When om becomes moo: Bala Shala Yoga for Kids with Staci Bina is silly, fun, and soothing

Story and photos by LYNETTE BRASFIELD

Did someone say that herding cats was a challenge? Try herding one- two- and three-year-olds – now that’s what I call a challenge. 

And yet it can happen! For example, I discovered that when you offer tots a magic carpet ride, you’ll get their full attention for at least a few minutes – an eon in their young lives. 

To backtrack: I had so much fun last Wednesday morning observing a kids’ yoga session, one of several classes for youngsters and teens offered by Bala Shala for Kids. The mobile yoga studio takes advantage of Laguna’s beautiful outdoor spaces to enhance the practice, as well as offering indoor classes in a variety of locations. 

(Bala Shala for Kids also teaches teens during parent-sponsored classes at Thurston Middle School.) 

Bala Shala owner and yoga teacher Staci Bina warned me upon my arrival: “This is the silliest of all my classes.”

But that’s exactly why I asked to attend. I like silly.

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Holland Kennedy is very good at tree pose

Participants, who attend along with their moms, range from “strong” new walkers to three years of age.

“For this class we incorporate singing and dancing as part of the yoga practice,” Staci explains. Which makes for a wonderfully integrated session of short meditation, along with plenty of physical action.

Staci speaks tot-language. “Okay, let’s make a big balloon over our heads,” she instructs. The kids make a circle with their arms. “Fill that balloon with air. Now let it out.” The kids giggle and drop their arms to their sides.

Breathing never was so much fun.

Which Staci herself realized during her very first yoga class back in her twenties. 

Though she had a background in ballet, she says she was nevertheless for a long time too intimidated to try yoga. 

“But I was hooked from my first inhale,” she said. (A healthy kind of inhaling!) “Breathing puts you in touch with your calmer self. It helped with my ADD. It’s my medication.”

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Young Alexa Tomkins loves yoga teacher Staci Bina

Watching the class and listening to Staci, I realize how well-suited yoga practice is to youngsters. Think about the poses: downward facing dog (in this class accompanied by loud woofing); cat, dolphin and frog poses; trees, mountains and banana shapes – all very easily communicated in imagery the kids understand – and with sound effects, too!

Warrior two – legs akimbo, arms stretched out – becomes surfer, in true Laguna style.

Not to mention lion pose, during which the entire face is engaged in a scowl and the tongue is stuck out, Maori-aggression-style…“It’s a great way to get rid of feelings of anger,” Staci explains.

And om becomes moo…I think I’ll try that out in my adult class. I don’t know why, I just like the way it feels in my mouth.

Weird is good

Kids’ yoga, Staci says, can be extremely therapeutic for them. “Yoga helped calm me and center me. Now I see how it helps kids handle issues, bring them out of their shells.”

I ask for an example. 

“I watched a teen – who had been depressed, didn’t get along with her schoolmates, and had withdrawn – blossom over time as her confidence grew in what her body was capable of, and as she made friends with others in her yoga class,” Staci says. “Kids say they don’t want to be weird. We emphasize that we are all weird in our own ways, and that’s a good thing. Yoga helps them become more outgoing and feel more confident in their bodies.” 

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Mom Margie and son Jullian are about to go on a magic carpet ride: this is serious stuff

Naturally, I loved the storytelling aspect of Staci’s class. When the aforementioned “magic carpet ride” takes place, the kids curl the front of their yoga mats toward them, just like Aladdin’s carpet, and three deep breaths take them to an island, where they pluck fruit from above their heads and dance to avoid imaginary crabs roaming the land. 

Then they’re back on their magic carpets: three breaths and they’re home again.

Toddlers gonna do what toddlers do…

Which, as I mentioned, is about the only time all the kids act in unison. Toddlers gonna do what toddlers gonna do…Which makes it all the more fun. As the mood takes them, they roll over, or stand on one leg, or attempt a downward dog then tumble over, giggling. Or say they need to go to the bathroom. Or check out the flowerbed. Or make up their own poses.

Maybe improv yoga classes for adults should be a thing?

Alexa, Kristie’s daughter, is especially active. She likes to run around to each of the seven young yogis and check out their poses. Or just giggle for the heck of it. Or sit on the teacher’s mat and gaze up at her in awe.

Staci, whose father is Hall-of-Famer Don Sutton, says she became interested in teaching kids’ yoga when her first child, daughter Baylie, turned out to be, Staci says, “Let’s say ‘spirited’. I knew yoga had helped with my ADD, so I thought it could be a tool for young kids too.” 

