Yoga instructor relishes time teaching children

Michael Tzinberg


When Michael Tzinberg, 27, earned a degree in recreation management, he didn’t expect to be teaching yoga to preschoolers. But that’s how it worked out, and he is really glad. 

“I love it because kids are open to trying anything,” he said. 

Tzinberg teaches yoga to toddlers, and to new parents and their infants, at Little Bits Gym in Lake Saint Louis and works as a substitute yoga teacher at Temple Israel’s Deutsch Early Childhood Center. 

Adults benefit from Tzinberg’s passion for yoga as well. He teaches at New Era Fitness in St. Louis and leads small group classes in private homes. Tzinberg even shares some of his knowledge of yoga at Easter Seals Midwest with his clients who have developmental disabilities.

Tzinberg recently discussed his work.

How did you get interested in yoga?

In 2010, I was diagnosed with a minor case of scoliosis. Yoga is considered one of the most effective treatments for scoliosis, and when I started taking classes, I found I really liked it. After college, I decided to get certified as an instructor.


Can everyone do yoga? 

Some people say they can’t because they are not flexible. Maybe that’s not the right way to look at it. Flexibility is dynamic and changes throughout the day, and everyone can work on it. It’s like saying you can’t meditate because you can’t sit still and focus. Yet you don’t have to have a calm mind in order to meditate. You meditate to calm your mind.


How do you teach yoga to little kids? 

I use music, dance or storytelling in each class. Sometimes we act out “Jack and the Beanstalk” or we’ll pretend to go to the zoo or we’ll do “Star Wars” yoga – that’s always popular. Then I’ll insert yoga poses and breathing practices into the theme. 


What is your job at Easter Seals?

I work at the day program, where the goals and objectives are mapped out for each person. We work on various skills to help adults with developmental disabilities to be independent and integrated in their community in order to live the best life possible. 


Where does the yoga come in?

My job there is not as a yoga specialist, but every morning we do some kind of exercise, and from time to time I’ve included some yoga.


What has been the response? 

  It’s been mixed. Some people chose not to participate, but some got into it and thought it was cool. I’ve also done yoga with staff members, and I’d like to do more with our clients. 


Is this your first experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities?

No. I’d had a good experience in college in my inclusive recreation class, and really enjoyed being partnered with individuals with disabilities. Now I am a passionate advocate in the community. 


How often do you practice yoga?

I try to practice daily. For me, yoga is amazing. I started out interested in the physical benefits, but as I got deeper into it, I’ve also been drawn to the spiritual part of it. The more you learn, the more you realize that the poses are only one small slice of the pie.


Talk about your Jewish upbringing. 

I was raised in a Reform home, was bar mitzvah at United Hebrew and worked as a counselor at Camp Sabra. To me, Jewish values are more broadly part of human values. I love the Jewish traditions but also Hindu traditions, pagan traditions — you could say I have an interfaith approach to life. 


It’s early in your career. Do you have a vision for your future?

My dream is to start an organic farm in the Ozarks that also would serve as a yoga and wilderness retreat center. 


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