Yoga and storytelling, yoga and bullies

Written by Rebecca Jones

The Wellness Initiative is not the only organization pushing yoga in Colorado public schools.

Another Boulder group, Calming Kids: Creating a Non-violent World, promotes yoga in school as an anti-bullying tool. Storytime Yoga, which integrates children’s yoga and storytelling, poetry and healthy eating, is also based in Boulder County. And at a two-day gathering of physical education teachers from across the state last week in Loveland, at least three workshops dealt with in-school yoga.

TWI does serve the most children, however, Rose said.

In addition to its yoga classes for students, TWI offers a two-hour Tools for Teachers workshop to provide classroom teachers with simple yoga-based techniques they can introduce into academic classrooms; and on-site yoga classes for teachers and school staff members before or after regular school hours.

Yoga classes for students run the gamut, from year-long regular exposure to yoga as part of the PE curriculum to less-intensive elective classes, sometimes offered during the school day and sometimes offered before or after school. Cost to provide the yoga instruction averages about $70 per class, but the cost to the school varies depending on students’ ability to pay.

“In schools where there’s a high percentage of low-income students, we subsidize a large percentage of the cost,” Rose said. “In schools that serve more affluent students, we rely on the school or the parents to support the program.”
Research shows positive impact on youngsters

The Wellness Initiative is working with the Center for Policy Research to conduct research on the effects of yoga instruction in the schools. Rose expects a significant amount of data to be available within the year, but she has some preliminary findings based on a survey of 47 high school students from four schools who participated in 6 to 42 yoga sessions. Their average age was 15, and 70 percent had no previous exposure to yoga.

Among the findings:

* More than three-fourths of the students agreed strongly or somewhat with the statement “I feel stressed out a lot of the time.”
* About two-thirds agreed strongly or somewhat with the statement “I put a lot of pressure on myself.”
* Following participation in yoga classes, at least half the students noted improvements in physical flexibility; feeling positive and optimistic; feeling physically strong; standing up for oneself; self-confidence; being nice to other students and family.
* When asked their reaction to yoga, 63 percent said they “love it” or “like it a lot,” while 24 percent said they “like it somewhat,” and 13 percent said they did not like it at all.
* More than a third of the students reported improvement in how they felt about their body; their ability to concentrate; feeling good about themselves; feeling less stress; feeling frustration; eating less junk food; and putting too much pressure on themselves.
* When asked how often they used various yoga practices outside the class, more than half reported using the breathing exercises; more than 70 percent reported using visualization; about 45 percent practiced positive statements about themselves; and 44 percent practiced yoga poses.

Schools participating in The Wellness Initiative yoga classes:

Adams County: Welby New Technology High School, High Point Academy.

Arapahoe County: East Elementary School, Pathways Program.

Boulder County: Columbine Elementary, Crest View Elementary, Fairview High School, Louisville Middle School, Mesa Elementary, Southern Hills Middle School, Whittier Elementary.

Denver: Colfax Elementary, Denver CAMP, Florence Crittenton School, KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy, Knapp Elementary, Munroe Elementary, North High School.

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