Physical activity is a regular part of Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) afterschool program at the Idol Child Development Center on the Mills Home campus in Thomasville. Each Friday, the staff offers an extra-special activity to end the week. During April, that treat was yoga. According to Linda Russo, director of Weekday Education, the introductory classes provided healthy exercise as well as calming benefits.
“They really liked the relaxation part at the end. We turned off the lights and paid attention to our breathing. It got so quiet the children noticed the sounds of the air conditioner.”
For three of the Fridays, staff used yoga games and videos to teach some of the poses and disciplines of yoga. “The boys and girls picked up on it quickly,” said Russo. “Some brought their mats from home and took turns being the instructor. We had discussions about the benefits of yoga for different groups of people – children, adults and athletes.”
On April 8, certified yoga instructor Carol Layton, who serves as administrative and communications manager for BCH’s North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM), led a yoga class focused on moving, breathing and being aware of God’s presence. In her session, the children did animal poses with names such as cobra, lion and eagle. The session ended with breathing exercises and listening to hear what God might say to them in the quiet moment.
“Children benefit from yoga,” says Layton. “They are affected by the busyness of the world we live in – nonstop schedules, competitive sports and video games. Yoga helps counter these pressures. One little girl came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Thank you for teaching us about moving and breathing and God.’ It made my day that she seemed to get what I love about yoga.”
Layton instructs Christian-themed classes at a Thomasville gym. She is certified in Restorative Yoga by the Asheville Yoga Center and in The Theory and Practice of Yoga from a Christian Perspective by New Day Yoga in Atlanta. “Yoga is a healthy exercise that strengthens the body, focuses the mind, and allows for quiet time when you can tune in to hear from God,” said Layton. “I’m proud of the staff at Weekday Education for making yoga available to the children.”
As part of her work with aging adults for NCBAM, Layton holds certifications in three evidence-based programs: Matter of Balance, Tai Chi for Fall Prevention, and Tai Chi for Arthritis. “Falls are the number-one reason aging adults lose their independence,” said Layton. “For that reason, NCBAM has a strong focus on fall-prevention.”