By Ms. Paula, Early Childhood Parent and Family Facilitator
This past spring my grandson, who attends school in another district, told me that before he took his state tests this year, his teacher had the class doing the simple yoga poses they had used in class all year: a very smart teacher. As a behavior specialist working with families and teachers who want to support strong social and emotional development in kids, Yoga Calm has been a new dimension for me to explore and I was privileged to attend a full-day training for teachers last summer.
Yoga Calm is an innovative child education method that integrates fitness, social-emotional, and cognitive learning. Yoga Calm principles include stillness, listening, grounding, strength and community. Contrary to some stereotypes, it is not some “new age” philosophy. On the contrary, it has been used for over 3,500 years. It supports children and adults in knowing their hearts, minds and bodies. It fosters physical fitness, character development, relaxation, concentration and self-control.
Yoga Calm is a research-based program of balancing stress, health, and learning. In one study, teachers were found to be redirecting behaviors in the classroom an average of 40 minutes a day, or 200 minutes a week, which adds up to 17 days a school year. By helping children to connect their bodies with their minds in a manner that helps them to self regulate, time spent on redirection can be better used to ensure that all children are learning in the classroom.
In Yoga Calm an adult or child learns to be able to bring him or herself from an alert or stressed state to an active relaxed state increasing focus and assisting each of us in thoughtful decisions and problem solving. It also uses the breathing technique that all babies are born with – whole body breathing. Somehow we lose that as life brings in its challenges and stresses. When we focus on our breath and the here and now, when we are calm, the brain is better able to store facts and memories.
Grounding in Yoga Calm is especially helpful for kids in crisis. It gives kids tools to deal with the uncertainties they have and ways to communicate those fears and challenges. By building community in the classroom and in family, we connect with each child in supportive relationships. Children learn to care for each other and their community.
I was under the misconception that a person had to be athletic to be able to do yoga but I have found since taking the workshop, it can be adapted to each individual body and the tools can be utilized “in a breath” in whatever situation a little calm is needed.
Yoga Calm for Children : Educating Heart, Mind, and Body, Gillen and Gillen, 2008, Three Pebbles Press.