The darkened room is abuzz with kid energy, from toddlers to tweens running around, climbing on each other, and giggling. But just a few minutes later, on this rainy summer afternoon, all 16 kids are seated quietly, “criss-cross yogi-sauce” as Miss Elissa likes to say. They are breathing and repeating a simple mantra, “I am focused, I am peaceful, I am calm,” while sliding beads down a pipe cleaner.
Wiggling and chatting is at a minimum as “Miss Elissa,” aka Elissa Shoreman, the owner of Buddhaful Souls Yoga Studio in Rowley, works her magic. With a manner that is both gentle and firm, she directs the roomful of kids—about one-third boys, two-thirds girls—to be kind and respectful. Older kids help the younger kids, and at the end of the three-hour glow-in-the-dark Yoga Camp, the mini yogis return to their parents a little bit floaty, a touch calmer, and with some tools to bring peace back home with them.
“Yoga allows a child to be a child, yet still be respectful,” says Shoreman, who opened Buddhaful Souls—which offers regular classes for both children and adults—seven years ago. “I can let children be playful and move their bodies and spark what is true to them.”
Shoreman has always connected with teaching, ever since she was a child lining up her dolls to play school. It’s evident in the ways she manages the room and her many creative approaches, from crafts to the activity “Dance, Dance, Meditate,” which is like musical chairs, except that kids sit down and breathe each time the music stops. In fact, Shoreman attended college to become a teacher, but found a lot of practices that she didn’t connect with. So she left teaching to study bodywork, and eventually found her way to a yoga practice.
“I get to teach kids about their hearts and not their test scores,” says Shoreman. “I have the best teaching job ever.”
With the pressures of technology and increasing anxiety levels in children, Shoreman feels she is in the right place at the right time. “I’m shocked by how many little kids have anxiety,” she says, noting that, perhaps partly in recognition of that fact, a lot more studios are starting to offer kids yoga. “It makes my heart so happy,” she says.
The feeling is mutual—her miniature yogis draw a lot of joy from their practice. “I really like how my teacher is always looking on the bright side,” says 8-year-old Josie Gatti. “She teaches us new ways of thinking. I want to be a yoga teacher like Miss Elissa someday.”
Josie’s mom, Olivia Gatti, whose 10-year-old Beatrice also practices at Buddhaful Souls, says there are myriad ways the practice shows up at home for her daughters.
“I have seen huge changes in my children’s emotional development, just from practicing yoga once a week,” Gatti says—especially for Josie. “[Josie] has turned to yoga at home to work out her feelings. She breathes, she stretches, and she finds confidence in herself, because yoga is so personal to her. It is her safe and calm place, and she can take it anywhere.”
Shoreman loves teaching every age group. From the toddlers to the teens, as well as in her adult classes, each blooms in their own way, but she admits that family yoga classes can sometimes be challenging. And it’s not because of the kids.
“I love being able to share with parents what I am offering,” Shoreman says, but sometimes the adults don’t participate—sitting out the poses or checking their phones, Shoreman says. “If parents aren’t doing it, why should the kids?”
But when the parents are fully present, it shifts the energy, draws everyone together, and gives them tools to try out at home.
Shoreman’s ability to meet people where they are with special light and energy has attracted a loyal following, both in her children’s practice and with adults.
“Not all yoga teachers are the same. Not all practice with the same approach and that is very important to me as a mother of two daughters,” says Andrea Drown, whose children Adriana, age 8, and Hanna, age 5, both practice at the studio. “It’s quality time, when you know your children are being taught kindness, patience, the importance of moving your bodies for health, and being able to accept peace and happiness deep inside. You can’t find that just anywhere, but that is what exists at Buddhaful Souls.”
Buddhaful Souls Yoga Studio
225 Newburyport Turnpike, Rowley