SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Program Featured in Hospital Assoc. of Southern CA News

Smiling Calm Hearts Open Our Learning, Inc. (SCHOOL, Inc.) is featured as a main contributor to the Trauma-Informed Care Initiative currently being implemented in Pasadena, CA.

The article entitled, How Trauma-Informed Care is Helping the Pasadena Community was written by Karen Ochoa, Project Manager for Communities Lifting Communities.

SCHOOL, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pasadena, CA. Approximately 546 Pasadena Unified School District teachers from Transitional Kindergarten through 12th grade are currently being trained how to use the SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Program in their classrooms. Additional services personnel will also join the SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Trainings in order that nurses, counselors and other support staff learn mindfulness methods to help youth navigate education proactively and in greater health. Kelly Wood, founder and lead teacher of SCHOOL, Inc. will provide tools, strategies and evidence-based mindfulness techniques. This secular yoga mindfulness program enhances the learning potential for students and classroom management techniques for teachers. The SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness approach builds positive qualities in youth and educators that promote pro-social, inclusive learning communities.

Learn More by visiting the SCHOOL, Inc. website –

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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.


The Common Core State Standards provide benchmarks for learning by grade level, K-12. Teachers understandably like to have some level of freedom in how they deliver subject matter to students as their creativity and improvisation have the ability to heighten motivation to learn. Many teachers these days are finding the balance between meeting Common Core State Standards and bringing their unique teaching skills into the classroom. In simple terms, it seems to me that this balance is between structure and organic free flow. As we so often know, moment-to-moment balance between structure and play is key for classroom success both academically and socially speaking. We teachers strive again and again to hone our teaching proficiency by reviewing the day’s events in the classroom, weighing what appeared to help and what appeared to hamper students’ participation and subject matter comprehension. Refreshing our perspective is very much a necessity to learn and grow as an educator, to bring the dignity of teaching forward and the enthusiasm to learn alive.

I created the SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training as a new tool to gather the whole classroom of learners on equal ground with everyone’s equal participation and equal value to the group. Likewise, each member of the class learns the responsibility to contribute constructively and respectively to the overall harmony with peers and the teacher. Bringing secular yoga into public school classrooms in 2002 (the year I began the SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness program) was definitely a new and creative experience for myself, students and teachers. Over these last 15 years, I have paid careful and close attention to the needs and concerns of teachers and their commitment to successfully impart learning to students. I have fine-tuned SCHOOL Kids Yoga to make sense to Common Core State Standards while engaging classroom communities with new tools and in innovative ways.

One way School Kids Yoga & Mindfulness supports the Common Core State Standards is by teaching aspects of English Language Arts, including Speaking and Listening standards such as the following:

ELA SL 1.1A – Follow agreed upon rules for discussion

ELA SL 1.1B – Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to thecomments of others through multiple exchanges

ELA SL 1.1C – Ask questions for clarification

ELA SL 1.2 – Ask and answer questions about key details in information presented orally

ELA SL 1.3 – Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says

ELA SL 1.4 – Describe people, places, things, and events with detail

ELA SL 1.5 – Add visual displays to descriptions to clarify ideas

ELA SL 1.6 – Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task

Los Angeles Unified School District teachers who have taken the SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training have commented on how they experience SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness as aligned with CCSS:

“In general, the standards are supported by the SCHOOL Kids Yoga practice by allowing tools for listening to peers, teacher, and constructive critique. It helps introduce academic and social skills vocabulary, make connections to stories, life experiences, and learning to speak with pace, expression, and intonation. In addition, students learn metacognition, developing memory, self-reflection, perseverance, and determination through focus and grounding.” – Mary G.

“School Kids Yoga supports the Common Core Standards by meeting state health and physical education requirements. In addition, the SCHOOL Kids Yoga methods address ELA standards for speaking and listening (e.g., applying rules for discussion, building on discussion, and asking and answering questions to clarify, ascertain key details, gather additional information, and provide descriptive detail). Furthermore, SCHOOL Kids Yoga supports learning of academic content through the use of models, verbal and visual aids.” – Vivian Z.

