If your community is anything like mine, yoga has taken off tremendously in the last several years. The number of dedicated yoga studios is increasing, and local colleges are beginning to offer certificate programs in the activity. Still, when I heard about a handful of nearby libraries offering yoga programs, I was skeptical. While I had nothing against the activity in general, I just wasn’t entirely sure how it would coincide with my library’s mission.
Several people – collogues from neighboring libraries and patrons alike – recommended one teacher so much that it became hard to ignore after a while. Towards the end of 2013, I decided to book her for four “mommy and me” classes for 2-4 year-olds; all four classes combined cost less than most performers I bring to my departments, so I figured it was worth taking a chance on. I am glad I did!
The first class was so well received that parents and children alike were disappointed they had to wait three weeks for the next one. I also noted that every participant – regardless of age – bonded with his or her peers during the workout. Our teacher was just the right mix of silly and serious, and patrons truly had a blast experiencing this together. As an added bonus, she incorporated picture books into her lesson, which created an even stronger literacy connection. Based on this program’s success, my director and I plan to expand our offerings to include older kids, teens, and adults without children in tow.
Why should a public library offer yoga when so many studios and gyms have it on their schedules? First of all, not everyone can afford a pricey gym membership, and some patrons like to test out classes before enrolling in a long-term contract. Moreover, it reinforces a library’s branding as a community center, not just a receptacle for books and media. By offering yoga, we hooked a population that was not necessarily aware of the other programs and resources we have. Getting these new patrons in the door has turned them into library users, which is a win-win for us and them.
Yoga also offers an impressive array of health benefits, from increased flexibility to better balance and even muscle tone. Of course, it is also a great form of stress relief. In this sense, it is not actually all that different from the meditation classes or health and wellness seminars my library already offers. At its very heart, it teaches patrons about another way to achieve an inner balance and protect their health; is this not the very spread of knowledge a public library seeks to embrace?