yoga in public schools

Expert SCHOOL Kids Yoga Teacher, Kelly Wood, interview - Arroyo Magazine

There are a growing number of caring people learning how to teach Kids Yoga today.  It is of utmost importance that yoga and meditation be taught in a manner that aligns with academics and improved learning.  In others words, you need training and years of experience to translate contemplative methods in accessible ways that influence positive behavior.  

I began teaching Kids Yoga in my studio (Karuna Yoga) as well as in Los Angeles Unified School District classrooms in 2002.  Due to more than 10,000 hours of teaching and training others, I have an expertise in teaching children not only the methods of yoga and meditation but just as importantly, the reasons for practicing in daily living.  Perhaps master teacher is another way to state expertise here.  Also from extensive experience, the SCHOOL Kids Yoga methods meet Common Core State Standards.

My professional development course, SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training, uses language and specific methods that I created from direct experience from working with children and adults in secular settings.  From the personal stories shared by children and teachers on how they use the SCHOOL Kids Yoga calming methods regularly and how they are able to positively self-regulate, I know that the SCHOOL Kids Yoga teachings make sense in terms of navigating daily living in more constructive ways.  Increased pause, focus, and gentleness are crucial skills for success in today's learning environments.  These qualities not only build cognition for improved academics, but also build character for kind and caring relationships in school and in life.  Instead of increased mental and emotional disturbances, let us implement preventive practices for mindful, good-hearted youth who will be our future leaders

Please enjoy the article and pass it along to teachers, parents and foundations.

SCHOOL Kids Yoga and Common Core Standards

How Yoga & Mindfulness Make Sense in Public School Classrooms

I am an expert in Kids Yoga due to the thousands of hours spent teaching children coordinated movement and breathing methods that enhance mindfulness.  This in-depth experience has led to the creation of classes for children and trainings for teachers, rooted in social and emotional learning.  It has been my life’s work for the past 15 years.  I also have an expertise in teaching yoga and meditation to beginner adults.  Most of the public school teachers I have had the good fortune to train in my SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training are indeed new to the practice and their students, living in Los Angeles inner-city communities, are also beginners in dire need of life strategies to cope with daily pressures of growing up in our marginalized economy and digital age.  Fifteen years ago, I felt an immediate need to share yoga-based calming strategies with children.  To reach more children than the precious ones able to attend my Kids Yoga classes in my yoga studio, I began teaching in public schools.  Recently, I launched the online SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training to reach educators across the country learn adapted yoga for the classroom.  SCHOOL Yoga holds a special expertise in conveying yoga and meditation to adults and children in reasonable ways, ways that make sense in everyday life.

I have been teaching weekly in Los Angeles Unified District elementary school classrooms since 2002.  This equates to teaching up to 1,000 students a week for the entire academic school year.  To be granted access to enter schools to teach an innovative program is not common nor easily achieved.  Many great organizations and people attempt to bring programs to public schools without success.  I am grateful to have begun my teaching and training endeavor of SCHOOL Yoga at the right time, in the right places, and with connection to the right people.  For over 15 years, I have been a part of the growth and challenges of teaching.  Stress reduction in classrooms for teachers and students is paramount today.  Going into classrooms and seeing first-hand the multitude of issues teachers are faced with on a delay basis,  I have ever increasing respect for school teachers and I see their genuine heartfelt commitment to help children.  I am humbled by the tireless effort teachers bring to their profession in order to provide education to youth, to make a difference in children’s lives to better our communities. 

Recently, as I began the weekly SCHOOL Yoga class for a kindergarten class in a downtown Los Angles public school, the teacher had to answer three phone calls, two unannounced knocks the door, not to mention the organization and leadership required for the 25 five-year olds.  This type of intense multi-tasking is common in our classrooms and my heart truly goes out to all teachers.  The well-being of teachers should be one of our top collective priorities.  I do still go into schools and teach 20-minute SCHOOL Yoga classes to elementary students and their teachers.  This helps me to stay on the pulse of the needs and challenges of children and teachers and to keep the SCHOOL methods on-point. The SCHOOL methods are classroom-proven over 15 years, which makes the methods practical rather than theoretical.  Since 2014, the SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training has been approved as professional development for LAUSD teachers.  Commonly known, professional development for teachers must have relevancy.  Many teachers comment that the SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training is one of the most useful professional development courses they have taken.

