‘The yoga is hidden in what we do; we’re moving, we’re dancing, imitating animals and telling stories.’
HITTING THE MAT: Om Kids Yoga Center owner Elyse Rotondo instructs daughters Scarlet Rotondo, left, and Lola Rotondo in her Pawtucket studio. Elyse Rotondo is a former fashion executive who switched to teaching, eventually opening the studio last year.
In the true spirit of entrepreneurship, Elyse Rotondo has taken a calculated risk with her lifelong passion for yoga and has opened her own studio. The venture has the added benefit of being unique; it is Rhode Island’s first yoga studio devoted exclusively to children. Located at 999 Main St., in the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, Om Kids Yoga Center caters specifically to those 18 years old and younger.
A former salesperson and executive in the world of fashion in Manhattan, Rotondo moved to Rhode Island with her husband in 1999. With no fashion-industry comparable to New York, she returned to school to get a master’s degree in elementary education while also starting a family.
“Before I moved I spent one year teaching in Brooklyn and I come from a family of teachers, so it was an easy choice,” Rotondo said.
She soon entertained the idea of returning to teaching, when through friends she came in contact with Shari Vilchez-Blatt, the founder of Karma Kids Yoga. A former advertising director, Blatt abandoned an executive lifestyle to open five yoga studios in the New York City area and specialize in teaching children. “I had been doing yoga since about 1995, and a light bulb just went off,” Rotondo said. She then took 100 hours of certification training through established facilities such as Karma Kids and Easeful Body Yoga Center in New York and the Radiant Child in Virginia.
“I found it easy because I have the teaching background and know how to handle large groups of children. Then it’s just a matter of keeping it fun and innovative,” the 44-year-old Rotondo said.
With the help of a $20,000 microloan from the South Eastern Economic Development Corp., Rotondo opened the studio in January 2011.
The studio is open Tuesday through Saturday. Toddler and pre-school classes, ages 2 to 4, are conducted in the mornings, and classes for children and youths aged 4 to 18 begin after 3:30 p.m. Classes are an hour long, can be purchased in blocks of 5, 10 and 20, and can be used when convenient. “They don’t expire after a certain amount of time; that way our classes are flexible, no pun intended,” she said.