Friday, April 18, 2008

Channel your childhood yogi.

I don't remember high school and college boys being as buff, rugged, and sculpted as they seem to be these days. I guess I'm talking about boys in the heyday of their teenage years. Teenagers! On the flip side, I don't recall children being the chubby little roly polys they are today. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I've met little kids with a bigger waist than mine. I'm referring to the under 10 set. The definition of irony, no?

When Bird was a baby he was so fat that his wrists looked like someone wrapped rubber bands around them. Deal's cheeks were so chubby that we were seriously thinking he secured an acorn self storage gig with the squirrels shacking up in the attic. Oh, how I loved to nestle into that baby fat and just relish the kinetic energy it held.

That same baby fat ain't so cute when the kid is conjugating verbs. The obesity epidemic in America is startling. Ditto to the crap our kids are eating, rather the crap we are feeding them. And how long til our sons and daughters need physical therapy to manage the Wii thumb they've developed. Seriously, is playing tennis with a new fangled joystick thingamabob better than hitting topspins outside on some real clay? I can see the benefits of the Wii for the elderly, but come on, kids should be playing for real. Screw this virtual crap.

And don't get me started on the demented body image issues that we as a society are inflicting upon young girls. Apparently a local kindergarten teacher even bestowed an award for "Best Dressed" to one little beribboned girl. Shame. Shame. Shame. Is this what we call education these days?

What happened to the age of the naturally active kid? Neighborhood? Preponderance of over scheduled activities (like the 5-year old kid who took tennis lessons wearing his baseball uniform only to leave the lesson early to play in a baseball game)? Busy parents? No friends? What the hell has changed from the "Be home before dinner" mentality from my youth? Don't you remember running amok in the neighborhood, stopping to pee at whomever's house was closest?

In steps my friend Jen. For the record, she is one of the smartest, most grounded, generous spirits I have crossed paths with in a long, long time. I'm lucky to now count her among my friends. She, with a friend of hers, is trying to affect childhood obesity and overall health awareness in our little neck of the proverbial woods. I think their approach to overall health, self discipline, and mindfulness is a refreshing change of pace for which our children are hungry.

In Jen's words:

"I recently went to New York and went to training to teach children's yoga. This whole process has kind of been my "aha" moment if you will. Most of you have heard my tirades about the state of the health of America's children....from the food they eat to their lack of exercise. I have been trying to figure out a way I could do something about it instead of just complaining about it.

I began doing yoga when my mother was very sick with cancer years ago. It has been such an amazing change in my life. I find clarity and calm, balance and stress release. Can you imagine what it would be like to have these skills to just calm down during your middle school and high school years? Especially in today's world of computers, text messages and video games! I had fourteen 4 and 5 year olds playing a game where no one spoke because they were focusing so hard on what they were doing. They didn't even realize it! They also were champs at relaxation at the end of class. It was truly amazing."

Jen and her business partner will initially be starting a children's yoga program at a local school, Learning Together. The ultimate goal is to bring yoga to Wake County Public Schools. Their efforts and passion have been rewarded with an awesome grant opportunity from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Million Step March grant campaign. The winner is chosen by total number of votes: this is where you come in.

If Jen can get the most votes, the winner, her kids' yoga program, will win $75,000 to start up a yoga program for school children. More information is available here. Bird and Deal have a couple of kid yoga DVDs that they love. Both boys can do a mean down dog.

You can help Jen out by going to Blue Cross Blue Shield's website and voting for the grant. Also, if you know of anyone whom you think might be interested in helping out by taking a minute or two to vote, please forward this to them! You can vote everyday (unrealistic, I know, but whenever you can remember to would be great!). Here are the instructions...

1. Click here.

2. Scroll down to the Learning Together proposal and select vote now (they are in alphabetical order). You will need to enter your email address and confirm the vote when you get a return email.

Each email address is allowed one vote per day. The voting ends May 16th.

Think of the shame, anxiety, and self esteem issues you'll be sparing an overweight, unhealthy youth. Or the confidence you just might impart to a young girl.

Do it for my friend Lori. She was a chubby, taunted kid when we were too young to read Judy Blume or wear training bras. She died of heart failure due to anorexia when we were 16.
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Anonymous said...

I wish Jen the best, but I can predict they're going to run into some roadblocks because of good ol' political correctness taken to the extreme. Wake County elementary schools (including my daughter's school) got the equivalent of a cease and desist order from the school board a couple of years ago because a few of the schools were offering yoga. Parents (yes, parents) complained at what they saw as 'religious overtones' to the exercise. The dance teacher at my daughter's school (who totally rocks, voted dance teacher of the year, etc.) still offers a yoga elective, but it's not called yoga. She uses different names for all the poses and doesn't mention the 'm' word (that would be meditation). Sad but true...

Anonymous said...

Are you joking? Since when do exercise and religion cross paths?! I am dumbfounded by what people latch on to as their most burning issue. Geesh.

jenblue said...

Hi there,
Jen here. Thanks for your comment. I am aware of this obstacle. We discussed it at length at a recent training. Fortunately, Learning Together is asking us to come and do Yoga. I believe it might be more of a case by case with the schools. I have friend who has a daughter at an elementary school in Raleigh and they teach yoga in PE occasionally and I know some of the magnets offer Yoga as an elective. However, we do change some things..we don't use 'prayer' hands (we rub our hands together) and we don't meditate, but relax at the end of class. Children's yoga is much more fun and free..throwing alignment out the window..than adult yoga. It is animal poses and games, breathing exercises that are fun...things that make them focus when they don't even realize they are.
I hope it won't be a major obstacle, but it is one we are prepared for.
Thanks again for your post!

Anonymous said...

This blog really caught my attention. I am so glad your friend is making strides to find new ways to combat childhood obesity. I could get on my soapbox for a looong time on this topic. Wake County Elementary Students only get 1 day of PE a day. Luckily, my oldest has a great teacher who gets them out every morning and has them walk or run on the track. They get time on the playground in the afternoon each day to just play. This is what the county has mandated, but I don't believe all teachers do it.

I used to teach elementary PE in AL, and it is considered one of the bottom 2 states in education. Well in the area of PE they aren't at the bottom, IMO. They have PE everyday and don't claim budget issues to hide behind and only have 1 PE teacher per school.

I make sure my boys get plenty of physical activity of all kinds. Yes, they do like computers and video games but they don't choose those activities over going out and riding bikes or playing.

I'll vote for Jen as often as possible!!!