Whereas, I teach the SCHOOL methods to teachers in a manner that they can easily learn, when the teachers return to their classrooms and apply the methods, I repeatedly remind the teachers that they should not view this contemplative practice as a quick fix nor expect perfection.  Attention regulation and emotional regulation are life long practices.  The practice of yoga and meditation is continuous and evolving throughout life and does not usually follow a linear path of improvement.  As we are all giving our best in the face of life’s challenges, It is fair to say that sometimes we rise to the occasion with grace, and other times, we react and succumb to obstacles or bumps in the road that take us away from our best selves.  I can still walk into a class that I’ve seen weekly for a year or more and experience discord and distraction which is 180 degrees different from my visit only one week prior.  

There is no quick fix for emotional disturbances that are on the rise in our society.  It is possible, however, to engage in a step-by-step approach of grounding ourselves with the intention of kindness and being gentle with ourselves and others as a counter to emotional spinout or despondency.  This is where SCHOOL Kids Yoga steps in.  In my opinion, every single one of us needs practice grounding ourselves and recalling positive motivations.  Children are fortunate that teachers are seeking out alternative tools to assist with focus and character building.  Like myself, many people view social and emotional learning along with secular ethics as an utmost priority in education.  How can we turn our backs on children in poverty conditions existing in most of our public schools in larger cities?  We cannot.  To help public school teachers and their students is helping ourselves for years to come.  Children today will be adults when we are aging and it is imperative that we instill helpful behaviors so that they embody care and concern for our healthy society.  I witness how children are coping with poverty and know they, like us, have the potential for self-reliance and resiliency, if given the tools.

The Skill of Listening

SCHOOL Yoga & Mindfulness classes emphasize calm and concentration, both essential qualities for learning.  Additional elements of SCHOOL Yoga classes include storytelling, positive affirmations and knowing how to turn a destructive reaction into a moment of pause.

Kids are taught the importance of a calm body, calm brain and calm heart.  In addition to learning to concentrate on the task at hand, they also learn how to pay more attention to the hearts of other.  Thus, they learn how everyone feels better helping or being helped.

We teach kids values such as patience and compassion.  We also teach life skills such as listening, pause and slowing down.  Children learn that calm breathing is the first step to think more clearly and make good choices.  Children learn certain movements that help to calm their feelings. We encourage strong and caring world citizens who develop self-reliance and resilience. Whole brain functioning is addresses through movement, focus and sound.  The SCHOOL Yoga methods include specific movements that contribute to brain balance.  Whole heart functioning is developed, taking a more compassionate and respectful approach to others.  The importance of breathing to steady heart rate is key to our SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness methods.  

SCHOOL Yoga classes are designed to grow the motivation to use a calm breathing within the classroom.  We encourage the importance of listening to one's classroom teacher.  With increased listening and empathy within the classroom, student to student and student to teacher, motivation for both teaching and learning strengthens and our public schools flourish.  Academic achievement combined with character building brings greater confidence to children and youth.  To overlook character building will overlook compassion.  The ability to listen to another's point of view or t listen to the teacher's direction helps us feel connected and part of the group of learners.  With endless distraction today, the art of listening is crucial so that we can express kinder thoughts, words and actions at school and in life.    

 

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Yoga in SChoOls can help with Habits - Learned, Reworked and RefineD

Teaching yoga to adults and to children is very rewarding.  The art of yoga helps me refine the art of living.  My motivation to help others learn how to center and calm themselves continues to grow as my own practice grows.  We adults have many habits that have been reinforced over the years. So many of us who find yoga in our adult years, begin to see the physically, mentally and emotionally knots we carry.  The practice assists us in unraveling these knots.  This a slow process.  With continuity of practice, however, one may experience more openness that is not simply a few moments of equanimity directly after a yoga class.  One's behavior begins to reflect the teachings of yoga.

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The way in which our brain develops in childhood points to open times of plasticity in which our experiences have great impact on our habits, our personalities. Teaching children the value, the necessity of calm breathing helps fire up neural pathways that can help a child think more automatically about pausing, breathing and making good choices. Knowing that a calm body, brain and heart are important facets of ourselves to attend to each day, may help children take yoga seriously and make it a part of their daily routine.  Yoga is not something to do for fun or when we get around to it.  It is a life practice.  I look out into the faces of these 800+ beautiful children each week and hold in my heart that we are helping to cultivate members of our community who can pause, think calmly and help others.  In a nutshell, children tend to be more open to the practice, less doubts and misunderstandings.

I teach SCHOOL Kids Yoga in a similar way as adult yoga.  We begin with a story or something in daily life that draws a parallel to using yoga in our actions, thoughts and words.  I emphasize pausing, taking a calm breath in order to help the brain work better.  I want to help children know how to focus with the flood of ongoing distractions so that they develop motivation to learn from their teachers.  Perhaps we will encourage children to become future teachers, motivated to help others learn and grow.