NEW BEDFORD — “In this journey, I want you to dive deep, deep, deep into your heart,” said Nicole Winning.
As she led the group of kids through a series of poses and breathing patterns, sun shone through two large windows in the mediumstudio loft space on Bethel Street, illuminating the multi-colored yoga mats that were placed in the shape of a sunflower.
It was closing in on the end of Saturday’s session of Colorful Yoga, an art and movement series hosted collaboratively by Project Wheel House and Doodles Creative Session, a branch of 3rd EyE Unlimited.
Now in the program’s fourth week, the free sessions have attracted a diverse group of kids from New Bedford, with about 20 kids and their parents present for Saturday’s session.
The proposition is perfectly simple: Nicole Winning of Project Wheelhouse and Samia Walker of Doodles host a group that ranges anywhere in age from three or four to 10 and allow them to both create art and practice yoga in an environment that is equal parts empowering and accepting.
Walker oversees the arts side of the program, and then Winning leads the group in a routine to round out the morning.
As the kids were seated around a ping-pong table, they created whatever they wanted.
Some attempted realism, others abstract art, and some created color fields, perhaps providing an early look at the next Rothko.
According to Walker, this is the Doodles model.
“It’s a youth arts program where the kids come in, they’re provided with a bunch of different materials and they just have the freedom to create,” said Walker. “There’s no lesson plan, there’s no rules, there’s no nothing. It’s just guided, exploratory, hands on, they get really messy, and they love it.”
Walker limits her guiding hand to, mainly, that of positive affirmation, allowing the kids themselves to choose what they make, and where that takes them. “They need expression,” said Walker. “Kids have to be kids, we need to protect that in a sense and foster that creativity.”
If the arts portion of the morning is exploring what they can put onto a page, Winning hopes the yoga portion will lead the kids to look inward.
“Yoga helps up to be aware of our bodies, yoga helps us to be aware of our breath, and yoga helps us to be aware of our inner worlds, and lastly, yoga helps us to be aware of how all of them are connected,” said Winning. “In general people are becoming more aware of how our inner worlds are affecting the outer environment.”
The two styles complement each other well, and Walker says that both she and Winning’s goals are completely aligned with one another.
″[Winning’s] main goal is to teach mindfulness and my main goal is to teach the kids how to work together,” said Walker.
A collaborative arts and yoga program is, by design, unique.
Unique is good, and falls perfectly in line with the footprints of 3rd EyE, the program that helps put on these sessions, and a place Walker felt at home as a teen.
“We were underserved, underrepresented, low-class and 3rd EyE [gave] us that opportunity to do our own thing. So we want to do that for the kids as well.”