As I’ve worked one-on-one reading and writing with first through third graders, I’ve noticed that after a point the student begins to squirm. Some students squirm right away, others’ threshold isn’t reached for upwards of 10 minutes, but each student invariably squirms. I admire their struggle to persevere once they’ve reached this point. I, too, often feel the urge to squirm out of my seat as intensely as any first grader. In these moments, I notice the state of my own body: I notice my breath and my posture and marvel at the tools I’ve learned through yoga. It has occurred to me that many children’s bodies are not yet up to the task of reading.
Originally, my intention was to offer the third grade students a tool or tools to help them focus their frenetic afternoon energy: 3-5 minutes of yoga in the classroom before independent reading/stations from November 18 to December 3 for a total of 9 days of instruction. I planned to focus on simple movements – shoulder rolls, for example, to warm up and then have students practice vrksasana – tree pose – on each leg. Because vrksasana is a balancing pose that demands intense focus, I supposed that students would engage their physical and mental energies to execute the pose and feel similarly to the way I do after tree pose: subdued but sharp. I’d start small, with students using chairs to help gain a feel for the pose to begin with, and then offer further challenges in the pose: shifting the gaze from the floor to the ceiling and lifting the arms overhead. We’d do the same basic routine each day so that students are prepared to challenge themselves to explore more deeply in the pose. I wanted to pair the time in tree pose with a visualization/lesson on trees – anything from The Lorax to the current pine beetle problem in Colorado and Wyoming seemed like appropriate tools to encourage students to think beyond themselves. I expected that some students would take advantage of the time to goof around, but that these students would probably be a factor in any yoga class that kids attend.