How I started yoga in my classroom
I was a first grade teacher when I started Yoga Teacher Training. As part of my training, I was required to teach yoga in a group setting several times, before the training would be complete. I was new in town and knew very few people. One day, as a was studying the health benefits of yoga, as well as its calming properties, I decided to try it out on my snowed-in group of first grade behavior challenged students.
The immediate effect was profound. I introduced the lesson, by simply stating we were going to try something new in our classroom that morning, since the weather had required our outside time, to be inside. I asked the students to close their eyes and led them through a series of deep breathing exercises. After which I introduced them to three simple poses. The kids loved. It clearly calmed them down. It gave an outlet to be active, even though we were restricted to staying inside the classroom.
The children liked it so much, they would ask for it; so, I began to use it as a reward in the classroom. One day, I was in front of the class reading a book, and a commonly disruptive child turned a desk over, started kicking and screaming, and threw a temper tantrum. I took a deep breath, before I laid my book down in front of the class. Before I even knew what I was going to do, a little boy in the front of the group looked up and said to me, “I think we could all use a downward dog.”
He was right. From that point on, I started incorporating a tiny bit of yoga into each day. My class would do deep breathing, a couple of stretches, and then be much calmer through the day. As a whole, the group was so noticeably calmer, that the principal approached me one afternoon to see what my secret was. What was it, that I was doing to this class? She wanted to know. Other teachers had noticed.
Shortly thereafter, the school approached me about forming an after-school yoga club. Teachers would send their behavior challenged students and we would have a short introductory yoga class. It didn’t take long, before another principal from a different campus heard about the results we were having and wanted me to teach yoga on his campus too. It spread like wildfire. Over the course of a semester, I was welcomed into three school districts and numerous campuses in each district.
It wasn’t until after I realized that I was on to something big, that I began researching why exactly this program was working. What I learned, amazed even me. I knew yoga had been found to have numerous health benefits, including mental health. I was surprised to learn that programs that had adopted a regular relaxation practice into their curriculum, were seeing increased test scores, decreased behavior problems and increased classroom participation.