On any given day you might find Megan Plagman on a yoga mat, in a classroom, leading a training for teachers, or running a group therapy session. Megan is a school-based social worker in Austin, Texas, and a Yoga Ed. trainer. She works in a behavioral health clinic that provides therapy services to elementary school students, families, and staff in the Austin Independent School District.
Although she now loves living in the Live Music Capital of the World, Megan went to graduate school in New Orleans for Social Work and Public Health. She started her social work career working in the parishes of Louisiana that were impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. While she saw great resiliency in the clients she worked with, she also began to experience compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress. Beginning a regular yoga practice helped her cope with her emotional exhaustion.
Breaking Down Barriers
Megan felt intuitively that the many benefits she received from her personal yoga practice would also be invaluable for her students, who are tackling social, emotional, and behavioral problems. She knew that the prevalence of these issues wasn’t limited to her own school building, but were problems plaguing the education system as a whole. She wanted to bring evidence-based solutions to as many students as she could.
As a school-based social worker, Megan has always been committed to breaking down barriers that keep students from being successful in the classroom. She saw right away that Yoga Ed. could provide many additional tools and activities that would give students first-hand experience with managing their emotions.
Self-Regulation and Brain Breaks
When thinking about her hopes and dreams for her students, Megan knew that self-regulation, or students’ ability to manage themselves, was a key predictor of their future success.
“I hope [my students] learn the ability to feel an emotion, hold space for that emotion, and acknowledge the impermanence of that emotion,” she says.
Megan’s groups center around developing new coping skills, providing psychoeducation on the brain, and developing a sense of self. She’s always on the lookout for additional professional development around these topics, particularly through new or unique lenses, so that she can develop a full toolbelt of tools to give her students when they need it most.
On a more immediate basis, she also finds that many students need a brain break before or after their therapy sessions, and said that yoga consistently “provides a great outlet for students who are already active and need to release some energy.”
Yoga Ed., An Evidence-Informed Intervention
During her time in New Orleans Megan encountered Project Peaceful Warriors, which uses the Yoga Ed. curriculum and was bringing yoga to many of the schools she was working in.
“Coming from the world of social work and public health where evidence-based and evidence-informed interventions are so valued, I was intrigued by the science and research from Yoga Ed.,” Megan says.
Inspired by her first Yoga Ed. training with Chelsea Hylton, Professional Institute: Teaching Teens’ Yoga, Megan enrolled in Yoga Ed.’s Trainer Institute in the summer of 2018 and graduated with the confidence and skills to bring yoga and mindfulness interventions into her day.
Create, Collaborate, Play
At her school, Megan now uses her new mastery of the content each and every day. She does both individual and group therapy, and also consults with teachers and administration on mental health concerns in the classroom. She now feels better equipped to have informed and impactful conversations with administrators, other educators, and her clients.
She uses the Yoga Ed. curriculum when leading two different groups of third-grade girls. She finds that the lesson plans from Yoga Ed. fit neatly into the existing structure of a group therapy session. She is also grateful that her training in chair yoga over the summer has allowed one of her students who use a wheelchair to participate fully.
Through yoga, Megan has seen her students’ creativity and imagination shine. During a check-in, she had students identify an animal that represented their mood (i.e. a sloth if they were feeling sleepy, or a tiger if they were feeling courageous) and then they each created a yoga pose of that animal. “One student picked a leopard seal,” she laughed, which was a definite group favorite. Having this time to create, collaborate, and play has been the fuel that lights her professional fire.
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