Lower School students learned valuable skills to help them feel peaceful and grounded by participating in two weeks of yoga in their physical education classes. The unit is the result of new P.E. and Mindfulness teacher Mary Reeds Crowley's vision for her students.
"I wanted to combine P.E. and mindfulness is a seamless way in laying the foundation for the school year," Crowley said. "I wanted the kids to find their center and make the connection between their minds, bodies and breath. I wanted to provide them with the tools early on, so they can practice wherever they go, throughout their day at school and home."
The Prep and The Priory Lower School classes engaged in 30-45 minutes of yoga flow. Each class was guided through the routine in child-friendly language. The flow focused on breathing and stretching, and bringing awareness to body and mind. A typical class begins with students removing their footwear and coming into a sitting position on their mats.
"It is so fun to stretch in funny positions," said Graham McDonnell, a kindergarten student at The Prep. "When we use our puppy breath, my body feels calm."Insert YouTube class clip here
Crowley has been yoga teacher at Hawai'i schools for more than seven years, and is certified through the Yoga Alliance as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and Registered Children's Yoga Teacher. Manduka – makers of a specialty yoga mat – awarded Crowley a generous sponsorship of 40 yoga mats for her students to use.
Backed by Research
According to research – including a study presented in a CNN article – yoga helps to decrease stress levels, raise motivation and assist in self-regulation, which are conducive to student learning and emotional well-being. With research continuing to show the benefits of yoga to young students, Crowley says that she makes a point to keep her students engaged mentally and physically.
"Like a stack of building blocks, when our mind, body and spirit are not in balance, we feel scattered and stressed and things fall apart," Crowley said. "But if we connect the three and stand in our presence, we will stand strong like a tall tower of bricks and feel peaceful and grounded."
According to the Yoga Journal's website, there are enormous benefits to children who practice yoga. These include physical components, such as flexibility, strength, coordination and body awareness. Additional benefits include improved concentration, sense of calmness and relaxation. When they are doing yoga, children are exercising, playing and connecting with their inner self, which develops a relationship with their natural world.
"My goal is to grow the mindfulness program at St. Andrew's," Crowley said. "The seeds have been planted and now I want to make sure the roots take hold by giving the program the love and nurturing it needs so that our school develops a strong mindfulness culture. Yoga is one of the great modalities in which we can do that. And my hope is that the kids and faculty feel that yoga is a practice that they can use at any time to practice mindfulness."