Starting in the spring of 2019, college students in Dr. Manny Felix’s PESS 162 course will see something a little different on their list of required readings: an online course through Yoga Ed.’s Teaching Children’s Yoga training will be an integral part of the curriculum for Fundamentals of Specialized Skills, a class that all Physical Education teacher candidates take at Winona State University in Winona, MN.

Dr. Felix is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science at WSU. He trains future teachers, which is work that he finds both urgent and rewarding. He knows the challenges his students will face in their future classrooms, including “the demands placed upon teachers, as well as the social and emotional hardships that many youth experience in today’s world,” and he wants to fully prepare them for these realities.

A Reluctant Yogi

Manny is now convinced that yoga is key to his teachers’ preparation. But as recently as two years ago, even his own wife and daughters couldn’t convince him to join them in yoga class! Even though his usual routine of running and weightlifting sometimes left him aching or injured, he still thought of yoga as “pseudo-exercise” and resisted going.

But after his first vinyasa yoga class at Root Down Yoga in La Crosse, WI, he was “absolutely hooked,” he says. “I quickly realized how much I enjoyed it, not only for the physical benefits but also for the personal and emotional benefits. I was eager to learn more about the yoga philosophies, and,” in true professor fashion, “read everything I could on the subject.”

Following the Research

Dr. Felix’s expertise in teacher education meant he was very familiar with recent research around social-emotional learning and the role it can play in academic achievement and student wellbeing. He, like many of us, was alarmed by recent trends in childhood stress, depression, and anxiety and knew that many schools’ SEL programs involved yoga and mindfulness activities. He wanted to learn more.

Yoga Ed.’s online training was particularly appealing to Manny because of its emphasis on science, research, and brain-based learning. He was looking for practical and useful ideas about implementing yoga in schools, as well as knowledge around child development, that he could then pass on to his teacher candidates.

A Powerful Complement

Upon completing the online course, Manny realized that Yoga Ed.’s course could help with another problem: because of the structure of PESS 162, each activity covered in the course (e.g. golf, bowling, swimming, fishing, etc.) gets a limited piece of time, and only 4 class sessions were allotted to yoga and mindfulness. Course evaluations showed that many of the teacher candidates felt unprepared to teach yoga and mindfulness to others.

Dr. Felix felt this was particularly unfortunate because of schools and districts’ recent emphasis on SEL and the known benefits of the practice. He knew the required content itself couldn’t change, but taking the online course showed him that the yoga knowledge he gave to his students could be supplemented by Yoga Ed. in a powerful way.

“By partnering with Yoga Ed., teacher candidates will acquire enhanced yoga teaching knowledge and skills without compromising the scope and depth of other course content and objectives,” he says.

Dr. Felix is confident that participating in Teaching Children’s Yoga will fully equip each of the teacher candidates to teach yoga as a unit within their P.E. classes. While some units he teaches about are interchangeable or optional, he thinks yoga should consistently be a part of both P.E. and daily classroom education. Any activity that can simultaneously give students coping skills, self-awareness, self-regulation, perseverance, self-love, and an appreciation for physical movement gets an A+ in his book.

Real Teaching Experience

Manny looks forward to his students having the same “well-organized” and “personalized” experience with Yoga Ed.’s online instructors that he did. The online training shares the theory behind the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of yoga for children. It is also designed to deepen students’ foundational knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and brain science. The 8-week timeline of the course will give Manny’s students the space to pace out their own learning, while still holding them accountable for continuously interacting with the content. Built-in aspects like the weekly check-ins and self-check quizzes will also give students a sense of their own progress.

But crucially for Dr. Felix’s future teachers, it goes beyond theory to give them real teaching experience. Over the course of the program, they will have many opportunities to share, lesson plan, and embody the course content. Manny wants his students to experience “the value of yoga in school, community, and family environments,” and he knows that being guided through the actual acts of lesson planning and teaching will be extremely helpful for future teachers.

This is why Manny forged a partnership with the Winona State University Children’s Center. After completing his own online course with Yoga Ed., he arranged to teach weekly K-4 yoga sessions at the Center. “The online course motivated me to refine my new yoga teaching skills,” he said, and he wants his students to have the same opportunity.

PESS 162 students will initially teach yoga at the WSU Children’s Center, and he hopes that other teaching opportunities will soon be available at schools within the broader Winona area.

Yoga for Every Teacher

Dr. Felix has a big long-term goal: to make yoga and mindfulness teaching opportunities available “for all teacher candidates throughout the College of Education.” Wow! “Yoga instruction and programs should not just be incorporated as a unit within a physical education curriculum,” he says. “I firmly believe that yoga and other mindfulness activities should be a part of their daily education. Yoga is meant to be a continual practice.”

Manny recently wrote a small curriculum improvement grant that allowed him to purchase over $2,500 in yoga equipment and supplies. His syllabus is set with yoga as the star student, and he’s very excited to see what this spring has in store for the future teachers.

Hey Teach!

Are you interested in using one of Yoga Ed.’s online courses in your university? Contact us by emailing info@yogaed.com.