Mindfulness programs that involve the secular practice of yoga and meditation are increasingly more common in schools. These programs align well with state and national social-emotional learning standards, health and physical education standards, universal design for learning, classroom management, school safety/anti-bullying programs, and wellness/anti-obesity initiatives.
Yoga in Schools supports teachers in learning self-care techniques, and provides them with tools for engaging, focusing, relaxing, and energizing students in their classrooms. The same techniques associated with improved student behavior could help to prevent teacher burnout and build resiliency.
The Yoga in Schools program provides training and coaching for districts, schools, and classrooms. Our staff will help you to plan brain-based, yoga-supported academic lessons and social and emotional development activities.
Here's What One Local Teacher Told Us:
Andrea Sisk leading 9th & 10th Graders in Algebra 1 in a quick yoga break
Andrea Sisk, teacher at Woodland Hills High School, shared this experience with yoga educator Barbara Pane of Yoga In Schools regarding how her use of yoga skills in the classroom opened up new creative outlets for her students:
“I did yoga for the first time today with my mixed class. This is a class of students who failed Geometry during the first semester, so have to take it again now. Half of the kids are mine from the first half of the year, and the other half came from other teachers. My kids have been asking for yoga for a while, while the other kids were scoffing the whole time. (I later came to find that a student of mine from first semester who was passing and, thus, moved to a different class, asked his teacher today when they were going to do yoga, because he missed it.) We had some time today, so did yoga. I was just going to do balance and breathing, but one of my kids asked for stretching, so we did that, too. So we did tree, triangle, and gorilla poses. A lot of the kids didn't want to put their shoes on their pants, but they were okay once they took their shoes off. They don't want to get their pants dirty, but their socks are okay. Some people had neck or back issues so they sat out gorilla. Then we did bunny breath, which ended in laughter. Then I put on some music and read ‘special place’ and ‘animal friend’ to them. I told them to close their eyes. While some of them don't like to do that because others are looking, I realized that it's okay if their heads are down so that no one can see their faces. So I told them to put their heads down. After I read, I let them keep their heads down with the music playing for the last five minutes of class.
This is where it gets exciting, but I have to first provide you with some background. I went to undergrad at Duquesne University, where I was lucky enough to room with someone who is now one of the leading music therapists in Washington, DC. There were Friday nights when she would have to lead a drum circle instead of whatever we were going to do. So I went with her. Everyone from the Hill District came down for this drum circle. Usually, when my kids start to pound on the desks, I quickly tell them to stop. But someone was tapping during the music. And I thought, "We're really trying to reach these boys. And the people from the Hill LOVED drum circle in college. I need to give this a shot." So I encouraged them to tap, pound, whatever. I'll need to lay the groundwork better next time, but I fully intend to try again.”
Learn fun and effective ways to design and present yoga to children at home, school, studio, and beyond. This training offers a template for how to map out class series and build individual lessons that transform yoga practices into playgrounds of self-discovery. Inspire and support kids in the development of important life skills such as mind-body awareness, connectedness to inner wisdom and resources, physical fitness, emotional stability, authentic self-confidence and the ability to internally self-regulate through the playful exploration of yoga themes such as breathing, alignment, focus, flexibility, kindness, teamwork, resilience, finesse, and so much more.
Next Winter Intensive is January 22-24, 2016, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Click here to find out more and for registration details.
Yoga in Schools’ Health & Physical Education Teacher Training Program for Pittsburgh Public Schools 2009-2010
Felicia Lane Savage and Katrina Woodworth with Andrea Hyde, PhD.
“Yoga is everywhere. PE is now reflecting the cultural shift.”
“This is empowering effective teachers.”
“The kids love it; that’s what’s important.”
“This was one of the only programs...workshops that gave us the whole curriculum with training, materials and support.”
---Reponses from HPE teachers at the June 1, 2010 PPS HPE Teacher Training, Carnegie, PA.
The participant-researchers who composed this collection of portraits are professional yoga educators Felicia Lane Savage and Katrina Woodworth. During the 2009-2010 school year, they visited every school where Yoga in Schools has trained a Health or Physical Education (HPE) teacher. In the course of this work, Felicia and Katrina became personally acquainted with the program participants/HPE teachers as they observed them and conversed with them in their practice environments. At the end of the year, it seemed appropriate to convey the results of this collaboration as a series of individual portraits (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Hoffmann Davis, 1997). In addition to supporting teachers in their practice, Felicia and Katrina gave written and verbal feedback and evaluations to teachers, provided additional classroom and fitness area resources and bestowed personal affirmations of work well done. Dr. Andrea Hyde, a qualitative researcher and yoga educator who consulted on this project, checked these participant portraits against successive iterations of the participants’ self-reported data and can corroborate details from observations and note taking during the final teacher training. For many PE teachers, the experience of this year-long training program was the first time in many years that they had received specific and professional instructional feedback and have reported feeling recognized and valued for the important work. Many are working under very challenging circumstances and yet they do their jobs with amazing skill, compassion and effectiveness.
