Bringing Yoga to the Classroom: The Evolution

During the next week, I worked to return to my original intention: to pair the time in tree pose with a visualization/lesson on trees to encourage students to think beyond themselves. I realized that the third graders were reading about the life cycle of a plant in social studies. I quickly adapted our short time in yoga to reflect their reading. For the rest of the week, I worked to incorporate information about trees that would appeal to the third grader’s experience. For example, I talked about why some trees loose their leaves and others, evergreens, don’t. To incorporate eye movement into tree pose, I asked students to find a gaze point, and to shift as I signaled if they felt comfortable. To stimulate the eyes’ focusing ability, I asked them to shift focus from an object nearby to something farther away.

Because students were eager to explore more poses, I incorporated, garudasana, eagle pose. I chose garudasana because of its similarity to Brain Gym’s “Hook-ups” and “Cross Crawl” exercises. In Smart Moves, Hannaford states that “Cross Crawl” stimulates the hippocampus and improves learning and memory (132). The crossing of limbs in “Hook-ups” “consciously activates the sensory and motor cortices of each hemisphere of the cerebrum, especially the large area devoted to the hands” (133). Additionally, the movement stimulates “the entire motor coordination system and the vestibular system . . . bringing the system into coherence, ands assisting focus, learning and memory” (134). Graudasana thus has the potential to challenge the third graders’ thirst for a challenge and stimulate brain

Yoga Calm for Children offers several lesson plans for varying age groups. I noticed something fundamental that I’d been neglecting to incorporate into my time with the third grade: svasana! I began to give students time to integrate their short yoga experiences following the format suggested by the Gillens in Yoga Calm: I asked students to do a “one-minute exploration” with their heads down at their desks. Some days I gave students a format, “think about a time you felt strong,” other days I left the “exploration” open-ended. I offered two students the opportunity to share afterwards. It seemed that this svasana-like time in particular impacted the students’ behavior during the remaining hour of school.