Is yoga part of your kids’ curriculum? Leah Kalish hopes it will be. She’s on a mission to bring yoga to today’s increasingly stressed schoolchildren. As the director of Yoga Ed., which started in Los Angeles in 2002, Kalish believes yoga can teach physical health in an engaging way while providing emotional and psychological benefits.
In a Yoga Ed. class, either as part of a school’s P.E. curriculum or as a standalone class, kids move into shapes like rock, tree, and dog, and play games that develop breathing and balance. Class discussions and journal writing help kids learn to reduce pretest anxiety, redirect anger, and make good nutrition choices.
“One boy drew a picture of two boys fighting and wrote, ‘I was so mad I was gonna kick his carcass. Then I remembered my yoga breath and I could stop and talk to him!’” says Georgina O’Farrill, a teacher at the Accelerated School in L.A. “It’s extraordinary. Kids return to class from yoga ready to focus and learn.” Indeed, studies show that yoga enhances students’ self-esteem, physical fitness, and academic performance.
Yoga Ed.’s curriculum meets standards set by the National Challenge Physical Education Standards. So far, Yoga Ed.’s curriculum has been adopted by the L.A. and Laguna Beach, California, school districts and two schools in Aspen, Colorado.
Teachers who want to bring yoga to their classes can visit www.yogaed.com, which offers tools for teachers, including workshops, CDs, and yoga and nutrition booklets. Yoga Ed. also offers a seven-day training program for yoga instructors and P.E. teachers, which outlines a 36-week curriculum for grades K-8. This year, it will hold teacher trainings in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Texas.
“My vision is of kids connecting with themselves through yoga,” says Kalish. “They cultivate their own wisdom.” Next up? Bringing balance to high schoolers with a curriculum for grades 9-12.