“School Kids Yoga supports the Common Core by providing opportunities to listen and discuss various topics respectfully. Through the program, students practice and learn skill such as listening attentively to a speaker or story, reflecting on information, and practicing how to ask thoughtful or clarifying questions. They are able to respond to questions and use strategies to discuss or share opinions with peers. The SCHOOL Kids Yoga program also supports overall academic success by teaching students how to calm their bodies, minds, and hearts to reduce anxiety during testing or presentations, as well as improving their ability to focus and retain information for longer periods of time, which promotes academic success.” – Vanessa G

I created the SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training to give teachers tools to not only improve focus in students and teach Common Core State Standards, but also to provide a means for teachers to gather themselves in the moment and refresh perspective. We teachers know the importance of maintaining grace and equilibrium – so often challenged in our diverse interactions with students. When teachers have practical tools to ground and gather themselves within the dynamic waves of energy and experience in the classroom setting, they are better able to find the balance between teaching the benchmarks of the Common Core Standards with a fresh perspective that invites their creativity and enthusiasm. Naturally, students pick-up on a teacher’s warm engagement and thus, are drawn in to learn more. And this ability to navigate amidst our routines and the unknowns of life bring acalm sensibility that needs to be nurtured in our classrooms and communities throughout life.

Mindfulness & Calm Hearts – Kids Yoga in Elementary Schools

I teach SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness classes at Esperanza Elementary, located in downtown Los Angeles in the Westlake area. I have been volunteering at Esperanza since 2006 and have developed wonderful relationships with the teachers. I am honored that they allow me into their classrooms, making time for 20-minutes of calm moving, calm breathing, and being together with calm hearts.

As I was waiting for the 1st graders to conclude lunch and make their way back to their classroom last week, four little girls bounced up to me with huge smiles, gleaming eyes and exclaimed in unison, “Hi, Ms. Kelly!” The girls were talking about various things like recycling, birthdays and so forth. One girl said, “Ms. Kelly, you were in my dream last night.” I was surprised and said, “What was I doing in your dream?” She said, “I was falling and then you were there and we were doing yoga.” I said, “Well, that is interesting. It sounds a little like my story today for our yoga class.” The four girls chimed in together, “Ms. Kelly, can you tell us the story now!” I smiled and said, “Oh, my goodness! Let’s wait so that the whole class can hear today’s story during our yoga class.”

The story I told that day was about stumbling and stubbing my toe. I almost fell and fortunately, at the last minute, caught myself. I then sat down and placed my hands onto my hurting foot and used my calm breathing to help ease the pain. There were other details within the story that related to calm feet which all he children agreed should be used within school and their classroom.

Each of the 1,000 children that I teach weekly hears a story at the top of each SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness class. The stories are personal experiences, completely true, that illustrate how the methods, ideas, and motivations we use in our SCHOOL classes help me in my life. The children can relate to these stories because they are simple, everyday occurrences. The children, teachers, and myself agree that we indeed feel better with a calm heart. We all agree that it feels good to help another with a calm heart. We all agree that it is nice to speak to others with a calm voice – easier to do with a calm heart. There are countless and simple ways in which a calm heart brings more peace and less stress into one’s life.

Mindfulness practice is noticing the simple occurrences of life with a more gentle attitude so that good qualities such as caring, empathy, listening, and generosity are evident in our behavior. We can more easily notice the simple things in life when we are not distracted or stressed, when we have a calm heart. This is easier said than done for adults and quite natural for children. For hundreds of hours taught, my experience shows me that it is of utmost importance to reinforce heartfulness in children instead of untangling our resistance to heartfulness later in life.

The story themes then thread into the class through postures, positive affirmations and breathing. The stories always tie into classroom living, thus, the children can draw relevance between my life and their life at school. Time sharing these stories is such a gift and grateful does not even come close to how I feel to have the honor tot help these children, all of whom are on the Free Lunch Program and all of whom have the most giving hearts.

Our connections to one another are much more than meets the eye. I am not proposing that yoga and mindfulness classes have magical qualities. It is my first priority to teach in the most simple and relatable manner, to help children and educators develop the motivation to breathe with gentleness, with heart. We are, however, all together in this big City of Angels, sharing days of learning, interacting, and crossing paths with one another. How delightful it is to experience simple time with a smile and a calm heart. It just might make a difference in the way a child or an adult treats the next person they see.

