Child’s pose: Centerville nurse teaches yoga to kids

Doing yoga with her own children helps them cope with stress, anxiety

The practice of yoga is at least 5,000 years old, with roots in Buddhism, Hinduism and even gymnastics. Though the notion of yoga as exercise has been around for about 200 years, it is also a way to relieve stress and anxiety, especially now, with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yoga is also a practice that has benefits for all ages. Elissa Dinsmore, a nurse practitioner from Centerville, said that stress and anxiety are very damaging to our bodies and many health care providers don’t have effective methods of helping their patients long term.

“I have always been interested in alternative ways of dealing with anxiety, emotions and stress,” Dinsmore said. “I have mostly managed mine through exercise.”

After her two sons were born, however, Dinsmore found herself struggling to achieve balance in her life. She had a demanding job and a very busy home life. That’s when she discovered yoga.

“My boys are not the same,” Dinsmore said. “What worked with my first didn’t work for my second.”

Owen, now 8 years old, processed his experiences in life far differently than his older brother, Johnny, did. He has some sensory issues that did end up improving as he got older, but some continued.

“Doing yoga with him was really helpful,” Dinsmore said. “It helped him organize his body, especially when he had to do something.”

Dinsmore learned her sister-in-law had a yoga studio in West Virginia and was offering kids yoga teacher training. She was intrigued and decided to go take the training about five years ago. Today she is certified to teach yoga to kids, aged 12 and under.

“Before the pandemic, I started teaching a little, but I was also working full time,” Dinsmore said. “I began to feel more confident and became certified to teach all ages.”

Dinsmore began practicing yoga with both her sons, who ended up acting as consultants as she built her kids yoga business. And she received support and lesson plans from the group that certified her.

“I learned a new language to communicate with my kids,” Dinsmore said. “In every class, we start with a mantra and meditation, touching thumbs to each finger and saying, ‘peace begins with me.’”

After teaching this method of reducing anxiety and stress to her kids, Dinsmore noticed they were using it on their own. After her stepfather passed away three years ago, she noticed her oldest son was sitting on a couch practicing the mantra and finger touching.

“That was when I noticed the power of yoga, especially in moments of stress and anxiety,” Dinsmore said.

Online yoga classes increased exponentially during the pandemic shutdown and when Dinsmore was unable to teach in-person classes due to restrictions, she continued to practice yoga with her boys at home.

“After the pandemic hit, I started working at a walk-in clinic and those were 12-hour shifts,” Dinsmore said. “I had just started teaching yoga classes in January of 2020.”

Dinsmore and her youngest son started teaching family classes within their Jewish community as soon as they were able. And they started doing virtual mini workshops that included yoga and games for school age kids. People from across the globe were logging on and connecting with Dinsmore via their computers.

“I also ended up doing a few backyard sessions here and there with groups in our ‘bubble,’” Dinsmore said.

Dinsmore also started teaching “mom and me” classes, aimed at new mothers and their infants and preschool classes for ages 3 to 5.

“I like having the ages separated because their developmental abilities are different,” Dinsmore said. “My goal is to have everyone engaged in the class, no matter the age.”

Working with elementary aged kids (6-12) is what Dinsmore said is the “sweet spot for yoga classes.” During her summer camp this year, she worked with the kids with a “mindful craft,” as they created mini-Zen gardens. And she continues working as a nurse practitioner two to three shifts per week.

Now that she is back to growing her yoga business, Dinsmore said it’s been wonderful.

“Watching the kids when the start to get it. Well, that’s awesome!” Dinsmore said. “The need is so great. Kids are innately resilient. Yoga, mindfulness and meditation all hone in on that. It’s a positive, non-competitive space and I feel lucky to be able to support them in dealing with the stress of this changing world.”

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