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.
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. 😉
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.
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.
SCHOOL classes emphasize calm and concentration, both essential qualities for learning. Additional elements of SCHOOL 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. Continue reading “Kids Yoga – The Skill of Listening”
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 knots physically, mentally and emotionally 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.
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.
I have been teaching Kids Yoga and Kids Meditation in public schools since 2002. In Los Angeles, we have a great range of cultures and ethnicities. Each week, I teach in 9 public schools, 3 twenty-minute classes within each school with classrooms exceeding 25 students. With such density and diversity in student population, each week I experience how favorably kids respond to yoga and meditation.
When teaching children, as one might expect, elements of fun are included in order to engage their attention. I feel it is a priority for the Kids Yoga teacher to consider how children are relating to the practice and to put themselves in the shoes of their students. What kind of memories, associations and meanings are we Kids Yoga Teachers planting within children’s minds?
Children must make the connection of why they are executing postures and why they are sitting down to meditate. They need to know the real life benefit of poses. It is not so much the yoga poses that must be remembered by children when they are feeling anxious, insecure, tired and irritated. They must remember their breath as the first step to centering their attention and emotions. We teach children to remember that the body, brain and heart need care every day. Let’s start the healthy habit of calm breathing and self-reliance in the formative years. Let’s start the habit of respect for others and for oneself in Kindergarten.
As Kids Yoga teachers, we must repeat the basic benefits of creating healthy bodies and calm brains for healthy choices. It is not enough to stop with these two benefits. Children must understand that the essence of practice is to steady oneself in order to be of help to others. As Kids Yoga Teachers, we must teach to the hearts of children. A calm heart relates to a caring attitude, naturally wanting to reach out and be of help to others. Being strong means listening to others, accepting others and extending a helping hand.
We all have a heart. We all want to relate and to belong in our communities. We all breathe. Teaching children the value of a calm heart is crucial today. As we teach Kid Yoga and Kids Meditation within public classrooms, we repeat time and time again, to start with one calm breath in order to steady the heart. When our thinking aligns with the heart, our viewpoints are much more inclusive and caring.