Kids choose yoga over playground recess

by: Submitted Photo - Culver kids practicing yoga clockwise from front right, Cameron Browne, Melissa Gray, RaeAnne Slaght, Jacqueline Shores, Kimi Acord and Jessica Howell.

   By Jen Hume
   Student support
   services coordinator
   It's 9:30 a.m., and the bell rings for morning recess at Culver Elementary.
   Students line up for yoga and are led down to the mat room in the gym. They remove their shoes, step into a dimly lit room that smells of lavender, and find a mat.
   Sounds of the esraj, an instrument from India, fill the room and calm the students. They begin to slow their breathing and prepare for their yoga mat sequence.
   It all comes from the "Yoga Calm" program out of Portland. Jim and Lynea Gilen train school personnel to use this program, designed especially with the public schools in mind, to reduce stress in children and focus their minds for learning.
   Research has shown that:
   . Simple breathing and biofeedback techniques slow the nervous system and help children develop self-control and connect with their feelings, preparing them for learning.
   . Yoga poses and sequences release physical and emotional energy, improve physical fitness and emotional capacity, increase flexibility, and enhance self-confidence and concentration skills for learning and testing.
   . Social/emotional games and counseling tools develop trust, compassion, communication, teamwork and leadership skills.
   . Relaxation techniques like storytelling, mental imagery and music calm the nervous system, develop imagination, support lesson plans an integrate physical, emotional and cognitive experiences.
   . Wellness lessons develop healthy life habits around food, exercise, electronic media and other life choices.
   Culver Elementary School has seen tremendous benefits from implementing elements of this program during morning recess times.
   Anywhere from 20 to 60 students participate during two recess sessions, and there is definitely a core group of "yogis" that rarely miss a session.
   A third grade teacher noticed immediately the difference in one student, remarking that the days the student chooses yoga, he comes back to class more focused and ready to learn.
   Culver Elementary Principal Stefanie Garber commented, "In this fast-paced world, rarely do we learn how to slow down, relax, and focus on our own bodies and breathing."
   "I am so grateful Jen Hume was willing to think outside of the box and try this wonderful program. I have witnesses children practicing the moves outside of the designated yoga time; they love it. Jen is teaching them skills they can use for a lifetime," Garber added.
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