Yoga is now part of the kindergarten curriculum at Harlan Elementary School. Lisa Nelson, a kindergarten teacher at Harlan, recently received a grant through Yoga Foster to integrate yoga instruction into her classroom.
Yoga Foster gives deserving elementary school teachers training, curriculum and yoga mats to bring movement and mindfulness into the classroom during the school day. Yoga Foster brings yoga into classrooms in 39 states and is supported by donations.
While the physical benefits of yoga may be more obvious, children can also benefit mentally and emotionally. Research shows that yoga reduces anxiety while is strengthens working memory and cognitive flexibility. Emotional benefits include improved communication skills, empathy and self-awareness.
After completing the training Nelson began using “yoga burst” mini lessons in her classroom while waiting for the yoga mats to arrive. Students immediately loved yoga. The arrival of yoga mats to the classroom in mid-November marked the beginning of full yoga classes in the elementary gym. The excitement was so infectious in Nelson’s own classroom that she soon began a weekly yoga practice for all three kindergarten classes.
Utilizing daily physical education time, each class has a full yoga practice each week. Vickie Anderson, Harlan Elementary School principal, supported the idea of yoga in her school from the beginning and decided to create a yoga studio atmosphere in the school gym. A wall has been dedicated to yoga. A local artist, Kim Hensley, painted stick figures in basic yoga poses, many of which are already familiar to the students.
Shaedyn Crow, a kindergarten student at Harlan says, “I like yoga because it helps me concentrate, and it’s with Mrs. Nelson. Mrs. Nelson teaches it good!” Cooper Thomas agrees, “It’s pretty fun and awesome we get to do yoga at school.”
Principal Vickie Anderson is pleased that yoga is being introduced to her students. “Promoting a healthy lifestyle for our students is a priority. We want to motivate them to be physically fit, and yoga is one avenue to achieve that. Students who have trouble focusing can use yoga techniques to self-regulate. Several of our other teachers have expressed interest in learning yoga so that they can use it with their classes. Hopefully, through Mrs. Nelson’s efforts, yoga can become a part of our weekly routine throughout Harlan elementary.”