanced by gravity. You get a great sense of community when you see everyone hanging from a hammock, smiling and laughing while trying new things together."

Yelvington is gearing up for a 4-week kids’ aerial series at Limber Tree starting in February. This class is tailored to ages 10-14 and aims to counterbalance the everyday strains kids face with yoga’s proven benefits to posture, concentration, and memory.  Yelvington’s unique focus on breathwork can serve as an oasis in the hectic schedule many families and children keep. He says, “In this busy world, many people often don’t take the time to pause for a deep breath. Even just once a day can make a difference by improving circulation and mental function.” Pull out Quote?

Yelvington began practicing yoga in high school to treat injuries from cross-country, track, and marathon training. He drew from his experience in martial arts, which begins with yoga-like movements, breathing, and focus. Gradually the “warm-ups” led to more of an emphasis on yoga for his overall physical fitness. He says, “Besides feeling better in your body and breath, the biggest benefit of yoga is mindfulness. You realize something that makes you tense, stressed, or angry at the moment but recognize the choice you have on how to respond. You learn what a relaxed body, breath, and mind feel like.”

Yelvington is now a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher. He and his wife, Dixie, have been instrumental in bringing yoga outside of the borders of a typical Billings studio. They have partnered with the Yellowstone Art Museum to bring new and innovative practices to the gallery by offering a one-hour yoga class several Saturday mornings each month. About this creative marriage of art and movement, they say, “Yoga brings in new visitors and museum regulars alike to experience the space and artwork in a more visceral way. The art can actively inspire your mind, body, and breath." Each class is a restorative yoga practice inspired by the artwork in the museum. 

Another Billings resident, Allison Cassie, also has a passion for yoga, born of the benefits she has seen in her own life. Cassie, a former teacher at Oregon's first charter school, moved to Billings seven years ago to raise her two daughters near family. She attended her first yoga class over 20 years ago and has regularly been practicing since 2000. Initially drawn to the physical benefits of yoga, she soon noticed the positive impact it had on her mental health as well. Cassie adds, "Prenatal yoga helped me through my pregnancy and childbirth, and this past year I discovered Yoga Nidra, a guided meditation practice that my girls and I enjoy as a calming part of our bedtime routine." As a mom and educator, Cassie sees a need for kids to "develop greater social and emotional skills and a positive self-image, now more than ever."

Cassie recently completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training through Limber Tree Yoga Studio. Initially, she sought further training to deepen her own yoga practice. After finishing the program, however, she found her passion for health ignited by the need she saw in our community for those wanting to learn and practice yoga in a more personal setting. She says, “Often, those new to yoga are intimidated by classes in a packed studio. I believe the one-on-one attention and connections made with students are an important piece that can be missing in other venues." Her studio, YogaKind, was born and offers a variety of classes, private sessions, and workshops to the Billings community, including a program called Mighty Kids for ages 5 and up. Cassie also offers a weekly yoga class for kids every Saturday and draws from a program she has taught in the classroom, at after-school programs, and other community venues. This program focuses on breathing techniques, the Asanas (physical poses), and learning about the eight "limbs" of yoga.

Cassie’s heart is for kids, and she is quick to describe why. “I love working with kids because they have an open mind and are not afraid to be silly.  First and foremost, we try to have fun! I believe the biggest lesson for kids is learning how to connect their minds and their bodies. Yoga is amazing for developing balance and works well for kids with sensory issues, as it works on their neuromuscular connections and proprioceptive (body and movement) awareness. Breathing and meditation help kids who might struggle with regulating their emotions and energy levels. Yoga also helps develop a positive body image, with the focus being on appreciating what their bodies can do.”

Dixie & YungBen Yelvington

Owners of Yelvington Studio Inc.and YungBen's Yoga

www.yelvingtonstudio.com or find us on Facebook at YungBen’s Yoga

Call 406.209.8642 for more information on class times and locations

Allison Cassie

Little Yogis (yoga for ages 5-8) and Mighty Hearts (ages 9-13)

YogaKind ♦ 406.860.9991 for more information

about the author...Brooke Wagner is a Southern girl at heart, but a Montanan by choice. She lives just outside of Billings with her husband and three children, ages 13, 11, and 6. She is a board-certified music therapist who enjoys cooking, spending time with her family, and hiding under the covers with a good book. 

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s February 2019 issue. 

Check out the digital edition, here