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From Downtime to Downward Dog Time

Yoga Calms Students and Helps Motor Skills


In her 25 years as a teacher, Sandy Brunett knows well the challenges of getting elementary students to switch gears from one area of focus to another, or from relatively unstructured time such as lunch and recess to time to hit the books again.

The benefits of yoga for kids

  • Enhances physical flexibility
  • Refines balance and coordination
  • Develops focus and concentration
  • Boosts self-esteem and confidence
  • Strengthens the mind-body connection

Yoga is beneficial to children of all ages, but has been found to be particularly so for kids with special needs. Studies have shown that yoga benefits children with autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Source: Parents magazine

Thanks to another teacher in the district, Brunett is one of a handful who are now using the calming, centering benefits of yoga to ease students’ transitions from downtime to downward dog time to get-back-on-task time.

“A lot of teachers read stories or do something physical to get the wiggles out, and I’ve done that too,” said Brunett, who teaches kindergarten at Central Elementary. “But my group this year is especially high energy,” she added with a laugh.

Since just after winter break, Brunett has used a UK-based YouTube kids’ yoga series called Cosmic Yoga that includes books and lesson plans aimed at teaching about mindfulness. And for the first time this year, she said, her students are transitioning a whole lot more smoothly.

“The very first time we did it in class I called (another teacher) and said ‘Listen to this,’ and he said ‘What? I don’t hear anything,’ and I said ‘I know, they’re doing yoga!'”

Walt Disney’s “Frozen” as a yoga routine

Today the class is posing along with a routine done to the story behind the Walt Disney movie “Frozen.” Ma’kaya Vanderhoff pretends to be an ice-skater (lunge pose), and later, across Burnett’s room, Jordan Masih wiggles his shoulders up like a snow snake (cobra pose). In a few minutes, Brunett hopes, they will be ready to tackle using a number line to do subtraction.

Brunett said she’s already noticed an improvement in her students’ gross motor skills, the larger movements kids typically perfect on the playground or outdoors.

As screen time has increased for young children, she said, gross motor skills can take a back seat.

“And if they don’t get the gross motor the fine motor won’t come,” she said.

Some yoga moves combine stretching and balancing

The benefits of yoga in the school setting are not new. At East Elementary, teacher Sara Peterman received a grant from the Grandville Education Foundation to expand mindfulness practices with her students, as well as in four other East Elementary classrooms.

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Cosmic Kids Yoga

SNN article: Breath+ Balance = Better Learners

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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