As a former first grade teacher in the NYC public school system, I know what it’s like to try to teach over 20 kids how to read, write, do math, treat each other with kindness and everything else expected of teachers, all with very little outside help. The kids I taught came from a low income area of Brooklyn with little resources to help them succeed in the world. I struggled to get them to focus and sit still while also attempting to get them to reach the goals the system had set for them.
I started teaching them yoga in between lessons, during lessons, in the hallway, after lunch, after school and it seemed to be working. After 5 years in the classroom, I knew I had a higher calling.
San Francisco was where I started my biz Full of Joy Yoga. I decided that as a former teacher, it would be my mission to get teachers to use yoga in the classroom. 15 years later, now in CT, I’m still working on this mission. I teach a lot of classes in preschools, elementary schools, yoga studios and after school programs. I have done lots of workshops for teachers and facilitate teacher trainings for anyone looking to get certified to teach yoga. I decided last spring that my focus going forward was going to be more about working with teachers to bring it to their classes, then me actually teaching in the classroom.
There are 2 New Haven public schools that have me coming in to work with their teachers this fall on what we are calling “Yoga Breaks.” I am in the process of creating currriculum for them to use that will allow them to feel successfull using yoga in their classrooms, without even having had formal yoga training.
We’ve all seen the studies that say yoga & mindfulness help kids to self regulate, focus, calm themselves when needed, feel ready to take tests, get out that extra energy, decrease anxiety, and become present. Our kids will become that much more successful in navigating their life as they grow if they have these tools under their belt at a young age. I know I would have succeeded better in college and beyond had I known how to breathe in stressful situations.
My introduction to yoga palm desert at 23 was a life changer for me. I’m 44 now, so 21 years of this practice has gotten me through some extremely rough patches in life (see last weeks post). If we can bring these simple exercises, games, poses and tools into the classroom, we’ll have a happier, more peaceful future generation.
6 Yoga Breaks for Your Classroom
1) Mountain/Volcano — Stand in mountain with arms straight overhead or hands together. Say “mountain!”
3) Tense and Relax — Ask the students to sit in their seats with their eyes closed. Tell them to tense up all of their muscles at one time, squeezing as tight as they can. Count to 3 and then let go. Let them know that some of their muscles squeeze like that without them even knowing it when they are feeling mad, sad, scared or nervous. Ask them to notice what muscles feel tight and to practice breathing deeply and relaxing them. You can also focus on one body part at a time each day.