Baylie is now 11, and son Cash is eight. “Yoga’s been a part of Cash’s life pretty much since he was born,” she says.

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Stevie looks contemplative in lizard pose (Mom Amanda is in embryo pose)

I overhear Amanda, Stevie’s mom, say, “Wow, so all he needed was a little yoga.” I inquire as to Stevie’s former mood. “He was teething and crabby before we got here, now look at him.”

Amanda says Stevie is starting to get the hang of yoga. He doesn’t tend to follow the instructions too closely in class, but “He’s listening. We’ll get back home and suddenly he’ll do a downward dog or some other pose.”

The other mothers agree that yoga feeds into the kids’ development and spontaneity. The moms also love the class, because as Margie says, “You get to hang out with neighbors and make friends with women who have kids of the same age.” 

Keep surroundings clear of clutter: your room too, kid

Staci emphasizes that her classes are not “religious” in any way. “We focus on yoga as a calming philosophy [that engages mind and body]. It’s a way to take a break from screen time, all that [frantic] activity.”

And here’s an unexpected benefit: “We talk to teens about the importance of taking care of their surroundings. That includes tidying their rooms.”

Well, I don’t think one of my sons would have been persuaded on that score even if he had taken yoga, but you never know.

One of the final poses is lizard pose, with moms in child’s/embryo pose, bent over. The kids lie on their moms’ backs and gaze peacefully at the sky.

Birds sing, the breeze sets leaves rustling, peace reigns – at least for two minutes or so. 

Then it’s time to go home and practice nap pose – or so the moms hope.


Bala Shala Yoga for Kids offers a range of classes for kids of all ages, from newborns to age 12. They also offer weekly summer camps this year from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday July 9 to Friday August 3. Camps will include a combination of yoga and games, group activities, themed craft projects, hiking, beach time, cooking, and more, kids will be able to strengthen their bodies, minds, and spirits. Class size will be strictly limited.

Teacher training is also offered.

For more information, visit www.balashala.com.

Charmed I’m Sure


Tickets are on sale now for the 46th Laguna Charm House Tour, hosted by Village Laguna on May 20.

Starting in front of the Festival of Arts, the tour will include homes in or near Bluebird Canyon, including the organic farm tucked away in one of Laguna’s idyllic neighborhoods.

The first bus will leave at noon; the last one at 3 p.m. Buses are not handicap-accessible and ticket holders must be at least 12 years old.    

Tickets are $50 in advance, $60 on the day of the tour. 

They may be purchased by check mailed to Village Laguna Charm House Tour, P.O. Box 1309, Laguna Beach, 92652, or online at www.villagelaguna.org, using PayPal. 

Tickets are also available in Laguna at Copy and Print Center, 240 Beach Street; Cottage Furnishings, 802 South Coast Highway; Fawn Memories, 384 Forest Ave; and Laguna Beach Books, 1200 South Coast Highway; and in Dana Point at Ego Salon, #40 Monarch Bay Plaza.

Proceeds from the tour help fund Village Laguna scholarships and grants. Village Laguna also has a PAC that supports candidates for election to city offices that foster the group’s goals.

Village Laguna was founded in 1971 by residents who opposed the obliteration of public views of the city’s coastline. Their efforts resulted in the 36-height limit still in effect today. 

Current issues of concern include the California Coastal Commission’s ruling against Laguna’s Short Term Lodging Ordinance that restricts the location of new STLs to commercial zones; the revision of the Historic Preservation Ordinance that is mired in dissent; the proposed Aliso Creek project; and revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan.

For more information about the tour, call (949) 472-7503.

Cal Green Ribbon Schools announcement of 2018 honorees takes place at TOW Elementary on April 23

On Monday, April 23, California Green Ribbon Schools will announce the 2018 Honorees by State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, at Top of the World Elementary School, from 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. TOW Principal Michael Conlon will deliver a welcome address to begin the program at 10:30 a.m.

LBUSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jason Viloria will follow with remarks to introduce State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, at which time honorees will be recognized. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Dr. Jason Viloria, LBUSD Superintendent of Schools

At approximately 11:15 a.m., attendees will break out into small groups for a school tour and presentation. Lunch will be provided. 

The event will be located in the Multipurpose Room. Parking is available in City Lot #11 with shuttle service available.

More than 30 schools from all over California will be honored, including Top of the World Elementary (TOW). 

The California Green Ribbon Schools (CA-GRS) award recognizes schools and  school districts across the state for environmental excellence and demonstrated achievement of the three Pillars of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS). 

