Amanda first encountered yoga in her early twenties. After ripping ligaments in her back, yoga became integral to her healing and recovery, as well as a new addition to weekly routine. “I don’t consider myself a yoga pro in any way,” says Amanda, “but I do yoga at least 3 to 4 times a week and I love it! I know that if I don’t do it I never sleep as well, and my back has pain or gets out of whack. After a year of experiencing the tangible benefits of yoga for her physical health in the comfort of her home, Amanda saw the opportunity to bring yoga to work, incorporating key elements of yoga into the classroom for her kindergarteners. In particular, chair yoga seemed like an ideal match for Amanda’s resources and needs.
“For one,” she explains, “I am at a very small school and I have a very large class doing yoga. Being able to practice from their chairs is a huge space saver.” Chair yoga has allowed Amanda to experiment with movement without having to unroll mats, move furniture, or leave her own classroom. And as an extra bonus, the accessibility of chair yoga has also enabled her to keep her young yogis under control during the transitionary periods before and after yoga breaks, as well as during the yoga sequence itself. “If we were all on the floor there would be a greater chance for silliness,” she notes, “and the chair yoga has an easy order of operations for the students to follow.” While we have to admit that we do love getting goofy, for busy teachers with packed classrooms like Amanda, keeping it simple means saving time and energy, so she can focus on tending to the essentials (including having some fun!)
Finally, chair yoga has provided Amanda with a way to introduce her students to novel ideas and concepts that they may never encounter otherwise. “I work in the country, and I love the country life, but children here do not always get exposed to things like yoga. I am happy I can do that for them,” she says. While yoga in classrooms may be becoming more mainstream in cities like New York, Portland, or San Diego, Amanda is truly a trailblazer in her own way, exploring ways to adapt innovative teaching strategies to meet her unique needs, as well as the developmental needs of her students within the community she serves.
The end goal of chair yoga? To give her students a chance to unplug and reset their minds and bodies, “to ‘wake up’ their brains either in the morning or midday to refocus them on school tasks.” As an extra bonus, Amanda says chair yoga has also provided her with “an easy opportunity to teach the importance of a healthy body and how that connects to a healthy mind.” In a time when more and more students are being affected by anxiety and depression, and where childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, how amazing is it for teachers to integrate health and wellness for the whole child into the school day, Without having to skip a beat?
Yoga Ed. Goes to Kindergarten
Amanda had already been practicing chair yoga at her school when she came across Yoga Ed.’s online yoga class library in the winter of 2016, when Yoga Ed. launched Yoga Ed. Academy. Immediately, she was intrigued by the online format. “Until I found Yoga Ed., yoga in the classroom had to be through my instruction, posters or cards,” she says. Now with a subscription to Yoga Ed.’s online library, Amanda can simply cue up a yoga class when her kids are ready for a brain break. “The students love using the videos,” says Amanda. Not only can they see other children and “take” the classes with the kids online, but “at the K level, the idea of an online teacher is very exciting and interesting.”
Depending on what Amanda has going on in her classroom from week to week, she now uses Yoga Ed. two to three times a week, either first thing in the morning or throughout the day as brain breaks. Not only do her students enjoy following along to the classes with their online yoga teacher (who they’ve nicknamed Miss Pretzel!), but the response from outside the classroom has been wholly positive as well. According to Amanda, the administrators have been supportive, especially as they can “see how it calms my students and keeps them focused.” As for parents? “They love it,” Amanda shares. “I even had one mom privately tell me that it has been extremely helpful for her son, and she now does it in the home.”
The Mind-Body Connection
The results that Amanda, her administrators, and the parents observe in her students are exactly what drew her to yoga in the first place, and it all goes back to that mind-body connection that yoga cultivates. As Amanda explains, “the body and mind are 100% connected, and having a healthy, active body allows you to have a healthy, active mind. Children and adults alike cannot learn effectively if the sit for 8 hours, you need a break, a rest, and a chance to move.” At five and six years old, this is especially true of Amanda’s students, who developmentally cannot sit for extended periods of time to learn. “They need to move,” she says, “so learning is usually connected to movement as well.” Whether she needs to help the kids “engage the students’ focus in the morning before class begins,” or “refocus and reset for learning after specials class or a longer reading block,” yoga is her students’ time to “connect their body and mind to a calm place, to a place of energy and focus.”
“I believe and have seen this help them create more meaningful learning throughout the day. Having their yoga break allows them to absorb what they learned earlier in the day, and readies their mind for new learning after.”
As for Amanda, Yoga Ed.’s chair yoga classes also provide a time for her to recharge. Whether she participates in the class with her students, or simply “takes a step back from teaching in that moment while they follow their yoga teacher,” she can hit her reset button, allowing herself to “be ready for more teaching” once the class is done.
So would Amanda recommend Yoga Ed.’s online classes to other teachers?
“100% Yes. While it is an additional cost, which always a factor, it is worth it to me.” Yoga Ed. gets Amanda’s students moving, fostering calm and focused minds, without putting extra pressure, or work, onto her. With the online classes, she doesn’t have to sacrifice prep time, or assign the students busy work while she puts her lesson together. “Plus, it is student centered and easy to follow,” says Amanda. “I am so glad I found these classes!”