#ChicagoKidsYoga Fest: A Chat with Jen Robertson

Photo by Dan Plehal Photography

The first Chicago Kids Yoga Fest debuts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., August 17, in the Garfield Park Conservatory, in Chicago. Yoga literally means union, and can serve as glue for the family network. The practice goes well beyond a physical activity that kids and their grownups can enjoy together and serves as a deeper connection about life.

Jen Robertson is a registered yoga teacher (RYT), a registered children’s yoga teacher (RCYT), president of Chicago Kids Yoga, LLC, event director for the Fest and CEO of YogaMapp, Inc. She founded Chicago Kids Yoga in 2013 to help kids and families integrate a yoga practice into their everyday lives and help children’s yoga teachers and studios thrive. Robertson began her yoga practice at the age of 4, and taught her children at a very early age.

How can children benefit from yoga, and why is it important to get them involved at an early age?

Yoga is about self-regulation, or the ability to manage our emotional, mental and physical state, despite the circumstance. For children especially, yoga provides a variety of accessible tools to use whenever the child needs to feel calm, energized, focused, grounded, etc. The essence of yoga isn’t the physical postures, or asanas, but the way we integrate breath in and out of the body to establish a deeper connection. The poses just help us with that journey. When yoga is taught at an early age, the child and the family learn ways to cope with life’s many obstacles, challenges and successes in a healthy and balanced way.

This event is geared towards kids, but it’s really for everybody in the family. How can yoga help families grow together?

The Fest really celebrates everybody in our community and has something for everyone to enjoy, from music to art to food and culture. We’re inviting everyone from every neighborhood to come help us celebrate peaceful action. No one has to know yoga to come and have fun. Everyone is welcome. Our yoga practice infuses the way we move through the world and treat each other. It involves being truthful, steadfast, sincere, non-violent, humble, devoted and grateful—the very qualities we focus on as families and aspire to teach our kids. Yoga helps us deepen our individual faith and love and have the courage to share that joy and peace with others.

Can anybody do yoga, or do you need special training? Do you have to be flexible or athletic?

One of my teachers would always say, “If you are breathing, you are doing it perfectly.” Yoga is that simple. The practice doesn’t require special training or special clothes or special knowledge. You do not have to be flexible or athletic. Remember, yoga isn’t what you may think or see on TV or in ads.

Everyone, regardless of age, size, perceived ability or skill can practice. The beauty is that yoga is different for everyone. No two people look the same doing yoga and no two people feel or breath the same. The experience is totally unique to the person and therefore wherever you are, it is perfect for you. One person may be just sitting in meditation and that is perfect for them. One person may be singing and that feels right for them. Another person may be stretching their body to quiet their mind. There isn’t an element of judgment about what the person is doing. Yoga just invites all people to establish a deeper connection to self.

What are some highlights of the #ChicagoKidsYogaFest? What can people expect to find there?

We are so proud to host a full-day celebration at the Garfield Park Conservatory that will have live musical performances and dynamic programs for all ages throughout the day in the Jensen Room. The Sittercity Community Room showcases The Kids’ Table, serving healthy snacks until late afternoon, as well as an art studio encouraging everyone to explore and create takeaway masterpieces. Starting at 5 p.m., a Mindful Business Expo begins in Horticulture Hall as the doors to the garden open with live music, acro yoga, face painting, henna, Lil Sluggers obstacle course, outdoor yoga, meditation classes and a family-friendly fire jam to end the evening.

Inside we have a Quiet Corridor for folks who need to leave the high-energy music behind and tune into the stillness of the Sensory Garden, where guided meditation and calming activities soothe. There is truly something for everyone at the first annual #ChicagoKidsYogaFest.

For more information visit ChicagoKidsYogaFest.com.

Contact Carrie Jackson at SpeakingOfCare.blogspot.com.

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