Elizabeth "Beth" Reese, Ph.D., E-RYT, RCYT, is the founder and executive director of Yogiños: Yoga for Youth®. Beth is a teacher with over 20 years of experience with preK-12 grades in art, windsurfing, skiing, and yoga. She is also a researcher and published writer. Beth has a PhD in art museum education and has taught art history, art museum education and museum studies at the University-level.
A yoga practitioner for over 13 years, Reese explores Iyengar, Hatha, Hot, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Anusara, power yoga, Jivamukti and Yin Yoga. Beth completed her RYT 200 in Anusara with Christina Sell, and an Immersion training in Yin Yoga with Paul Grilley. She has taken classes and workshops with "Richard from Texas," David Belz, Sharon Gannon, Jules Febre, John Friend, Manorama, Judith Hanson Lasater, David Life, Sarah Powers, Saul David Raye, Desiree Rumbaugh, Sianna Sherman and Doug Swenson. Beth is the mother of three OHMazing® yogis under the age of 14.
Questions and Answers with Elizabeth Reese
What does yoga mean to you? What impact has yoga had on your life?
The greatest impact yoga has had on my life is by far its application off the mat. Specifically, yoga and all of the limbs gave me tools to teach my oldest daughter, Jordan, now 13, how to regulate her sensory processing “challenges.” A few years ago I wrote a blog post for prAna about this journey.
From this experience with my daughter, a new life for me was co-created with the universe: In 2008 I founded Yogiños: Yoga for Youth®. This kids yoga program is an OHMazing® interdisciplinary kids yoga curriculum in English, Spanish, and Sanskrit. Our yoga for kids program weaves together the 8 Limbs of yoga with original art, music, games, stories, and other mindful, sensory-integrated activities to promote flexibility, strength, balance, collaboration, civic and social responsibility, mindfulness, nutrition, and wellness on and off the yoga mat. Yogiños: Yoga for Youth® offers award-winning, bilingual yoga DVDs, along with kids yoga music CDs, educational kits and other bilingual educational products for schools, studios and homes.
I am full of grace and gratitude that Yogiños is endorsed by Andrew Weil, M.D., is in partnership with the Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas, as well as in cooperation with prAna and My Yoga Online.
In what ways does yoga help you off the mat?
Yoga off the mat helps me to be gentle with myself (ahimsa) as I try to always do my best to be grounded in the present and cultivate my focus, balance, strength and flexibility among my body, mind and heart. I also am committed to try to run Yogiños: Yoga for Youth® in a yogic-minded way. For example, I experience like-minded businesses as cooperators not competitors.
Yoga off the mat has enabled me also to better regulate myself emotionally, mentally and physically. Whether it’s turning my attention to my breathe or creating a variation of a pose to compress my joints and muscles to give my central nervous system a “hug,” I practice yoga pretty much all day long!
Moreover, the incredible gifts I feel I receive from practicing yoga off the mat has led to a literal and conceptual “calling” to bring mindfulness to teachers and students in classrooms. Here yoga offers teachers and their students not only ways to explore academic content in a kinesthetic manner, but also—and perhaps most importantly—to engage with mindful movement and breathing tools and techniques toward empowering self-awareness and self-regulation. In collaboration with Dr. Brandon Eggleston, currently with University of Southern Indiana, I have conducted several research studies from preK—grade 12 toward contributing to the evidence-based studies about the benefits of weaving yoga into classrooms and formal educational contexts.
What do you recommend for people who are brand new to yoga?
For new yogis of any age, I always recommend that they do only the poses that are “available” to them. I think it’s important for us all to strive to do our best—paraphrasing Miguel Ruiz—knowing that our best will change from day to day... if not moment to moment! I also suggest exploring different styles and working with a variety of teachers until finding some that are juuuuust riiigggghhhhht.
What yoga tips can you share with people?
Breathe. Especially when you’re not.
What drew you to teach the particular style(s) of yoga that you teach now?
The styles I draw from most readily include Anusara and Yin Yoga. I love a heart-centered practice and believe firmly in cultivating healthy attitudes and alignment as facilitated in an Anusara practice. I also adore the stillness and inward focus of a Yin practice along with the way my body, mind and heart feel so placid and tranquil afterward. Weaving these together I often teach what I call Slow Flow: A slow and yet powerful flow practice combining all categories of poses with all the modifications, progressions and transitions to make each pose available to each individual. This is a heart-centered practice designed to cultivate awareness and alignment of body, mind and heart through mindful breath, movement and stillness. This Slow Flow practice is sure to inspire and challenge you whether you've just had the basics or you've been practicing yoga for a long time.
With my background in art and art museum education, I regularly weave references to art and creativity into my classes. I teach this regularly at the Yoga Institute in Houston, as well as workshops in various non-studio locations including museums like Asia Society and Asian Art Museum San Francisco. I teach kids and adults in a very similar way by changing mostly my language while being mindful to teach to developmental abilities.
Before I teach—no matter whether the individual is a toddler who is new to yoga or an adult who is well-practiced—I pause and ask myself to be present, completely authentic, and to find the play or lila in the moment. Namaste.