“Mrs. Claesgens, did you know that Washington D.C. isn’t far from Virginia?” fourth-grader Samantha Massacavollo buzzed before the start of Yoga for Kids, a before-school program provided by Watson Elementary School.
“Because they placed Washington D.C. on the wrong side of the map, or maybe it’s Virginia, because it’s only a driving distance away…”
Chatter filled the classroom as students continued to file in. Once shoes, coats and backpacks were left at the door and yoga mats lay in rows on the floor, the session began. The atmosphere changed entirely–the previously-talkative students now sat cross-legged on the floor focusing on their breaths under the instruction of a video-proctor.
This yoga program is facilitated by Watson School Service Provider Marcie Claesgens. While Claesgens is not a certified yoga instructor, she advocates for the benefits yoga can bring in social and academic situations.
“The research indicates improved behavior throughout the day when [children] practice yoga. The whole point is to start off their day in a calm, relaxed state of mind and to learn that ability to focus and control their emotions and their breathing,” Claesgens said.
An abundance of studies back the usefulness of implementing the practice into the classroom. Yoga has been said to lower stress and anxiety levels, improve classroom behavior, enhance the ability to focus, and even have physical benefits such as improved posture. Claesgens’ experiences from her program mimic the positive results that research indicates.
“I notice a difference in the kids from the beginning of our yoga sessions to the end. Usually they’re very excited, but by the end of the session the number of times I have to redirect them to be quiet and focus on their breathing is much improved. They really do take it seriously, and they’ve really become more understanding of what the practice of yoga is doing for them.”
With this program, Watson is tuned in with the latest classroom trend sweeping through schools across the nation. According to a study conducted by the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School, upwards of 940 schools across the country have implemented a yoga program into part of their regimen.
“Hopefully it could be something that we end up doing school-wide at some point, but there are other little ways for teachers to interject yoga into their classrooms as well: ‘brain breaks’ or different yoga stretches [are encouraged] to use when it’s practical in the classroom, because yoga can be beneficial even in small doses,” Claesgens said.
If there are still doubts on the benefits that programs such as these can bring into the school environment, take it from our geographically-inclined fourth-grade friend, Samantha.
“After every [session] I feel so fluffy,” Samantha said. “It calms me.”