Kids Yoga & Mindfulness in Public Schools – Our Hearts are a Gift

Today’s teaching schedule included seven Kids Yoga classes in three different schools. As I walked into the sixth class, the second graders were scampering to follow their wonderful public school teacher’s instructions to close their books, put pencils onto the top of their notebooks, push in their chairs, and make their way to the rug for our SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness class. I walk by children moving here and there, and notice one girl nervously holding something small wrapped within the hem of her shirt. Her eyes indicate a humble knowing of some sort. Being used to seeing various items in children’s hands like paper clips, toys, rubber bands, headbands and more, I make a mental note that if the fidgeting hands continue once class starts, I will ask her to place the mystery item away at her desk so that she can give her full attention to our mindfulness class.

As usual, I’ve placed my mat at the front of the room, the piano music is playing on my little speaker to signal the start of our SCHOOL Yoga & Mindfulness class. I sit tall on the mat with hands interlaced and with a smile. Just as I am about to say, “Good afternoon, class.” this little girl with the mystery item says, “Miss Kelly, I want to give this to you.” She fumbles and unwraps a plastic heart heart and hands it to me with a simple sweet look on her face. I am moved that she has made the choice to present this heartfelt gift to me. I gently say, “For me?” and she nods in agreement. I then say thank you wholeheartedly and share that she has offered the red heart to me with the group.

I believe that every child has the potential to develop self-regulation skills and I hold high standards that their mindful or heartful self-direction is within their reach. If I can learn how to practice self-discipline and emotional/mental regulation, then they can as well. I simply have forty years of living ahead of these amazing children, pursuing the path of self-reliance. Constructive self-reliance is one of the most important skills we can teach our children. The SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness classes include positive self-reliance at its core.

Our hearts beat everyday with diligence. The heart does not take Friday off or decide to beat only if it gets everything it wants right away. One of the main reasons the heart is the central theme of our SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness program is that the consistency the heart provides speaks volumes of the potential we all have for developing consistent kind qualities, if we engage in practices or methods that remind us of our basic goodness. A calm heart is a good place from which to act or pause with kindness. Our hearts are gifts for ourselves and for others.

This second grade girl will never know the full impact of her heartful gesture of giving. Tears repeatedly come to my eyes thinking of the goodness of this child and the motivation to act on this goodness. The children teach me and I am humbled in each class. We teachers repeat and repeat and keep the faith that the seeds we are planting will ripen and grow within our children. Today’s heartfelt gift has planted a seed of inspiration within me that I will always cherish. Thank you, Kimberly. 😉

Calm Hearts Help Others – Kids Yoga with Purpose

SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness weekly classes are more than just postures. If I wanted to teach postures, the classes would need to be entitled playful stretching, creative movement or something along those lines. If one teaches yoga, there are several limbs of the practice that must be included and the cohesiveness understood between the various limbs. A yoga teacher, whether for adults or for children, must help students understand how and why to practice. To dispel the many misperceptions around yoga and meditation, an experienced teacher must relay the different facets of the practice in a relatable manner. From teaching thousands of children over more than 14 years, I know that a calm heart speaks universally to kids, no matter the socio-economic background. A calm heart also speaks universally to adults.

heart crystalSmilingHeart


Philosophy is an important aspect of yoga. Without cultivating our discernment of what is helpful and what is destructive about our behavior, we simply stretch and then leave the yoga mat only to continue our unmindful habits of impatience, self-centeredness and the like. SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness classes, occurring weekly in public schools always include relevant and real life stories of how our motivation of heartfulness helps bring more calm and ease to ourselves and others.

I teach the inner city children who live in the downtown Los Angeles area. They live simply. One can imagine the crowded apartment settings with ongoing noise and quest for survival. During the precious 20-minutes I am allowed to spend with these children each week, my own heart is uplifted and humbled by their responses and participation. When I ask, “Who are we going to help?” within the imaginative elements of our yoga class, they say, “The less fortunate, the homeless.” The strength of heart these children naturally embody must be drawn out and encouraged. They live in conditions that so many would classify as less fortunate, and yet, they are noticing those around them that have even less. Our SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness classes give these wonderful young citizens of Los Angeles the means to think about others while moving and breathing to contribute to the neutral connections within their brains. In short, our SCHOOL classes help to integrate the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of children which cannot be achieved through posture alone.

