Chaya Gaynor had, by three-and-a-half years old, found a way to give herself a time-out when the world became too unmanageable—a practice she has continued for more than a year. She doesn’t stand in the corner, exactly, but she does seem to be claiming space of her own. In fact, she’s curled in a ball, breathing deeply. Is this part of the tantrum? Or part of a pose?
It’s actually part of the solution—to a long run of nasty temper tantrums. And it all started when her mom, Amira Gaynor, was watching a yoga video on YouTube, trying to figure out if yoga was the routine that could get her back to her pre-baby body.
“All of a sudden, I looked over, and my two-and-a-half-year-old was in downward dog, following the instructor,” Gaynor says, joy radiating from her face. “I was like ‘Look at you! Do you want to do yoga?’”
Gaynor immediately began looking for DVDs that might be appropriate for a toddler. But none of them were quite right. “Everything I found was taped in a roomful of kids with flashy things on the screen, and it wasn’t always real yoga,” she says. “It lost her. No matter what I did, I couldn’t find one that gave the same kind of instruction that adults could get.” Namaste Kid was born.
A piece of advice from a class Amira had attended with Chaya had stuck with her: until children are three or four years old, they need four to six seconds to process and respond to what they’re asked to do, whether that’s telling you what they are going to be for Halloween, or figuring out how to get into table pose. “I knew then that there must be so much that I didn’t know about this age group,” she says. So she set about making a yoga video that would incorporate the best knowledge about toddler development.
What did it come down to? “Stop overthinking it,” she says. Gaynor says she took care to consider what would help learning-disabled and autistic children, but it turned out all the answers were the same. “All kids really need is one-on-one, distraction-free attention. They need a way to calm down, feel good, and move their body. Give them what they need without overstimulating them.”
Gaynor’s simple-but-fun videos have inspired even grandmothers of grandchildren to organize coffee and yoga at their homes with their friends. Parents of autistic children have written Gaynor to let her know it’s the first time their kids could focus for 20 minutes straight.
“You have to find your own way with yoga,” Gaynor says. “But it’s fun and it feels good. It really does work.” And Gaynor has been invited to give away her products in the Boom Boom Room—the famous swag room where celebrities load up on goodies before the Emmy and Golden Globe award ceremonies.
As for Chaya? When she gets frustrated she “explodes” in volcano pose, or returns to child’s pose, until she’s ready to face her next challenge.