ST. ALBANS — Amy Ward, school counselor at St. Albans Town Educational Center approached RiseVT with the idea of doing a six-week yoga class as part of the first grade curriculum. Ward currently teaches mindfulness to the second grade. Her hope was to provide students with skills for self-regulation so that they are able to be present and ready to learn in the classroom and in life.
Jessica Frost, RiseVT wellness specialist who focuses on the Maple Run Unified District and Franklin West Supervisory Union, is a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200), who is personally passionate about yoga and a strong believer in mindfulness practices, especially for students.
“Yoga provides students many tools for self-regulation,” says Frost. “It teaches them to listen to their own bodies and choose what they need to do in that moment to be ready to learn. Yoga provides poses, breathing and mindfulness, so the students always have a choice.”
Before Frost went to Mrs. Curry’s first grade class, Ward did a lesson with the students describing three states of energy: high, just right and low. Then, each week, the students had an opportunity to self-assess where their energy was on a chart. Frost would teach a half-hour yoga class and at the end, the students would again assess where their energy was.
Frost broke the activities into small increments for these short attention spans. Throughout the six weeks, the class learned a variety of yoga breaths, poses, mindful meditations, games and even a mantra song. They held yoga freeze-dance parties and learned to recognize how their bodies worked to hold poses and find their balance.
In addition to the weekly yoga classes, Mrs. Curry continued to use yoga breaks throughout the day in class. Frost provided weekly letters to the families, describing the activities that were being practiced in class. Many students reported that they were now sharing yoga with their families.
At the end of each yoga class, more students were at “just right” than when they started. Also, anyone who was “high” at the start of yoga was no longer “high” after yoga. Everyone walked away more prepared to learn.
“It’s great because the students can choose to do something that works for them to get to ‘just right,’” says Mrs. Curry. “I have found that the students are excited to do yoga poses and breathing when they are in need of a brain break.”
The message of choosing what works best for you in the moment is reaching the students. During the last session, one of the students chose to turn himself away from the circle to provide less visual distractions while performing a balancing pose. These kinds of adaptations allow students to make choices necessary for more efficient learning.
Mrs. Curry also asked one student who was struggling to focus in class to take a break. He went to the corner and did some breathing and practiced child’s pose. He now has the tools and the space to collect himself and come to that “just right” place once again before joining back into class.
RiseVT is working on bringing a Yoga4Classrooms training to St. Albans this spring. It will be free for anyone in Franklin and Grand Isle who works with children.
Rachel Narkewicz is a promotions specialist for RiseVT.