Calm Hearts Appeal to Children

I just finished teaching three of the eight SCHOOL Kids Yoga & Mindfulness classes for today. Going into public schools for over 13 years and teaching to elementary aged children has provided quite a wealth of experience. It is safe to say that the approach I take with these amazing inner city kids works. The essence of the practice, the reason to practice, the motivation to practice is to have a calm heart. Pretty simple and yet, disappears from our mindfulness so many times each day with life’s business and demands.

Here are a few of the responses from 2nd graders on how they have been using their practice:

“I had to get a shot at the doctor and I used my calm breathing.”
“I played with my sister with a calm heart.”
“I used my calm breathing while taking a test.”
“I said Our Hearts Are Calm Today when I had the hiccups.”
“I helped my brother to breathe calmly when he was mad.”
“I couldn’t read something very good so I used my calm breathing and had a calm heart.”

And of course, we need to have a calm heart for:
“I went to the fair and rode a roller coaster and used my calm breathing to keep my heart calm.”

Life is much like a roller coaster, yes? It is quite challenging to teach Kids Yoga and well worth every moment. If one has been teaching as long as I have, the cutesy and idealistic honeymoon phase of teaching Kids Yoga is behind us. We work with the dynamic of the classroom, the children, and the environemnt to demonstrate by our own presence and behavior the essence of a calm heart. Going into public schools and teaching more than 25 children in each class and seeing more than 1,000 children on a weekly basis has indeed been challenging and simultaneously, the most rewarding work I have encountered. Life’s ups and downs are much more manageable with a calm heart.

Children’s Yoga in Public Schools – LAUSD

Yoga in Public Schools – Los Angeles Unified School District. Experienced children’s yoga teacher, Kelly Wood.

This is an interview with Kelly Wood, who opened Karuna Yoga studio in Los Angeles in 2002. Since the opening of the studio, she has taught kids yoga classes with consistent attendance. Parents who were taking her adult yoga classes asked if she would consider going into their child’s public school classroom to teach kids yoga. In 2002, she began teaching weekly 20-minute classes in LAUSD elementary schools, continuing to this day with a strong network of public school teachers, principals, school therapists, administrators, and parents. She has now taught over 220,000 students from Pre-K to 5th grade. According to Kelly, “once children are in a more calm state, they can remember or be more mindful of actions, thoughts, and words from the heart — a more helpful behavior as opposed to self-centeredness.”

Rob: What originally motivated you to do this work, and what continues to motivate you? How, if at all, has that motivation changed over time?

Kelly: My initial motivation was to help children develop a love for, and commitment to, the practice. Now I’m motivated to assist with the integration of positive habits such as listening, patience, and helping others within the behavior of children. I believe in the potential of every child. I understand how emotional experiences shape our neural networks–the way we think.

Within public classrooms my motivation is also to build a sense of respect in students for their public school teacher. I am dedicated to helping teachers who give so much to their students, communities, and schools. Our SCHOOL (Smiling Calm Hearts Open Our Learning) classes nurture respect and emotional security within classrooms.

Is there a standout moment from your work with elementary school children?

A gratifying moment is when I hear of or see a student applying teachings without my impetus. It is also gratifying to see the gradual conditioning of students’ learning within our SCHOOL classes. Once children learn the rules and boundaries of the SCHOOL classes, which typically takes four sessions, we have more classroom moments of taking a calm breath in and a calm breath out together. To see an entire classroom take a simultaneous calm breath in and out is very rewarding for me. I’m fortunate to sit in front of children and witness their development of self-regulation and more gentle attitudes, one breath at a time.

What did you know about the population you are working with before you began teaching? What were some of the assumptions you had about this population, and how have those assumptions changed?

More than 80 percent of the children I teach are Hispanic, with the remaining 20 percent mostly other minorities. Growing up in South Carolina and living in the south until my early 30s, I had little to no interaction with the Hispanic culture. I assumed these children would know Spanish better than I. This proved to be true! Other than this obvious fact, I truly was and remain open to each classroom. I only need to simplify English words of instruction for the Pre-K classes to better communicate the yoga lessons. Because children are strong visual learners, they pick up the lessons quickly as I exhibit posture, pace, and facial expressions. I find inner-city children quite open and eager to learn yoga/meditation.

