Monkey Do! Yoga is Brooklyn’s first and only yoga studio dedicated to kids and families. “There are other adult yoga studios that have kids or ‘Mommy & Me’ classes on their schedules here and there - but we're the only studio solely focused on kids and families,” said studio owner Marni Sandler.
As a mother and kids yoga teacher, Sandler dreamed of creating a place where kids could develop their full potential through yoga and song. "We try to focus a lot on mindfulness, having kids recognize their feelings and their emotions and how to channel the energy that they have,” said Sandler.
When Sandler took post-natal classes with her daughter at adult studios, she felt that the lack of accommodations could be difficult for nervous new parents. So she found a raw space, which had no walls or floors, and did a complete renovation.
“A lot of studios require you to walk up a bit, and that can be challenging when you have kids or strollers,” explained Sandler. “Our bathroom has a changing room table and a step stool so kids can reach things. We try to be very focused on our community here and what they need.”
The vibrant studio, with its bright orange and monkey-adorned storefront, fits right in with the budding Gowanus community at 279 3rd Avenue (between President and Carroll). The warm and welcoming space is also close to neighboring Park Slope, Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens.
Kids and their caregivers are delighted by the colorful interior and a wall shelved with toy props. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors create a visually open space and encourage kids to be comfortable in their bodies. The studio also boasts a backyard, where classes and events will be held in warmer weather.
Sandler looked for teachers with a preschool background, They have that special personality kids respond to, bring their own style of yoga and are quick to adapt to the unpredictable energy one expects from a roomful of kids.
The teachers are equipped to handle different skills, and kids with special needs are welcome to all classes.
“There are certain muscles that can be ‘hypotonic,’ as it’s called, and I think yoga can be really wonderful for kids with ADHD or kids that have sensory processing disorders,” said Sandler. “It’s also about building focus. If you think of tree pose and what it takes to balance, and learning to focus on one point, and seeing how it makes a difference. That’s an example for that child and something they can carry into their everyday life.”
The schedule includes daytime sessions for the little ones (0-12 mos & 2-5 yrs) and after school sessions, spans courses like Spanish-Infused Yoga and Girls Are Superheroes (7+ yrs) to Open Play, where kids can bond with their caregivers.
There’s also a unique Physical Therapy Based Movement Class (0-6 mos & 6-12 mos). Taught by Jessica Mei Gershen and designed by a physical therapist, the class is made to “help parents learn what kind of activities they can do to work with their kids to help them crawl, help them sit, all of these things. But in a really fun way, so it’s very engaging and doesn’t feel boring.”
What drives Sandler? A vision! The studio owner recalled a special class she did with a group called The Leading Ladies, “There were probably fifteen 10-year-old girls, and at the end of class with our teacher Alex Venier Ledesma leading them, they said in unison, ‘I am beautiful. I am smart. I am strong.’ They really meant it. And it made me feel like, ‘Okay, that is why I’m doing this.’”
Monkey Do! Yoga is located at 279 3rd Ave in Brooklyn.