SBG Expands Growing Gorillas To Kids Yoga Warrior Program


When the kids yoga class at SBG Whitefish begins on a Thursday afternoon, the 7-10 year olds fill the room with excited voices and playful energy.

Ten-year-old Benjamin Joy hangs upside down on a set of ropes and pretends he’s shooting from a Star Wars fighter jet.

As Coach Sunni Green begins class and moves the children through each pose, she corrects and engages the students with gentle but stern patience. By the end of class the children are calmer and more focused.

On Monday, April 23rd, SBG took their Growing Gorillas program to greater heights when it relaunched its kids Yoga Warrior curriculum.

Formally known as Virabhadra, or “warrior”, in Sanskrit, the revamped curriculum uses elements of SBG’s successful kids martial arts curriculum.

The kids in yoga programs at SBG Montana in Kalispell and SBG Whitefish are learning what most adults don’t learn until later in life when injuries, ailments, and setbacks bring them into a yoga class for the first time.

More importantly, they’re doing it when their bodies are still building strength and balance and their minds are developing coping skills for stress and anxiety.

Head Coach Kisa Davison, co-creator of the Growing Gorillas program is thrilled about the new curriculum.

Davison stated, “The updates to the yoga curriculum will encourage kids to practice yoga with the same dedication that our kids do in BJJ, where they see their progress over an extended period of time.”

The improved curriculum is inspired by the belt promotion system used in SBG’s kids martial arts program. It awards a student with a higher ranked belt as their skills become more advances.

In yoga, a student’s mat will denote their rank, and they will receive a new color of mat as they are promoted in the program.

The ranking system is successful in the gym’s kids martial arts program. It gives kids a sense of earned accomplishment and teaches them how to set goals and achieve them.

Davison shared, “We wanted to create a curriculum where kids can develop into better versions of themselves much like we have done with our jiu jitsu curriculum.”

Coach Sunni Green, who developed the new curriculum, commented, “Knowing from the jiu jitsu side that the belts really empower the kids and help them have tenacity and perseverance, we thought that something like that would work on the yoga side.”

Green also noted the confidence that the kids feel when they are able to do a pose that they weren’t able to do before.

In Green’s Whitefish class, she guides them through a pose called Birds of Paradise. It ends with the student standing on one leg with the other raised in the air, an arm wrapped behind the back to clasp the other arm on the front of the body.

The pose appears advanced even for the most capable yogi, but when the kids practice it, they make it look effortless.

The benefits of yoga are best introduced in a child’s development when they are first learning to cope with stress and anxiety.

“At the end of class kids will say that their headache is gone, or their foot doesn’t hurt anymore, or their back feels better,” said Green.

Green hopes to share these benefits with children, something she would have benefited from when she was younger. “If I had just known how to breathe, I would have done better in grade school and high school.”

And she has more personal reasons for making this contribution. “Almost ten years ago, I lost a child. Throughout these years of not having him here physically, I wanted to honor him as much as possible. He was fun and lovable and had so much courage.”

Green said that stepping out of her shell and helping children will her reconnect with her son’s spirit. “Kids are awesome. They don’t have as much judgment as adults do. Just to be a kid for even an hour or two hours a week is the best thing I can do for myself.”

At the end of Green’s Whitefish class, the students finish with the restful Corpse Pose. In a subdued voice Green tells them, “As you go about your day and there’s something you don’t want to do, remember that you did Birds of Paradise. So just go and do it.”