To say Melissa Morinello is trying her hand at something new is an understatement.
Morinello, shown teaching, well known in Niagara County for her time working with both the former Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. and the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, is now teaching yoga to children through a company she created called Lil' Yogis of WNY.
"My second daughter, Raffaela, was born in October of last year. She suffered from terrible acid reflux and colic, and at times I honestly didn't know what to do. Finally, during one of my sleepless nights, I decided to look up baby yoga to see if the benefits could help her at all," Morinello said. "We literally would sit on my family room floor in the middle of one of her screaming episodes and watch YouTube videos of mamas doing yoga with their infants.
"Well, it seemed to help. It didn't completely rid her of the situation, but definitely made an improvement. She wasn't as tense when I'd stretch her arms, she seemed relieved of gas pain when I'd fold her legs into her belly, all while singing silly little songs and bonding with my girl. ...
"My 3-year-old, Giuliana, would see us and want to join in. So, we'd 'down dog' together, me over the baby and Gigi over one of her dolls. We'd get into 'happy baby' pose and laugh together, and it became just a fun thing to do with my girls."
That same spirit of joining in was evident at a recent Lil' Yogis of WNY class at the Lewiston Artisan Market. As children stretched and laughed with Morinello, others wanted in on the action.
"My background has been in marketing and events for the last 15 years, and, since having my girls, I've really been struggling with my place in the 'career world,' " Morinello said. "I had a thought, 'What if I was certified to teach and actually started a company sharing this gift with children in our area,' vs. just getting the certification for my own knowledge? Well, then my marketing wheels started spinning. Lil' Yogis of WNY was born."
She explained, "I have been a huge fan of yoga and its stress-relieving benefits for many years, and truly loved that my girls were enjoying this little taste of something I enjoyed doing since before they came into my life. It was then I decided to get certified to teach children's yoga. I had seen that Kidding Around Yoga, out of St. Petersburg, was doing a certification training at Parkside Yoga, and signed up right away."
Not long after that, Morinello began working with Embody Health & Wellness. She said owner Ami Patrick "welcomed me with open arms into her studio when I approached her about using some of her space to offer the classes.
"Ami is a powerhouse, and brings a whole new definition to 'women empowering women.'
"There are multiple benefits here: Moms can work out in one room of the fitness studio, while their kids are down the hall in a Lil' Yogis class exercising, learning how to meditate and mindfulness. It sets their foundation for true health and wellness at a young age."
In addition to working with Patrick, Morinello is teaching yoga classes on alternate weeks at the Lewiston Artisan market in Academy Park (see related story). Courses are for children ages 2-5 and 6-8. The cost is $10 per child, per session. Yoga mats and water are provided to participants.
Moreover, "I'm hosting 'KID-Ventures' at Artpark Aug. 23 from noon-2 for ages 6 to 10. Children are able to be dropped off, will be fed a healthy meal from Fresh Fit Foods, go on a nature walk, do a craft and have a signature Lil' Yogis class on the Artpark lawn," Morinello said.
"KID-Venture Camp" passes are $30, two for $55 or three for $75.
"Finally, I'm excited to bring back Friday night date night for moms and dads!" Morinello said. "Starting in September and running through April, every third Friday of the month, kids from 5-12 can attend Friday night kids yoga camp from 6-8 p.m. (at Embody, Red Brick top floor). Parents will get to drop off their children where they will receive a health dinner provided by Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen and Fresh Fit Foods, a craft and a signature Lil' Yogis class. In addition, parents are encouraged to dine at one of the fine establishments on Center Street where I've arranged for some 'Parent Perks.' "