Due to limited parking availability at Top of the World Elementary, a parking and 

shuttle service has been coordinated with the City of Laguna Beach.

Barbara’s Column

Seniors honor Dr. Korey Jorgensen, Butler Family Foundation at Legacy Ball



Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Beach Seniors include a lot of folks who are generous with time or money, sometimes both. 

Many of them attended the 2018 Legacy Ball, held Saturday at The Ranch, to honor Dr. Korey Jorgensen for his decades of service to Laguna’s underserved, and the Butler Family, whose foundation is a major supporter of services for our community’s elders.

The Legacy Award is not the first time Jorgensen has been honored by a grateful community. He was named the Patriots Day Parade 2010 Citizen of the Year with Dr. Tom Bent for his years of volunteer and professional service at the Laguna Beach Community Clinic.  

AIDS was still a death sentence in 1991 when Jorgensen started an HIV treatment program at LBCC.  

Now retired, Jorgensen chairs the Laguna Food Pantry board and is a member of the City’s HIV Advisory Committee.

He was given a standing ovation.

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Dr. Korey Jorgensen was dancing with all the ladies and making everyone smile

The Butler Family Foundation was presented with the 2018 Cornerstone Award for its exceptional philanthropy on behalf of Laguna’s children and elders. 

The Foundation was a Grand Champion sponsor of the ball, along with Bobbi Cox, the Kling Family Foundation – Vicki Gumm, Monica Richards and the Quilter Family – godparents of the Susi Q. 

Past Seniors’ President Chris Quilter presented the award to the foundation created by Doreen and US Air Force General (ret) George Lee Butler – mostly known as Lee.

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to honor them,” said Quilter.

Their contributions to the Seniors is greatly appreciated, but his contributions to the world not as much as they should be, said Charlie Quilter, a retired US Marine fighter pilot and historian.

Butler, at one time commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which was responsible for responding to a nuclear attack, became an advocate of nuclear force reduction throughout the world, according to Quilter. 

“What he has done has made a huge difference,” said Quilter. “He is one of the great military leaders of our time, not for the wars we have fought, but for the wars we didn’t.”

Quilter’s wife, Ann, daughter and sister of US Marine fighter pilots, simply said of Butler, “He is my hero.” 

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Charlie Quilter and wife Ann

With the help of sponsors, donors to the silent and live auctions and the generous folks who attended, the ball raised close to $245,000, topping last year, which wasn’t expected. Proceeds will be used to support the programs and services provided by the Seniors and the City in and outside the Susi Q, which includes Lifelong Laguna, an emerging aging-in-place movement to help seniors live out their lives in their Laguna Beach homes.

Seniors President Kristine Thalman introduced a short video that illustrated how Lifelong Laguna meets the critical needs of seniors: 

--The need to feel safe and confident in one’s home

--The need to feel connected to the community, rather than isolated---particularly after the death of a spouse

--The need to be independent, even under debilitating circumstances, such as the loss of sight or the inability to drive

--The need for help with everyday tasks, just keeping track of life’s details

“This video gives a glimpse of how Lifelong Laguna is right on point,” said Thalman.

The country-western themed ball also included musical entertainment, dancing on the patio outside the Sage Ballroom to the music of the Kelly Rae Band, and bidding on the silent auction items, in the event’s first hour and a half.

Dinner and the live auction followed. 

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Bobbi Cox

Mike Herring won the stay at the Montage, donated by the hotel. Tracy Thompson took home the weeklong stay at a Keystone, Colorado condo, donated by Beth and Dan Linge

The Ranch donated an overnight stay and dinner for six, won by Dr. Ruth Safford, and Vicki Gumm will be staying at Westin Puntacana Resort in the Dominican Republic for four nights. 

Bree Burgess Rosen’s contribution to the live auction was so popular that two wine-tastings for 12 lucky folks were auctioned, one won by Joe Hanauer and the other by Cody Engle. Donnalyn Kling and seven others will be dining on fare planned, cooked and served by Laguna Beach firefighters – a dinner party you can’t buy anywhere else.

Terri Johnson, Tina Haines and Ann Quilter were honorary chairs of the ball. Members of the all-female event committee included Judy Baker, Christine Brewer, Doreen Butler, Jo Ekblad, Brigitte Harper, Linge, Maggie Hempen, Linda Simpson, Judy Teverbaugh, Maria Trefethen and Tineka Van Der Vliet

Van Der Vliet, Harper and Teverbaugh, as well as Carole Cadora, Phyllis Wilson, Caroline Wright and Rick Thierrien were volunteers at the ball.

Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson and Laguna Beach County Water District Commissioner Marv Johnson were among the guests decked out in Laguna’s take on County/Western outfits. She had borrowed a turquoise straw cowboy hat from former Mayor Elizabeth Pearson. Ditto, announced City Council candidate Sue Kempf, only in a different color. Pearson wore black and white, highlighted with silver.

Burgess Rosen jazzed up her outfit with a feather boa and carried a hobby horse. Also togged out: Bill and Stu News Features Editor Lynette Brasfield, former city planner Tamara Campbell and Marian Jacobs.

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Jane Egly and Caroline Wright

On the guest list: Carole Reynolds, former Mayor Jane Egly, Duane and Darrcy Loveland Bikel, former Laguna Beach Woman’s Club President Barbara Crane and the current President Kitty Malcolm, Morris and Stephany Skenderian, Jane Hanauer, Trudy Josephson, Barbara Hoag, Deborah Engel, Karen and Jim McBride and John Campbell, who was passing out announcements of Grapes for Grads, this coming Sunday. 

Event sponsors included Sue Freeman, Mission Hospital, Al Roberts, the Engels, the Hanauers, Skipper Lynn, the McBrides, Mary Lou Mooney, Trefethen, Monarch Health Care, Crestvilla Senior Living, Joy Dittberner and Tom Peters, Juanita and Allen Doby, the Happy Healthy Foundation, Barbara and Greg MacGillivray, Judith and Dennis Napier, Lauren and Richard Packard, PIMCO Foundation, Cheryl Post, Rick Cirelli of RTC Mortgage, Thalman and Laura Tarbox.  

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading StuNewsLaguna.com. 

Thalia Street: Access to iconic Laguna Beach surf spot gets major makeover

The City of Laguna Beach cut the ribbon Tuesday on a newly renovated pedestrian access to the beach at Thalia Street, making the iconic California surf spot more accessible, safer, and user-friendly for pedestrians and beachgoers.

“Our beach access points are often the place residents and visitors get their first glimpse at Laguna’s beautiful beaches,” said Shohreh Dupuis, Assistant City Manager/Director of Public Works. “We want to make sure these vantage points and stairways are safe, updated and ADA compliant so that everyone can enjoy access to the beach.”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Celebrating the Thalia access makeover

The City’s improvements to the Thalia access consisted of replacing the entire stairway, creating new overlook points, adding drought-resistant landscaping, seating, benches, a dual bike rack, and replacing the lighting. Staircases were made wider, to accommodate beachgoers with beach chairs and beach bags or surfers toting surfboards.  

The new stairs are also constructed deeper into the sand at the bottom for when the beach recedes during the winter months. As a popular place for stand-up paddlers and surfers to meet, the new seating area at the Thalia Street access will also provide a broader space to gather and unload gear.

The renovations are part of a continuing effort by the City to improve the beach access experience for residents and visitors and were paid from the City’s Capital Improvement Fund.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Wider staircase enables beach-goers and surfers to tote large objects

 “We want the walk down to the beach to become a part of the whole Laguna Beach experience,” said Mayor Pro Tem Rob Zur Schmiede. “Kind of like walking through the woods and coming upon a sunny clearing.” 

Over the last 10 years, the City has renovated access points at five other beaches, including Circle Way, Brooks, Diamond and Oak Streets, and Mountain Road. The Agate Street access is currently under construction, and design work at Pearl and Anita Streets is underway.

“Our beaches are the crown jewels of what makes Laguna so special,” said Zur Schmiede. “Safe, easy access to them for our visitors is a priority.” 

Fun Fact: Thalia Street Beach is known as one of the best learning-to-surf beaches in Laguna, with a gentle wave break that is easy enough for beginning surfers but never dull for those with more experience.

National Prayer Day observed by Laguna Beach Interfaith Council at Mission Hospital on May 3

Invest in hope and transform our nation through prayer as the Interfaith Council of Laguna Beach celebrates National Prayer Day on Thursday, May 3 from 8:15 a.m. through 9:30 a.m. at Mission Hospital. Everyone is invited to the 2018 Annual “Make A Difference” Awards. 

Registration begins at 8:15 a.m., breakfast and presentation at 8:30 a.m., with closing at 9:30 a.m.

Interfaith Council of LB observes National Prayer Day on May 3

The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.” Each year since its inception, the president has signed a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. 

RSVP to Ann Jones at (949) 360-7588 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Mission Hospital is located at 31872 Coast Hwy.

For more information, go to www.ocinterfaith.org.

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