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In-school yoga programme brings calm to classrooms

In-school yoga programme brings calm to classrooms

Some Lower Hutt schools have found that regular yoga sessions at school help pupils feel calmer and deal better with emotions. The Yoga for Schools programme which trialled at Avalon Intermediate School last year, involves a combination of physical stretches, controlled breathing activities and focused thought. The purpose of the programme is to improve the mental, physical, social and emotional well-being of tamariki.

Ian Hastie, the principal of Avalon Intermediate, is very pleased with how well the trial went. “It has given the children some coping strategies which have helped them deal with situations they come across. Teachers tell me they notice a difference in the classrooms,” he says.

Nearly 500 students from seven different Lower Hutt schools participated in the programme in Terms 2 and 3. The schools involved are Avalon Intermediate, Taita Central, St Michael’s, Tui Glen, Petone Central, Waterloo and Fernlea Schools.

Results from more than 230 children surveyed so far have been overwhelmingly positive. More than 60% of pupils said yoga has helped them deal with emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, embarrassment and guilt. Some comments from children surveyed include:

“It stops me from using physical harm towards people”

“I feel so calm every day since I did yoga and I can sleep well now”

“It has helped me with my anxiety a lot”

“I've become more confident”

“Yoga has helped me be mindful and forget and forgive”

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“I can control my anger better, like when I get annoyed, I can just calm down by breathing”

Other notable survey results include nearly half of students who ‘strongly agree’ that they like themselves more after the yoga programme and 65% who have noticed positive changes in themselves from doing yoga.

The Lower Hutt programme has been developed by Hutt City Council’s Active in the Hutt team and Seedling Yoga founder Sara Warnock, a former primary school teacher turned yoga teacher. “Yoga offers kids an opportunity to develop a toolkit to become more self-aware and helps them to self-manage and regulate their emotions and behaviour,” she says.

The programme is designed to align with New Zealand’s Health and Physical Education curriculum. Classroom teachers are supported with resources and lesson plans to link the programme to specific curriculum learning areas and achievement objectives. School-based yoga offers many benefits to students and teachers alike, maximising the development of academic, social and emotional competence. Teaching yoga in schools has proved to have positive effects on student learning, well-being and behaviour.

Waterloo School is so enthusiastic about the benefits of Yoga for Schools that they applied for funding for their Year 6 students to take part.

"We have been extremely lucky to receive a Pub Charity grant allowing our Year 6 students the opportunity to participate in the Hutt City Council’s “Yoga for Schools” programme this term,” says Ms Lee Austin, a teacher at the school.

“We have found that as technology plays more of a part in our children’s lives and they deal with higher levels of anxiety they need ways to help them relax and de- stress. The programme is loved by the children and I have seen boys and girls practising their stretches at lunch time. Having this springboard into a pathway of physical wellbeing at this tender age will set the children up for life," she says.

Supporting the well-being of its residents and empowering tamariki are key priorities for Hutt City Council, who would like to see all schools incorporate yoga in the classroom. Active in the Hutt’s Rebecca Grigg (04 560 0305) is interested in hearing from organisations and schools willing to support this programme and work in partnership to allow more students to participate.

For more about Yoga for Schools, see:

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