There's a house on N Street that's painted bright orange, and as soon as you go inside you have to take off your shoes. There you'll find a faint smell of sweet incense and a teacher who wears white puja pants and a T-shirt that says "Festival of Inner Light."
"I guess the yoga's going to start," says Daniel in an uncertain, four-year-old voice.
Everybody giggles, and the teacher, London-born Wendy Oliver, escorts Devi, the house kitten, out of the room and gathers eight kids -- most of whom have never heard of yoga -- into a circle.
"This is how yogis sit," she sayd, twisting one leg over the other. "What I'm goint to do is say my name, but I'm going to clap it, too. I have another name other than Wendy -- a Sanskrit name I was given when I took a teacher training course in yoga. My name," she says, clapping with the words, "is Radah."
After the kids have introduced themselves by clapping, Oliver starts them on stretching exercises.
"What part of the body can we move while we're sitting down?" she asks. "That's right the head. Look up at the ceiling. Is it bumpy or smooth? Now look down. I'm looking at my ankles . . ."
"I'm looking at my feet," says Daniel.
After the kids have stretched their necks arms and legs and shaken their hands and feet to make them go all floppy, Oliver tells them about yoga.
"Yoga started in India a long, long time ago," she explains. "India is a country a long, long way from here. Yoga is an Indian word that means 'join together.' Yogis thought that the mind and body should work together, and that if all people did exercises to make their muscles stretch and fill their lungs with air and have their minds rest, their minds and bodies would join together to work for them." Yogis, Oliver explains, got some of their ideas for exercises by watching the animals. Soon the kids are kneeling on the floor pretending to be cats.
"That's right -- the bottom stays in the air but the back comes down," approves Oliver. "Now arch your back like cats do sometimes, and say 'Meow.' What parts of the body are we stretching now? Yes, the back and neck."
Next the kids put the soles of their feet together in an exercise, or asana, called the frog.
"Do you know any frogs who sit like this?" asks Oliver. "How about that frog on TV -- Kermit?"
"I've seen him sitting on a pad, but not like this," answers Daniel.
Forgetting Kermit, the kids twist their arms into elephant trunks, spread their legs into eagle wings, stretch their necks back, hissing like cobras, and stand on one leg, like storks.
There are also exercises in which they have to turn their bodies into floppy rag dolls and curlng leaves -- even rowboats.
Lying on their stomachs, the kids grab their ankles, lift their shoulders, and rock.
"What would happen if there was a storm," asks a little girl, answering her own question by rocking from side to side instead of back forth.
"The boat would shrink," says Daniel.
Next, Oliver tells them, it's time to practice resting. The kids lie on their backs with their hands at their sides and their palms up. They move their heads from one ear to the other and then let their heads come to a stop.
"Some parts of your body are still moving," says Oliver. "Your heart is moving, and what does the heart do? It makes your blood go around, so your blood is moving too. And your stomach is moving, up and down, in and out. Put your hand on your stomach and think abouit it moving up and down."
While they think about their stomcahs, Oliver shows them a bear-shaped plastic container filled with honey.
"Can you see how when I tilt it the honey flows into his ear, then his eyes, then into the other ear?" asks Oliver. "Think about the honey bear, and pretend you've got honey in your own bodies. Start with your feet. Put your feet down. They don't want to move any more, because they're filled with honey. Now the honey is being tipped up and filling your legs . . ."
The effect of the honey wears off quickly. Jeremy twiddles his thumbs. Emily yawns.
"I'm tired of resting," announces Daniel.
"Do we do breathing now?" asks Sarah.
No, Oliver tells her, we're not going to get into breathing quite yet. Instead, she reads them a story about a crocodile and a hen. The crocodile wants to eat the hen, but she calls him "brother," so he can't. Oliver, who teaches public-school kindergarten as well as yoga, has cut out some crocodile teeth and pasted them on papers. While the kids are busy drawing crocodiles around the teeth, Oliver has a few minutes to talk about yoga to an adult.
"This class is an hour and a half long, to coincide with an adult yoga class that's going on downstairs, but that's too long for kids to just do yoga, so I give them stories and drawing," she explains. "Our founder was Swami Sivananda, who died in 1963. One of his disciples brought yoga to the U.S. about twenty years ago, and founded these centers . . . I think there's a real restlessness in children today. TV externalizes so much. It's important for children to sit down, to notice natural sounds, and to be more aware of body messages. It's important for children to get more peaceful within. We don't need all this haste -- we should be aware of it, but not part of it. If childrn can keep a center that's peaceful, they can be in control of the situation."