Passionate Dubuque middle-schoolers training to be yoga teachers | Tri-state News

Brennan Kreimeyer and Grace Wethal met more than seven years ago through a Challenge to Change kids’ yoga class in Dubuque.

It was there that both got hooked on the practice, prompting them to take more classes and receive training to teach other children.

Now, the Dubuque eighth-graders are embarking on a 200-hour training at Challenge to Change yoga studio to learn to lead classes for fellow teens and adults.

“I never really thought about teaching adults at first,” Brennan said. “It might be weird at first, but it’s a cool opportunity to be the age that I am and teach people older than me.”

The pair started training in January and will graduate in August. The teens said they already learned a lot and that yoga anatomy — which focuses on the muscles used in a pose — is their favorite topic.

“I knew this would be good for me, and I knew I was going to love it and what I was going to learn, I would never learn anywhere else,” Grace said.

The two also enjoyed reading a book for the training that focuses on yoga yamas, or ethical rules guiding the yoga practice. Both jumped right into reading it, despite Grace identifying as a “procrastinator” and Brennan calling himself a “massive procrastinator.”

The 200-hour program represents another step in the pair’s yoga-teaching journey. Brennan and Grace previously completed a 95-hour training to become Challenge to Change junior yoga teachers. They have taught advanced children’s yoga together for two years.

“They have these beautiful minds that haven’t been jaded in any way, so they come up with these beautiful lessons for the kids,” said Molly Schreiber, Challenge to Change founder and CEO.

Brennan and Grace try to anchor their lessons to a theme for the poses they want to introduce. Brennan often focuses on the season or an upcoming holiday, and Grace’s most recent lesson centered on the “sunshine in your life.” The teens said they hope to share some of their knowledge from the 200-hour training with their advanced kids’ yoga students as well.

Schreiber said she asked Brennan and Grace about doing both the 95- and 200-hour trainings after seeing them need a bigger role as they advanced their skills over the years.

“I was immediately surprised and super excited,” Brennan said of being asked about the 200-hour training. “It was a big decision, but I really didn’t think about any pros or cons. I just wanted to do it. And I don’t think there have been any cons.”

Mae Hingtgen, who co-leads the training with Schreiber, said the teens ask a lot of good questions, since learning how to safely guide adults through poses is different than leading often-flexible children.

“They’re just sponges,” she said. “They just want to learn so much. They have a great amount of curiosity and passion about yoga practice.”

Hingtgen said Brennan and Grace are a good support system for each other, especially when they are in a room of adults.

“Brennan loves to perform and be on a stage and just share his knowledge with others in so many ways,” she said. “Grace just has the biggest heart ever. She’s just so grounded and so loving. She’s going to be the most nurturing yoga teacher ever.”

Schreiber and Hingtgen said they hope Grace and Brennan continue sharing their passion for yoga in high school, college and beyond. Schreiber said she would love the pair to teach at Challenge to Change but would be proud to see them lead at any yoga studio.

Grace and Brennan said their experience with yoga so far has been life-changing. Brennan said he is lucky to have a yoga curriculum at George Washington Middle School, where he is a student, and he has enjoyed seeing his friends come to understand a bit more what he does after school and on weekends.

“Everyone has a hobby, and this is my hobby,” he said. “… Yoga has been the best choice of my life so far, and I’ve made many choices. I’m so glad to be able to be a part of this.”

Grace said the practices she learns in yoga play a role in her everyday life, such as when she is feeling stressed.

“My life would be so different if I didn’t go to that first class,” Grace said. “It’s not just about being stronger; it’s about your mindset. … When I was little, it was like, ‘Oh, I get to go to yoga after school.’ Now, it’s a part of who I am.”