April 8, 2014

Lowering Stress Levels of Elementary Students with Yoga Club. ~ Brooke Davies

 Yoga Club 1

We live in a busy and hectic society where individuals are exposed to many stressors every day.

This is evidenced by a high (and increasing) prevalence of mental health diagnoses in people of all ages. Children face many of life’s stressors too—these can add up and create problems for a child if the child does not learn skills to deal with stress.

Without skills to decrease stress, children can find themselves in a difficult position, navigating their way through the unpredictable waters of life.

As an elementary school teacher, I care deeply about my students’ quality of life and mental health. I believe that, for students to find balance and health, they need an outlet to find calmness and to deal with stressful emotions.

A few months ago, I recognized that children in my school community didn’t have this outlet.

I began to think about what activities I use to let out frustration and stress, connect with myself, and develop calmness. I realized that yoga accomplished all of these things. After this realization, I made it my mission to introduce my students to yoga. I enrolled in yoga teacher training through Studio 330 in Kingston.

I began my training in January 2014 and will be done my last class this coming week. In that time, I have fallen further down the rabbit hole and have learned so much more about the mental and physical health benefits of yoga and the amazing history and multifaceted nature of this time-honoured practice.

I have been incorporating yoga into my kindergarten physical education classes since September and have found interesting ways to approach the practice with young children.

I focus on teaching poses through songs, sounds, and stories about movement.

The kindergarten students really took a shining to yoga and started requesting to do it routinely. I was elated to see students greeting each other in the hallway with a friendly “Namaste” or playing “yoga studio”, instead of  the tried and true, “house” or “doctor” when they were given free time in class.

The students even started making up their own poses and names for them, including their favourite: “sled pose” where they sit tall on their mats with crossed legs, pulling the front of the mat toward their body, making it look like a sled, as they rock from side to side, pretending to glide down a snow covered hill.

I chose to introduce the idea of a yoga club to the rest of the students in the school community. In a school with a population of 250 students, 80 students came to the meeting.

What was even more exciting was that all 80 children got their permission slips signed almost immediately.

With school budgets and a lack of funding for my program through the school board, I had no idea how I would be able to afford yoga mats for all of the students. I did not want to make students purchase their own mats, since mats can be quite expensive for many families. I wanted to make the club totally free so that every single interested student could participate.

I decided to reach out to the local, vibrant, and loving yoga community. I was able to get a total of 50 mats donated from studios and shops such as: lululemon, Studio 330, Living Studios, and Open Eye Yoga.

The students and staff at the school were blown away by the generosity of the yoga community in Kingston and I owe part of the success of this program to their open hearts and words of encouragement.

I am proud to report that all 80 students have been regularly attending yoga club every week.

I initially intended on only holding the club for grades four through eight, but with the huge interest from all grades I am now holding three separate sessions per week. Even still, kids are routinely asking for more yoga classes.

The eagerness with which students approach my program confirms what I knew in my soul that children do benefit from yoga and all it has to offer. Numerous studies are proving that yoga can be used as a successful form of therapy for many ailments and is successfully being used to promote physical literacy among young people.

I knew in my heart that this outlet would be enjoyed by many kids in our school community and am thrilled that it has become as strong and meaningful to the students as I had hoped.


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Apprentice Editor: Jess Sheppard/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Courtesy of author

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Brooke Davies