It brought tears to my eyes. And when I say tears, I mean the streaming ones with trembling, smiling lips.
In a PE class at a Corpus Christi elementary school last spring, about 40 kids took their new journey to begin PE class. Singing and practicing the Yogiños: Yoga for Youth® sun salutation, Toco el Sol, it looked and sounded like they had been doing this all year. When the music player stopped suddenly, it didn’t stop them; with only four days of this vinyasa shining in their lives, they kept the light flowing.
This team of PE teachers, faculty, administration and students were part of a three-school Pilot Program implementing a sample, five-week Yogiños: Yoga for Youth® curriculum based on the story of Ganesha into their existing program.
The teachers first attended a workshop. Here they received a curriculum including five weeks of daily lessons featuring our version of The Story of Ganesha, a poster of a work of art of the “hero” Ganesha from the Crow Collection of Asian Art, our bilingual music, custom latex-free mats, and our award-winning DVD. These materials empowered teachers to weave original art, music, games, stories, and other sensory-integrated activities into their existing curricula. This Pilot Program reached over 600 elementary students and about 275 middle schoolers.
The pilot program of integrating yoga into schools was needed.
In the 2010-2011 academic year, test results indicate that Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) 3rd-5th graders averaged between overweight and obese, and that 48% fall below the National Fitness Zone. To investigate physical benefits, we used existing State of Texas Fitnessgrams as pre- and post-tests to measure physical changes encouraged by the addition of yoga. We also taught pranayama, like Flower Power.
Across the board there was an increase in physical flexibility. And some youth reported additional ranges of flexibility as well.
“What I like best about Yogiños is that I feel more flexible….and not just here in PE, but everywhere,” shared one 5th grader in an exit-interview.
Many yoga for kids programs—International Association of School Yoga and Mindfulness, ChildLight Yoga, Yoga in My Schools, Little Flower Yoga and Shanti Generation, to name but only a few—provide support, training and techniques for teachers, faculty, staff and administrators of schools and organizations to integrate aerobic, strength, flexibility and rejuvenation activities into the daily lives of students and families in safe, healthy, engaged, supported and OHMazing™ ways.
Bringing yoga into schools is important for the integration of body, mind and heart.
Scott Eliff, Superintendent of Corpus Christi Independent School District says that many schools have focused only on academics and the mind for too long. “We are now learning we need alignment of the whole body, heart and mind for optimal learning,” Eliff said when we met to discuss bringing Yogiños: Yoga for Youth into the district.
Indeed, current brain, academic and cardiovascular research provide scientific evidence that practices related specifically to yoga and breathing techniques offer:
~ 27% increase in GABA levels (calmness, anti-anxiety);
~ Improved academic achievement through learning how to improve focus and handle stress;
~ Increased academic interest through providing integrated movement in traditionally sedentary, academic settings;
~ Interactive experiences with team-building, cooperation and tolerance.
Since the completion of the Pilot Program last spring, Yogiños: Yoga for Youth® facilitated our basic two and half days training with 80 PE teachers from CCISD last summer. We also provided this training to all faculty and staff at Corpus Christi Montessori School where we currently are in a full-school integration. Here we are conducting scientific-based research investigating the various impacts and benefits of weaving the program into the school’s curriculum. This study includes research with both students and teachers.
Elizabeth “Beth” Reese, Ph.D., E-RYT, RCYT, is the founder and executive director of Yogiños: Yoga for Youth®. A yoga practitioner for over 13 years, Beth is the mother of three OHMazing yogis under the age of 13. Her oldest daughter, Jordan, is part of the inspiration for Yogiños: Yoga for Youth® as she learned to navigate challenges associated with Sensory-Integration “Disorder” through practicing all 8 Limbs of yoga.Yogiños: Yoga for Youth offers classes for children and families as well as trainings for classroom teachers, yoga instructors, parents, and others interested in bringing yoga and healthy choices to all ages. [email protected] and here.
Editor Tanya L. Markul