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.
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.
The benefits of yoga for kids
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
“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!'”
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.
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.
Cosmic Kids Yoga