Friday, September 9, 2016

Kids and Yoga

In honor of National Yoga Month we’ve been discussing yoga as a tool for navigating old patterns of anxiety, pain, stress, and more. What a better time than during the back-to-school season to offer these valuable tools to young students. Yoga instructor and teacher, Michelle Brook, shares her insights on teaching yoga in schools.
Photo courtesy of Iron Lotus Yoga
Teaching yoga to children of all ages, from toddler to tween, is fun for them and me.  The class goes from playful, joyful and energetic, to quiet, relaxing and peaceful.  But underneath the fun and relaxation, at the core of every yoga class, I teach with a deep, strong mission, no matter what the age.  My goal is that through yoga practices my students will learn and incorporate life-coping skills, such as the ability to calm and soothe themselves, manage strong emotions and always know they have the ability to handle whatever difficulty occurs in their life.
For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to teach yoga in a public school in Jersey City, specifically to the third, fourth and fifth grade students.  This instruction mostly happens in the classrooms, with 30 minute lessons that include a topic, breath work, seated poses, standing poses, and an ‘imagination vacation’ relaxation at the end.  In addition to classroom lessons, some students participate in a yoga club for a half hour of their lunchtime.  Teachers have selected students that appear anxious and feel that they would benefit from the potential stress-reducing benefits of yoga. The parents sign a permission slip and then students get to experience a yoga class where we have the space to use yoga mats.
Photo courtesy of

All 16 fourth grade students entered the yoga room, breathing heavily after their climb up the four flights of stairs in their Jersey City school.  Dropping coats, lunch bags, taking off shoes and chatting, they find a yoga mat.
I was seated, waiting and looking out at the beautiful blue sky, puffy swiftly moving clouds, pigeons scattering, all suspended above the city landscape.
“Let’s all be seated so we can all see the sky,” I instructed, “Let's just look at the sky and clouds and say out loud as we breathe in, LET.  As we breathe out, GO.”
We did this a few times, and then I asked them to say the words silently as they focused on the sky and their breath.  The formerly energetic, noisy students were still, quiet, focused and calm.  It was a lovely suspension of time, a cultivated moment of stillness.  
Sometimes, all it takes is a few breaths while noticing nature that can shift a group dynamic and refocus energy and attention for the better.
Everyone has events that are stressful in life.  The most available tool we always have with us, at every moment, is our breath.  By consciously focusing our attention on our breath, we break our routine thought patterns and calm our sympathetic nervous system--our ‘stress response’ system in our bodies.  I tell my students if they don’t remember anything else from yoga class, to please remember they always have their breath.  They know I’m telling them the truth, because they feel it in their bodies and minds.  I know it works, not only from experience, but also from research that documents reduced heart rates and blood pressure, changes in gene expression at a cellular level that has positive health benefits, and even MRI brain scans that show reductions in brain activity in areas recognized for stress, fear and negative thought patterns.

As a teacher, you do the best you can in each moment, hoping that a seed will plant and your students will benefit from your efforts.  My rewards come from those moments when students share their thoughts with me. I leave you with their words…
“I enjoy yoga, it helps me feel calm when I am stressed out especially when I do balloon breathing.”
- Third Grade yoga club student.
“I like doing yoga club and I would love to join in again. Also I love the way we work together. I love doing the breathing because it calms me down and I feel very relaxed. Also because I love doing yoga because I like making new friends and I love working with you,”
- Third Grade yoga club student.

Michelle Brook
Michelle Brook has practiced yoga since 1998, but began a more rigorous and committed practice in 2011, after a traumatic loss.  Yoga helped her through a difficult time and has enhanced and benefited her life in significant ways since, making her eager to learn more and to share her knowledge so others can absorb the positives yoga can provide.

A teacher for many years, Michelle has facilitated nature programs, grade school river ecology lessons, and more.  She is a certified yoga instructor, with an additional certification in teaching yoga to children.  She continues her education with online certificate courses in Neuroscience, Physiology, Biology, Nutrition, and Life Skills Training.  

“I love sharing yoga with children; it’s about poses, play, breath, music, dance and games. Kids have fun while gaining knowledge about themselves and learning lifelong skills to manage stress and strong emotions.”

Share this:

Post a Comment

Back To Top
Copyright © 2014 Mind Key, the blog. Designed by OddThemes