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Kids Yoga Finds Temporary Home

A popular yoga program for kids has a new temporary home in downtown Southern Pines

Cool Asana is rolling out the welcome mat for its Inclusive Yoga for Kids classes in the dining room where Rhett’s restaurant on West Pennsylvania Avenue recently closed its doors.

“We just signed a six-month lease. The space is smaller than our studio before, but we will have access to the outdoor courtyard at the Belvedere. We’re hoping we can do some neat outdoor stuff there,” said Virginia Gallagher, founder and owner of Hot Asana/Cool Asana.

The unique program is open to school-aged kids — both typical and special needs children alike — on a year-round schedule. For the last year-and-a-half, the classes were held at a second-floor studio that was located almost directly across Broad Street from the original Hot Asana yoga studio, which sits above the Sunrise Theater.

Unfortunately, a simmering issue between the yoga studio and a nearby art gallery put the two businesses at odds over noise, a problem that was amplified by the nature of the historic building’s high ceilings and hardwood floors. In the end, Gallagher was asked to find other accommodations for her Cool Asana business.

“We’ve been looking and pursuing all kinds of leads,” she said. “We really need to have space in downtown Southern Pines because it makes it so much easier. A lot of people will come to Hot Asana, but then they realize what they really want is the ‘Cool’ studio.”

At the top of her wish list is a large open space — about 1,200 square feet would be ideal. The new spot at the Belvedere is closer to 400 square feet, a tight fit but a workable solution for now, she said.

“Southern Pines has been amazing. The community is phenomenal, and so many businesses really stepped up to help us maintain the kids’ program,” Gallagher said. “Southern Pines Yoga Company, which is next door to Fresh Market, has been hosting some classes for us. Nosh Deli has hosted classes, the McDevitt Town and Country real estate office pushed back their desks so we’d have a spot, and Play Escape has hosted our classes.”

Created two years ago, the Inclusive Yoga for Kids program is the brainchild of Kelly Fagan, who continues to serve as lead instructor. A former special needs teacher, she is assisted by Casey Buie, who also left her special needs classroom to focus exclusively with Fagan on building these types of activities for children across Moore County. The classes also bring in adult volunteers, and they are assisted by longtime yoga instructor Andrea Bridger.

“Our classes are very structured,” Fagan said. “We teach the children breathing exercises and grounding poses. They learn to calm down and focus. We emphasize de-escalation strategies and offer a lot of visual support. There are different poses for different needs.”

Fagan said she first fell in love with yoga after taking classes at Hot Asana. She thought the calming elements of the practice would be beneficial in her special needs classroom and began taking courses to become a certified teacher.

Her classes attract students of a mix of ages and abilities, with a curriculum that’s been carefully designed to make sure every child is successful. In addition, Fagan started a GoFundMe page to help offset costs so the classes are affordable for families in need.

“A lot of my classes are 50 percent special needs and 50 percent typical, and that is the most beautiful thing,” Fagan said. “People want their kids in these classes to learn patience, to learn compassion. What I find is the typical kids don’t even bat an eye. They become helpers, and they become comfortable.