What are two distinct ways that your teaching style differs from the way you might teach in a studio, and what are the reasons for these differences?

The first difference in teaching style is the acknowledgement that I’m a guest within the public school teacher’s classroom. I defer to the classroom teacher for acceptable choices for addressing disruption (talking, distracting peers). I ask for permission to show an image to reinforce the story told at the beginning of class, or if I may move a chair or easel to make more space. SCHOOL kids yoga classes always point to the leadership of the public school teacher. I may refer to the teacher as very patient with students, if the story told at the top of a SCHOOL class highlights developing patience. SCHOOL kids yoga classes often include students making a heart with their hands and sharing their calm heart with their public school teacher. I make myself insignificant, always emphasizing the positive qualities of the public school teacher.

A second way my teaching style differs within public classrooms is that the theme or teaching of each SCHOOL kids yoga class is specifically tailored to the activities, skills, and behavior of daily school life. For example, I may tell a story about being very hungry after a full morning of teaching, and sharing my lunch with a stranger who needed food. Once we’ve established that it is good to be generous, and that being calm helps us give to others, I would then ask the students to think of ways they can be generous and give to their classmates and their teacher in their classroom. Our movements, postures, and meditations would also include positive affirmations about giving.

What is the role of humor in your practice, in your classes?

Humor makes its way into SCHOOL classes effortlessly from children’s comments, suggestions, and questions. I do not put on a show with children, or intentionally try to be funny. Simplicity and honesty make for an uplifting tone, especially as these children take the practice seriously and relate easily to the idea of using their calm breathing to keep a calm heart.

What has been the greatest challenge in your teaching experience, and what tools have you developed for addressing that challenge?

The greatest challenge has been bringing the public up to speed on the fact that proper yoga/meditation practice is more than creating healthier and calmer bodies. Yoga/meditation practice must build caring and helpful dispositions that are evident within behavior. SCHOOL root teachings (patience, generosity, etc.) integrated within movement contribute to mindfulness and self-regulation. SCHOOL classes are quite simple, with emphasis on calm breathing and a calm heart to help build habits of positively adapting to people and life. Busyness, distraction, complaining, and emotionality can be re-patterned when one is more centered and calm. Children who are unable to self-regulate beyond a negative emotion have a more difficult time adapting, learning, and relating positively to others. It is of little use to our community if we produce high test scoring students with the absence of caring hearts. I believe our schools are the places to teach basic life skills that are secular and common to being good people.

What advice would you give to anyone who is going to teach in the population you work with?

Never look at these children as less than yourself. Quite the contrary, look at these children as your teachers, helping you to grow. Exhibit and live the qualities you know they also have within themselves that are helpful for their classrooms, homes, and communities. There may just be a time in the future when you will lean on the kindness and compassion of these children as they are adults and you are in your senior years.

What are some of your ideas about or hopes for the future of “service yoga” in America in the next decade?

If those teaching yoga in service to the community have a comprehensive understanding and approach to the practice (not an emphasis on physicality), we may be able to further innovate health and healing in America, while sustaining respect for the origins and purpose of the practice.

Editor: Alice Trembour
Images: Courtesy of Josh Wood Photography

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Kelly Wood Interviewed on Radio Talk Show, Out on a Limb

Please listen to a joyful and informative interview with Kelly Wood, on the radio show Out on a Limb with Sarah Vogel. Kelly shares her experience teaching mindfulness to children in Los Angeles public elementary schools.

Kelly Wood has trained to be a yoga teacher, but she is a storyteller at heart. This is how she has approached the task of teaching yoga, meditation and mindfulness to elementary school children in both the Los Angeles and Pasadena Unified School Districts for 13 years. “I’ve got a story,” Miss Kelly begins, and her students who range in age from five to 10 years old are all ears. Miss Kelly’s stories come straight from her life–a recent experience she had out in the world—and right from the heart. This is her way of teaching the art of listening, of making good choices, of resolving conflict, of feeling what it is like to stand tall on your own two feet. Kelly Wood’s cleverly named non-profit Smiling Calm Hearts Open Our Learning (SCHOOL) does more than open the doors to learning in the classroom. With her calm determination, Kelly Wood is giving these children an opportunity and clear directions for learning how to walk the many paths of their lives with an open calm heart.