By MATTHEW REZAB
If you hear friends or neighbors talking about “Go Go Yoga Kids” you didn’t miss a reboot of the “Inspector Gadget” TV cartoon.
“Go Go Yoga Kids: Empower Kids For Life Through Yoga” is a new best-selling book by Sara (North) Weis, a Jefferson native.
The book, published in August, instructs parents and teachers how to get children involved in yoga while still having fun.
“I could not find any kids yoga lesson plans anywhere, so I decided to make my own,” said Weis, who now lives with her husband Dave and three kids in West Des Moines. “You picture it being this serious and meditative thing, but with kids it’s got to be active and busy and engaging and fun.”
Weis has been teaching kindergarten in West Des Moines for 17 years since graduating from UNI in 1999 with degrees in elementary and early childhood education.
She’s following in mother Karen and father Jim’s footsteps. Jim North — who Weis says “everyone knows” — taught English in the same room at the middle school for 38 years.
“I knew, even growing up, that I wanted to be a teacher,” Weis said. “My mom used to baby-sit kids out of our house and I’d always organize them into games and create projects.”
The 1995 Jefferson-Scranton High School graduate says she became a certified kids’ yoga instructor a few years ago in Colorado and hasn’t looked back.
“I thought this is what I’m meant to do,” she said. “It has kids, it has yoga, it has lesson plans and games. It all came together, everything that I loved.”
Weis uses superheroes, princesses, dinosaurs and anything else kids are interested in to motivate them to get started with yoga. The kids learn the same poses as adults, but in a kid-friendly way.
“I didn’t want it to be like an adult yoga class, so I took what kids are interested in and made them into yoga poses and made them into lesson plans and themes,” Weis said. “That is what people have loved.”
The book has been something of an instant hit.
It’s already earned best-seller status on Amazon and is available in Des Moines area libraries and bookstores.
The book features dozens of photos of kids doing the yoga poses because “when kids see other kids doing yoga, they want to do it too,” she said. Her own children, Megan, 14, Lucy, 12, and Max, 9, are pictured performing yoga poses in the book.
Yoga became a part of Weis’ life while she was training for triathlon events in her 20s. She said she overtrained, and at times became obsessed with her workouts.
“I really didn’t pace myself very well,” she said. “I hit it too hard. But my favorite workouts of all were yoga. It allowed me to slow down and take a step back.”
Weis, who self-published the book to get it on the shelves faster, had the idea for the book two years ago, but really focused hard on finishing in January, she said. She had the help of a cover designer, a copy editor and her husband putting the final product together.
“He’s a technology guy,” Weis said of her husband Dave, a Dunlap native. “I can write all the words, but he was the one who set up the blog and get everything formatted correctly.”
Weis said the benefits kids get from yoga go beyond the physical.
Yoga birthday parties, yoga sessions in school and after school are becoming more and more common.
“Kids are over-consumed with technology and social media now,” Weis said. “Yoga gives them a chance to be mindful and take a step back, plus it’s good for their bodies. I see kids are so used to instant gratification from video games and technology in general. It gives them a chance to get away from that.”
She says “Go Go Yoga Kids” is good for children in preschool through middle school.
“I have a lot of stuff for the young kids, but there’s also some stuff for tweens,” she said. “They’re growing so fast and can be at that awkward stage. Yoga is great for keeping those muscles warm and stretched.”
Weis says she hopes to eventually have the book in stores and libraries across the country.
The book can currently be found by searching “Go Go Yoga Kids” on Amazon.com, or at Des Moines book dealers Create Space, Beaverdale Books and the Learning Post.
Those interested can also visit gogoyogakids.com to subscribe to Weis’ newsletter and get updates on the latest trends in kids yoga.