Y ou might think children—experts at not standing still—and yoga, with its patiently held poses, wouldn’t be a good match.
But you probably haven’t seen instructor Lani Rosen-Gallagher work her magic. Through Full of Joy Yoga, Rosen-Gallagher brings the peaceful practice to children of a variety of ages—including infants who attend classes with their moms—and venues.
Tuesday mornings she has a regular gig through Alphabet Academy in Hamden, one of several local schools enlisting her to conduct yoga programs onsite. When her first students of the day, a small group of three-year-olds, enter the sunlit room at 605 Benham Street, they’re bouncing bundles of energy, as expected. Moments later, though, they’ve each selected one of the colorful yoga mats lined up on the floor and are relatively quiet, looking at Rosen-Gallagher with rapt attention.
The seasoned teacher—she launched Full of Joy about a decade ago, in 2004—knows her crowd. Though the 20-minute class resembles an adult yoga session in some ways, it’s a lot sillier. The fact that traditional poses are often named after the animals whose movements they resemble plays right into it: a kids’ class is an excellent opportunity to not only position students like a cat, but have them meow like one, too.
Rosen-Gallagher’s students also have some license to move between setups, hopping around the room like bunnies one moment, waving their arms like butterflies another. Still, when Rosen-Gallagher asks them to lie on the floor, relaxing in “child’s pose,” they’re quick to comply, bringing the class back to a moment of (adorable) peace, a concept they talk about throughout the session.
Attaining that peace isn’t just about momentary calmness—it’s also about helping kids manage their burgeoning emotional lives. “You’re giving the kids a bag of tricks and tools they can use anywhere,” she says—for example, teaching older children breathing exercises to control angry feelings.
The idea for the business first took root years ago when she was teaching first grade in Coney Island, Brooklyn. A trained yogi, Rosen-Gallagher tried a few poses with her students, many of whom had trouble reading, and focusing in general. Noting the immediate positive response, she took official training to become a children’s yoga teacher.
In addition to sessions at schools like Alphabet Academy, her classes include “School Age Kids Yoga” at Your Yoga Community Center in Hamden on Monday afternoons (drop-in fee of $13, or five classes for $55); Mom and Baby Yoga in Woodbridge, for babies age six weeks to crawling ($20 drop-in fee, with alternative options topping out at 12 classes for $140); and, starting this month, Mom and Toddler Yoga at New Haven’s Breathing Room Yoga, a class she’ll lead with a young but astute sidekick: her two-year-old son, Zephyr ($18 drop-in fee or $65 four-class pass.)
Rosen-Gallagher also teaches private classes, does birthday parties and conducts teacher trainings for those seeking certification in their own right. Some trainees now work with her on Full of Joy programs.
She’s recently started teaching family yoga at CitySeed’s indoor winter farmer’s markets, held Saturdays at the Metropolitan Business Academy (115 Water St, New Haven). She asks only for an optional donation, allowing those who normally can’t afford a class to give it a try, and inviting others to give what they can.
Speaking further to the service—or “seva”—that Rosen-Gallagher says is important to all yoga instructors, a portion of those donations go to help fund the Africa Yoga Project, a program close to her heart after she helped certify teachers during a trip to Nairobi this summer.
Abroad, and here at home, she sees “endless” opportunities for teaching yoga and opening eyes to its accompanying themes, including peace, mindfulness and care for our planet and ourselves.
“Just think about what the next generation will be like if everyone learns these tools. I’m hopeful that there will be a shift,” Rosen-Gallagher says, and she’s not kidding around.
Full of Joy Yoga
(203) 909-1535 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.