Karen Cruz

Karen Cruz

Heart of our city: Karen Cruz brings international experience to Prince Rupert yoga

It's pretty easy to be distracted if you're a kid in 2015.

It’s pretty easy to be distracted if you’re a kid in 2015.

Sports, iPads, smartphones, school, gossip, TV, Facebook, Twitter and the dating scene all take up almost 100 per cent of a typical child or teen’s time this generation, which looks almost alien in comparison to their parents’ childhoods.

That’s why not only is it important to take care of your body as a youngster, it’s also equally as critical to take the time to relax the mind and restless spirit that accompanies these youth’s busy lifestyles.

Karen Cruz is making that possible in Prince Rupert, having developed a kids’ yoga program and gained her kids’ yoga certification so that she can teach Prince Rupert youth, from a young age, the importance of just stepping back for a moment and reconnecting with yourself.

“Kids are so busy with swimming, soccer, homework and do this, do that, it’s nice to teach them that [if they need to] calm themselves there’s a simple way to do it,” said Cruz last week.

But don’t let the outdated, stereotypical images of yoga fool you. The discipline has evolved, and with it, different strains of practicing. Cruz herself, a past fitness instructor and current certified yoga teacher, was even turned off of the idea at the beginning because of the slow pace.

“I found it kind of boring to be honest,” she said.

“You’re used to running and biking and those kinds of things and you feel like you should be working all the time and sweating … But now you can go to a power yoga class, you can go to a more relaxing yoga class, but usually in very class you get a little bit of everything – a workout and a calming [component].”

Cruz was born in Vancouver and moved to Prince Rupert when she was 8. She attended school here on the North Coast until Grade 8 at which point she moved to the Yukon for a few years and then travelled back to Vancouver for school. She returned to Rupert and not long after, beat her own record at exotic places to live when she visited Belize and ended up staying quite longer than she expected to – seven years to be exact.

“I took a one year leave of absence from my job – I was working at the hospital and I met somebody that owned a resort while I was travelling there and they offered for me to come back and teach yoga at their resort,” said Cruz.

“I ended up staying and managing the resort and kind of running it and then I met my husband, who’s Belizean … [The facility] was right in the jungle, so it was beautiful. We had a little eco-resort. It’s a great country – lots of palm trees, parrots, toucans and all kinds of stuff. It was a great experience.”

Once the two had their daughter, Jenaya, they moved back to Prince Rupert – a place Cruz said has always been home.

“I’ve lived in some crazy places, but Prince Rupert has always welcomed me back with open arms. I love the people here. I love the outdoor stuff and I love the easiness of raising kids here. It’s small; it’s just home.”

Cruz teaches yoga not only at the civic centre, but also the dance academy, Zikhara Yoga and spin class at The Gym downtown.

As recently as five months ago, Cruz branched out into three elementary schools in the hope that area kids can benefit from an exercise she originally dismissed herself.

“What I love about teaching at all these different places is you get such a wide variety of students … I take one day of a month at my job and I usually go to three schools (Roosevelt, Pineridge and Lax Kxeen) and I teach the entire school in the gymnasium,” she said.

“It’s been really great. I’ve had really good feedback from teachers and parents. The kids go home and they show them the little calming exercises.”

While it doesn’t follow a traditional Hatha adult class (basic yoga), Cruz has adjusted her formula for younger, more energetic bodies.

“It’s all done to music. Songs keep them busy the whole time and then we do a little bit of calming stuff at the beginning and end. So it’s not quiet, slow yoga, it’s all different songs and sort of being silly and dancing and they really like it,” she said.

“I think people are starting to realize yoga isn’t just about lying down and stretching. It’s a great workout, but it’s also so important to be able to calm your mind and relax, especially because everybody’s lives are so crazy right now.”