WORCESTER — A yoga center may seem like a common establishment in the city, but this mother-daughter-owned studio stands out from the rest, as both yogis are certified kids yoga instructors.
2 Mindful Girls, owned by mother Lisa Casillo and her daughter Ava Dussault, is a kids yoga and wellness studio at 31 Harvard St. that opened last July.
“We’re brand-new, so we’re just starting to grow our clients,” Dussault said.
Casillo, 50, was her daughter’s yoga instructor at a boarding school in Connecticut, where Casillo was hired to teach the after school yoga program.
Casillo is a certified pre-K to grade 2 teacher at two public schools in Oxford and now mainly teaches social emotional learning, mindfulness and yoga to kindergarten through fourth-grade students.
Dussault, 22, is a senior at Providence College pursuing degrees in elementary and special education and psychology, and will be graduating in a few weeks.
In addition to Casillo’s full-time teaching job and Dussault being a full-time student, opening a yoga and art studio was a no-brainer for the women, especially after learning about so many children having difficulties socializing and adapting to school life after more than a year of no in-person classes due to the pandemic.
To remedy this, they offer courses to help children relax, learn about taking breaths and playing games with other students to interact socially and get along.
“I just noticed at school, working with so many different children that I thought maybe this would be a good idea. I wonder if I would get people interested in learning about yoga or mindfulness or social emotional learning tools,” Casillo said. “Some kids never came into school because they were home. They stayed home for a year, so their first experience is not kindergarten. It’s first grade now.”
Simple core values
The core values of 2 Mindful Girls are simple: “Be true to yourself, be kind, spread love, and be present and creative.”
In addition to regular kids yoga courses, they also combine yoga with art classes. The mission is to promote mindfulness, healthy living and social emotional skills through their services and products.
“I think we just hope to teach children about their emotional well-being, like physically, mentally, emotionally,” Casillo said. “We hope to teach children calming techniques to be in control of their body, and even self-care, and doing something for them that they enjoy or feels good to them.”
Currently, Casillo and Dussault are the only instructors at the studio. Classes are held Thursday through Saturday, but everything is adjustable as time goes by, Casillo said.
Casillo said she is mostly responsible for teaching and designing the courses, themes and crafts, while Dussault also teaches kids yoga and oversees the promotional side of the business with advertising, social media and website content.
“It’s fun that I have a daughter that’s interested in the same things, and she’s going on for her master’s in social emotional learning, which a lot of schools don’t have,” Casillo said of her daughter, who will attend an online master’s program through Endicott College.
From Shrewsbury Street to Sutton
After growing up off busy Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, Casillo and her daughter now live in Sutton.
Casillo said her journey to becoming a yoga instructor began in 2015, when she started taking yoga classes. She said she fell in love with the feeling of being relaxed and stretched. She also attended a mindfulness program through California public schools and later got involved in kids’ yoga training.
“I don’t know how I fell into it. It just happened, but I do enjoy it, and I like teaching the children or even the middle schoolers or high schoolers” Casillo said. “That’s another market we like to tap into.”
For the last several years, Casillo has also taught teen yoga at a private school. She also completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training at Hot Power Yoga in Worcester.
To deepen her knowledge of kids yoga, Casillo completed a 95-hour children’s yoga certification through Yoga Ed. with a trauma-informed background.
She is also certified through several yoga program for children, as well as Zumba, and is certified to teach adult yoga classes.
Love fitness, working out
Having received a 95-hour children’s yoga certification through Flow and Grow Kids Yoga, Dussault said she likes working with kids and teaching them yoga and fun activities, including mindfulness games and crafts. And she’s very much into fitness herself.
“I really like working out and teaching fitness classes and doing it for myself, too,” Dussault said. “I do all types of workouts. I love yoga, I do bar, cardio dance, so I like to do a little bit of everything.”
At PC, she’s a fitness instructor, teaching Zumba and high-intensity interval training. She also created an after-school program curriculum at a local public school where she teaches Zumba.
“I really like teaching and doing the strategies with kids to hopefully calm them down in a classroom setting or that type of scenario,” Dussault said, “because there’s been a lot of social emotional challenges and difficulties since the pandemic.”
Dussault added that she loves what she’s doing right now because it transitions into her classroom in terms of what she has learned.
In a classroom with a urban setting where she teaches in Central Falls, Rhode Island, she sees a lot of kids dealing with emotional trauma where they will throw themselves to the ground or flip a desk. Some, she said, have unstable family lives or are homeless.
To help them, Dussault said she teaches them various breathing techniques with stuffed animals, perspective taking, role playing and more.
Mindfulness book for kids
Last year, Dussault also wrote a mindfulness book for kids, “Renee Finds Her Calm: Mindfulness Tools to Focus and Be Present.”
At some point in the future, Dussault said it would be nice to fully manage 2 Mindful Girls. She said she is also excited to begin her new journey in her master’s program and her teaching, and eventually start teaching adult classes.
Aside from taking part in regular yoga classes in Worcester, kids can also participate in yoga classes that include breathing techniques, movement and art crafts.
During each week’s class, they focus on a new theme engaging activities at a kid-friendly level.
The studio also features monthly pop-up events, private kids yoga classes and birthday parties. They are also planning to have summer camps, in which a session will include yoga, arts and crafts activities and snacks.