In 1999, philanthropist Tara Guber founded Yoga Ed. at The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles, with a clear vision of how the practice of yoga could transform the health, wellness, and success of its students. The first charter school situated in South Central L.A., TAS serves a community of students facing poverty and crime, and Tara recognized a dire need for these students to learn life skills that could extend beyond the school walls and promote health in other areas of their life.
Pulling together a passionate and knowledgeable group of yoga educators, Tara spearheaded a curriculum and programming for TAS that would improve school fitness and equip students with tools to effectively approach life challenges. Yoga Ed. was born, created in schools and for schools, and adapted to meet the needs of administrators, teachers, and students alike. The program was a clear success, with distinct improvements in student behavior, self-esteem, academic performance, and physical fitness.
Now, over 15 years after it’s inception, Yoga Ed. is returning to it’s roots, bringing Yoga Ed. programming back into TAS classrooms. According to Felicia Jackson, the K-8 Assistant Principal at the Accelerated Schools, the choice was an easy one. For their administrative team, implementing yoga is part of the effort to support and enrich the whole development of their students, and to “expose them to positive, healthy practices that would serve them throughout their lifetime.” But with different options for school programs in the Los Angeles area, TAS’ commitment to the well-being of their students is key to program success.
Starting with instruction.
In order to maximize the benefits of yoga class, TAS was determined to have high-quality instructors in place. Because of the success of Yoga Ed. programs in the past, TAS administration was familiar with the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm that Yoga Ed. educators bring into the classroom, and was therefore eager to bring on Yoga Ed.-trained instructors on board. According to Felicia Jackson, TAS looks for “yoga teachers who have good classroom management, provide structure, have high expectations for their students, are engaging and charismatic.” Yoga Ed.’s team fits the bill, preparing developmentally-appropriate lessons that are optimized to unlock the full physical, emotional, mental, social, and academic benefits that yoga can provide.
Innovating to meet student’s needs.
With Yoga Ed. educators working in the classroom, administrators and teachers at TAS took another step to improve the experience, and success, of their students. Seeing that yoga may be uncomfortable, or even embarrassing, for many of their young adolescent students, they opted that creating gender-specific yoga classes would be most suitable for their school environment.
This was a strategic move and has allowed us to see tremendous confidence building among the members of our middle school male yoga class,” noted Ms. Jackson. “The boys are eager, participatory, and engaged at all times, and welcome the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
Creating a safe and supportive space for yoga at TAS has been essential for students to reap transformational benefits for their well-being. Through Yoga Ed. classes, students are given a place to turn their focus inward, and to develop vital skills to destress, build awareness, and manage their anxiety. What they learn is not only practical and applicable to their day-to-day lives as students, but will maintain utility as they leave the school campus and continue on into adulthood. In the end, this is the critical need that Yoga Ed. was built for: the need for children and teens to learn the skills necessary to navigate adversity and support their health and wellness for life. Through the leadership at The Accelerated Schools, children and teens in South Central Los Angeles are being given that support for future success: “To prepare our students to be competitive in the 21st Century workforce, we must help expose them to resources that can be beneficial stress relievers, and that support and optimize one’s health and wellbeing.”
We would absolutely recommend Yoga Ed. to other schools as an enrichment experience or as part of their physical education program, because the discipline that is learned through one’s yoga practice can be transformational as it relates to a student’s academic, social and emotional wellbeing.Felicia Jackson, K-8 Assistant Principal