Kim Franklin: Kim was totally committed to implementing the Yoga Ed curriculum from the beginning of the school year. Kim understood the value of doing “this yoga stuff” with children, though she had no prior experience of yoga either personally or professionally. Kim’s goals were to use yoga in warm up and cool down sections of classes. She specifically wanted to increase strength, flexibility, coordination and relaxation in students. However, Kim teaches at two completely different schools. She teaches kindergarten through fifth grade HPE at Davis Elementary and Baker Elementary schools. Implementation of the yoga curriculum was a challenge at Davis and a joy to behold at the Baker. Baker was a HPE teacher’s dream school. Kim had the full support and cooperation of the staff, parents and students, so Kim enjoyed her time using yoga to warm-up and or cool-down her students. However, at Davis there were many classroom management issues and behavioral distractions. At Davis, Kim had to shift away from practicing yoga on the mats and focus more on centering activities and poses that can be done on their “dots” (assigned seating for warm-ups). The children at Davis have a harder time with following directions and remaining self-controlled during games and activities. Therefore, Kim kept to a minimum of poses to provide greater structure and repetition. The students at Baker are more focused and ready to learn. Kim has been able to use the mats to teach the Baker students many of the yoga curriculum poses. She has also used several yoga games from the curriculum. She periodically has had students rest at the end of class. Students at both schools have had positive responses to the yoga. They have been exposed to stretching and improving their muscular strength in a new way through yoga. Students have learned how to calm down and experience peace in the midst of a hectic day. The yoga activities have helped students learn to center themselves. Kim has been invited by her Principal at Baker to teach yoga to the staff during all staff meetings. This exposed the teachers to the new yoga activities that Kim has been teaching in her classes. The teachers had a positive response and Kim has been asked to lead more often during staff meetings.
Lonnie Baker: Lonnie started out the school year at Silvis Elementary with enthusiasm in learning something new and exciting with the Yoga Ed curriculum. In her action plan at the beginning of the school year, she stated that the students would do yoga as a warm-up and cool-down exercise at lunch/recess and the K-1st graders would do yoga for a whole gym period. Lonnie did in fact do most of what she planned. I witnessed yoga integrated into her HPE class for warm-up or cool-down at the end of her classes. However, during the school year she had a health emergency that she needed to attend to by taking time off from school. She was blessed with having Bella, a certified yoga teacher, on site as a support person. Bella was doing yoga in the classroom with Lonnie’s kindergarten classes throughout the year. She would have them doing yoga stretches right in their classroom. When Lonnie returned she didn’t miss a beat. She continued to use yoga as a warm-up and/or cool-down routine. Also, Lonnie led breathing techniques with the students during their bathroom breaks to keep them focused and on task. Also, Bella’s yoga activities included a lot of yoga poses and relaxation time. Bella was asked by Dr. Nichols, the principal, to lead yoga for the 3rd and 4th graders as they took the PSSA test in April. This helped the students to relax and focus more for the test. This activity was such a success the principal is planning to incorporate yoga into their Freedom School summer program. So, between Lonnie and Bella, yoga is a year-round activity at Silvis. Jake Myers: Jake Myers teaches kindergarten through fifth grade at Westview Elementary School. In the beginning of the year, Jake thought that the yoga curriculum would work only with the K-2 students, but all of the students enjoyed doing yoga, which surprised him. Felicia realized that in the beginning Jake was not comfortable doing yoga well enough to teach it to the students. Jake is a personal trainer and he values the look of fitness. However, yoga tested his limits because it pertains to an area of fitness that he was not as familiar with: holistic health and wellness. Jake’s attitude towards yoga changed considerably from the beginning to the end of the year. As the school year progressed and he attended more teacher yoga in-services, Jake began to feel more confident in knowing yoga in his body. He appreciated us coming to observe and spend time with him and to share our yoga perspective. In Jake’s classroom he used yoga poses to warm-up his students. His gym was very small, which didn’t allow space for him to use the mats or the eye pillows. Jake’s initial goals were to incorporate yoga into his warm-up and cool-down sections of class. He began with kindergarten and then transitioned to the older grades once he felt more familiar with the poses. Jake has focused on integrating yoga into the SPARKTM curriculum rather than using the yoga curriculum on its own for his classes. He had taught students to stay focused, calm and breathe throughout their warm-up and cool-down. Students left his gym class with an overall sense of success and readiness for their academic classes. Jake stated at the end of the school year “yoga added a new aspect to my health/PE curriculum. Both the students and myself benefited.”
Angelina Kegan: Angelina teaches Kindergarten through fifth grade at Rock Island Elementary. Her initial goals for using the yoga curriculum were to raise student self-awareness and control and to bring fun and creativity to the fitness portion of class. During the initial yoga teacher in-service training, Angelina told the trainers that she had been in pain for the last three years. She decided not to participate during the first day of the two-day training. However, when she went home she was in so much pain that she decided that it wouldn’t do any harm to just participate the next day. After the second day in which she fully participated she was practically pain free. So, on her way home after the in-service she decided to sign up for yoga classes at Amazing Yoga close to her home. Angelina has been a yoga advocate ever since then. By taking yoga classes herself, Angelina is learning the correct alignment and is able to give corrections to her students. She has experienced an increase in her confidence level with teaching yoga by taking yoga classes. In the Fall, Angelina taught a yoga unit, focusing on six poses. She played the game “Name that Pose” and even invited students to teach and lead others in learning the poses. As she transitioned to a new unit, she kept using yoga in the warm-up and cool-down sections of class. Angelina noted that the poses help students increase muscular endurance and strength while at the same time increasing flexibility. Students enjoyed the challenge of learning the poses and leading one another through them. Angelina thought it added variety to the SPARKTM curriculum. During the second part of the year, Angelina began to teach more breathing exercises and affirmations, encouraging students to learn to center and calm themselves down. She began to implement the mind/body tools in the curriculum during times of transition between classes. Angelina has fully engaged in integrating yoga into her HPE curriculum because of the pain relief she has experienced firsthand. She said that if she is able to spare any of her students from the pain she has endured, her suffering has not been in vain.
Lawrence-Lightfoot, S., & Hoffmann Davis, J. (1997). The art and science of portraiture. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Two minutes of a simple chair yoga practice that can be done right at your desk. Excellent for teachers and children.
The Breathing Wheel: If you don't have breathing wheels (it is an ad-specialty frisbee), then use your hands -- touch fingertips together and move palms in and out. This simulates the movement of the lungs and is a helpful tactile reminder of what breathing looks like.