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Mindfulness & Calm Hearts – Kids Yoga in Elementary Schools

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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.

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About the Author:

Kelly Wood holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing, with a minor in Philosophy from Clemson University and also a Bachelor’s of Art in Art History from Georgia State University. Her professional career includes years with Deloitte Consulting and Deloitte & Touch LLP. Kelly’s yoga studio, Karuna Yoga, continues to serve more than 10,000 people. By volunteering her time for 11 years in Los Angeles public schools, Kelly has taught 75,000+ children. In 2012, Kelly established the nonprofit, SCHOOL, Inc. to support the growing demand for secular yoga and meditation classes she and those she trains bring to underserved children in Los Angeles County.

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