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Matt Grenier

7th & 8th Grade Physical Education Teacher, Middle School Health Teacher, Martial Art Instructor

Santa Cruz, CA

“Learning yoga has helped with my recovery of all my injuries and has given me the gift of being mindful through meditation.”

What is your current role or position?

7th & 8th Grade Physical Education Teacher, Middle School Health Teacher, Martial Art Instructor

What do yoga and mindfulness mean to you?

For the last 3 years, I have been practicing Yin Yoga at a nearby studio and have found it life changing in both my physical and mental health. I started yoga, specifically Yin yoga, to help my muscles and soft tissues heal from injury and to recover from hard Jiu Jitsu training. In the past 15 years I have had two ACL tears, a rotator cuff tear, a ligament in my thumb tear, and a groin pull that has kept me out from training for 6 months. Learning yoga has helped with my recovery of all my injuries and has given me the gift of being mindful through meditation. I now practice yoga and meditation every morning and find myself being pain free, happier, and more motivated than ever to teach my students the gift of yoga and the power of the breath as we go through these crazy times of distant learning and societal unrest.

What sparked your interest in Yoga Ed.?

Last year, I volunteered to be a part of our SUSD SEL task force to come up with ways to evaluate students’ state of

mind and to implement programs within the district to help students feel a sense of belonging, encourage inclusiveness among peers, ability to find happiness, and the power of resiliency. While researching ways I could do this in my class, I ran across Yoga.ed online and looked into it. I liked what I saw and took a class and downloaded all the toolkits. Yoga.ed has given me a different way of connecting with students in a very positive way and now is a big part of my curriculum.

Which Yoga Ed. course(s) did you complete, and when did you complete?

Teaching Teen’s Yoga– Completed November 21, 2019; Yoga & Mindfulness Classes for Children, Teens & Adults– Currently taking. I’ve also downloaded all toolkits and use these ideas in my instruction.

What is your biggest takeaway from the course or program? What knowledge, insights, or skills did you gain?

In the last few years, I have had yoga instructors come into my classes and lead yoga, tried to have students watch a yoga video and follow along, and tried to lead yoga class myself with my students but nothing was sustainable and nothing seemed to really connect with the students which made for increased negative classroom behavior and frustration on my part. Taking the Teen Yoga Class gave me the confidence to teach yoga on my own! It’s well laid out curriculum, already made lessons, and explanation of each pose including videos, verbal instructions, talking ques, and benefits of each pose was so beneficial. During my morning yoga time I would do what I was comfortable with doing and then find one pose or breathing exercise to add on. I would practice saying the ques while doing the pose by myself giving me the empowerment to try it out with the students. It worked and now am comfortable teaching yoga to my students.

To add onto this, I think to be successful as a yoga teacher with middle school aged students it is super important to create an environment for yoga. I did this with increased confidence in myself, background knowledge of the benefits of yoga, and aura of compassion to hook the kids into really giving it a try even though it is different from exercising than usual and a bit challenging mentally since all they want is to let go and play. I find that the more we do it, the more receptive students are to the practice and the less behavior issues I have.

How have you implemented the program in your life? Have you received any feedback about the course from your students?

Distant learning is very challenging but I have found a way to embrace it and enjoy it. I have 160 students broken up into 7 classes and I get to teach each class for 55 minutes, 3 times a week. I break my curriculum up each day rotating through 4 themes.

First is the use of PLT4M, an amazing online program that teaches kids the fundamental movements that are necessary to master any fitness and athletic movement giving kids the self confidence to exercise and play sports.

It is very physical and can be done with limited equipment and space, perfect for online learning. PLT4M focus -cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength & endurance, little flexibility.

Second, Yoga.ed! This is a perfect contrast to PLT4M, helping kids to slow down and be mindful of their breath and body as they move through the poses. The themes of the class help students realize the benefits of yoga and how yoga can be used to alter the mind to “who and how you want to be”. Yoga focus- Flexibility, muscular strength & endurance, mental and social awareness.

 Third, is Martial Arts types of activities, that encourage students to be assertive through self confidence and strength both mentally and physically. In the warm up I tend to use yoga poses to set the stage while helping them increase flexibility and relax as they prepare for physical movement. Martial Arts focus- cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength & endurance, flexibility, and mental strength.

And finally, SEL lessons. I do this with the students about once every 2-3 weeks by sharing an inspirational video and then having the student do a journal write about the video. It is a great way of getting kids to be humble, and appreciate that no matter what, they can figure out a way to keep moving forward. Teaching resilience is a passion of mind and I find the videos on the website OPEN-Physical Education Resources (Believe In You Series) is a good way of getting students to open up and inspire them to be the best they can be. I also use yoga to help them get in a mental state to where they can focus on their own mental state of mind. SEL focus- mental and social strength.

Would you recommend this course or program to others?

I do all the time. I’m always talking about my yoga practice and how it has benefitted me and my students. I have also shared it with my district SEL focus group and the district has been very supportive of me taking classes and teaching yoga using Yoga.ed in my PE classes.

Is there anything else you would like to share that we have not covered in your profile?

I think I have said enough 😉 However, answering these questions has given me the opportunity to actually write down my thoughts about the curriculum I am teaching and how I’m best serving my students through distance learning. So THANK YOU!

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