Phys Ed now has a twist…a mind-body one.
The new mantra for school gym class: Fitness that helps kids take stress in stride.
Increasingly, schools are buying up yoga mats the way they once stocked up on dodgeballs. Kids’ yoga is a hot commodity—instructional books and videos aimed at little ones line store shelves. “We’re at the beginning of the trend,” says Mariam Gates. “Within the next five to 10 years, yoga in school will be the norm.” Though statistics aren’t yet available, Gates believes that many schools nationwide have already incorporated yoga into their curriculum, benefiting hundreds of students. And it’s not just for “big kids”—many preschool programs offer classes for the youngest yogis.
As yoga for children surges in popularity…Gates remain(s) a central figure in the movement… Praise for the method spread throughout the city and in 2001 educators in the Boston school system approached Gates about bringing classes to their physical education programs. “They were interested in setting up a pilot program for fourth-graders to help them deal with the stress of standardized tests,” she recalls. Enthusiasm ran so high that some administrators made room in already-tight district budgets for the classes — which replace gym or are offered as electives — so parents wouldn’t have to pay. In other schools, motivated parents, members of the yoga community, and teachers helped Gates find funds through grants and PTA sources.
KidPowerYoga proved to be such a hit that the classes expanded to include all grades and were also adopted by a number of suburban schools. Educators are thrilled with the results. Darcelle Lowe, a teacher in Dorchester, says the difference yoga makes in her students is striking. “The classes are so calming. If my kids spend a morning doing yoga with Mariam, they’re more relaxed and better able to focus for the rest of the day.”
By Jessica Brown