Yoga brought relief to Amanda Uphoff, who struggled with her self-image and the stresses of motherhood. Now, the mother of two wants to share the practice with other parents and kids.
Uphoff, 35, owns Blackbird Family Yoga, the first studio of its kind in the Madison area that caters to families. Located in the same building as the Prairie Cafe in Middleton, the studio officially opens on Monday, Aug. 23.
"When I would go to yoga classes and come home, and any time my yoga mat was out, my kids would want to play with it," Uphoff said. "And so I looked into classes around town, and there really isn't a place where continuous classes were offered."
Yoga has a kind of "peaceful energy," Uphoff said, and is a form of exercise that she enjoyed compared to other options. "It's not like cardio, where you're looking at your watch every two minutes to see if you've done your 30 minutes."
Like many parents who find it difficult to find time for exercise, she struggled to fit yoga into her hectic schedule. That idea was top-of-mind when she put together her business plan. A 10-class pass ($130) or membership at Blackbird ($99/month for one adult) includes the option of free childcare for one kid every class. It is $3 for each additional child and for those who occasionally drop in.
"If it's easy and built in for you and all you have to do is just come in, then I think people might be more likely to come," Uphoff said. "The most important thing for me was to have an adult yoga class every morning with child care offered."
Blackbird's class schedule includes prenatal, baby and parent, toddler, tween and teen classes, in addition to classes for adults.
For the younger kids, classes are structured a bit differently. First, there is an introduction and discussion of the basic rules of yoga. Next, the students do a warm up and sing a song before performing a kid's version of the sun salutation.
"A lot of the poses are objects or animals, so we go on little trips or adventures," Uphoff said. The class chooses a destination and creates poses based on what they "see," like a tree or dog, for example.
"That's one of the most important things with kids' yoga. I think a lot of people think they're just smaller bodies, but in order to keep them engaged you have to get silly," said Uphoff, who studied youth yoga at Karma Kids in Chicago.
In addition to helping kids with focus and concentration, yoga helps kids feel good physically, Uphoff said.
"Body image issues are starting so early now," said Uphoff. "I have a dance teacher friend who said her 6-year-old student refused to wear a costume because she said it made her thighs look fat."
Blackbird's teen yoga instructor Amber Thompson, 30 - who also works with at-risk high schoolers - said breathing techniques and poses taught in yoga can help teens manage anger and bullying, and boost self-esteem.
"I think what's great about yoga is it allows you to connect to yourself in a way, although it sounds cheesy, (that) is very real," Thompson said. "When you can learn to tune into your own intuition and learn to trust yourself, it helps with things like body image. Because once you're tuned into your body, it makes it a lot harder to misuse your body."
For the teen classes, Thompson is planning a student-centered, community environment.
"I have objectives and there are certain principles of yoga that I'll want to share with the class, but I'll be kind of like a facilitator or a guide, but not a rigid teacher," Thompson said. "Yoga won't be just an hour once a week, it will be something where they can take those principles and ideas ... and apply them at school, or with their friends, or with their family."
Uphoff cited rising childhood obesity rates as another reason yoga should appeal to families. And with first lady Michelle Obama's launch of the "Let's Move" campaign to raise healthier children, the topic is at the forefront these days.
"Although I would love to see kids building confidence and self-esteem, I would also love to see them get stronger and more flexible bodies," said Uphoff.
As for the name of the studio and its philosophy, it was inspired by the Beatles' song.
"Now that I'm older and a parent, I love the line, ‘You were only waiting for this moment to arise,' because I now realize that this moment, right now, every moment of every day, is what it's all about," Uphoff wrote in a recent blog entry on the studio website. "Don't wait for the ‘perfect' moment, because that time is right now."