Students learn to care for self, others through yoga

December 13, 2017
Fifth grader leads yoga

In the midst of a busy day of learning, Lake Elmo Elementary students can be found taking a quiet moment to slow down, breathe deeply and find their balance. It’s all part of an effort to help students learn better by teaching them to care for themselves and others.

Students are learning basic yoga practices to help them develop self regulation skills, manage strong emotions and build physical and emotional strength. As part of the Moving and Learning/Yoga Calm curriculum, student learn simple relaxation techniques. By practicing yoga together as a class, they also develop community and have opportunities to support each other.

“Children cannot learn until their brains are calm,” said Lisa Boland Blake, the school’s instructional coach. “This really helps them release anything that may be bothering them and put them in a frame of mind to learn.”

Students come to school each day with a variety of experiences - some of which can distract them and prevent them from learning. Physical movement has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, stimulate brain growth and neural connectivity, and improve cognition and academic achievement. Giving students the opportunity to stretch and move throughout the day can get their brains engaged. It’s proven to reduce behavior issues and help students focus on their school work.

“It gets bodies moving, which I think is a good thing,” said Ben Halley, a fifth grade teacher. “We use it a few times throughout the day to take a quick break from academics and use our bodies purposefully. I even notice some students doing some of the calming techniques on their own before they take a test - it helps them calm their body and mind and puts them in the optimal place for learning.”

Each of the school’s kindergarten through fifth grade teachers have been trained and are now taking what they’ve learned into the classroom. With help from a licensed instructor, they’ve brought yoga into the classroom to introduce it to students, and in the future will be able to lead kids through simple routines that last just a few minutes and are designed to increase their focus, engage their minds, or calm their bodies.

“It makes my body calm so I can understand better,” said Aubrey Walker, a first grade student. “It’s very helpful to get my energy up.”

The school secured almost $14,500 in funds for training and residency experiences for classrooms. The Partnership Plan for Stillwater Schools, Lake Elmo Rotary, Lake Elmo Jaycees, and the Lake Elmo Parent Teacher Association (PTA) all pitched in.  The school also received support from a Statewide Health Improvement (SHIP) grant.

“It’s been a really positive initiative within our school,” said Stephen Gorde, principal. “Any time you have the opportunity for kids to get up and engage their full body for a short time it allows them to be more attentive during learning time. It’s also an effective way to help students calm themselves in a quick fashion.”

Watch a video on the program from WCCO.