In the fall of 2014, I participated in a six-week Moving & Learning Residency with two other certified Yoga Calm teachers in District 196 schools (Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools). All three of us used the same lesson plans, with some modifications based on classroom setting and student ability.
I was in an elementary and middle school and worked with four classrooms in each school. Every week during the residency I taught a half-hour Yoga Calm lesson in each of the eight classrooms. I started each lesson with the breathing ball, a plastic sphere that expands and collapses to illustrate the inhale/pause/exhale cycle of a breath. Then we moved through a sequence of poses, participated in group activities and ended with a guided relaxation.
Although many of the students were reluctant to participate at first (especially in the middle school setting), the students began to look forward to our time together as the residency continued. Some of the most challenging children — those who were struggling in their classroom environment due to sensory issues or behavior issues related to attention deficit disorder — really enjoyed the lessons and significantly improved their ability to participate with their peers as we continued to work together
My favorite part of the residency was my interactions with two boys. One boy, a third grader, told me he hated yoga when I came in on the first day. I told him that was fine and asked him to give it a try and see what happened. During that first lesson I asked him to be a leader for one of our activities, and later that day he wrote in his journal that he loved yoga.
Another third-grade boy started out the residency having to lie under his desk because he was overwhelmed by the change in his routine. But by the end of the six weeks, he was staying at his desk and fully participating with his peers. Being a very literal-minded child, he needed me to stand by him during our guided relaxation and gently clarify that he could picture whatever he wanted in his mind during “final story,” there were no right or wrong answers.
An important element of the Yoga Calm curriculum is having the students lead the activities and receive compliments from their peers for being good leaders. At the end of my final lesson in each classroom, the children formed a circle around their teacher and gave her compliments for all she does for them each and every day. Their compliments were thoughtful and genuine and really illustrated the sense of community that they have as a classroom.
In the coming months, we will be launching another residency in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools, as well as one in St. Paul Public Schools. I am so excited to work with a new group of teachers and students and introduce them to the benefits of Yoga Calm.