Recent racial, religious and political conflicts here in the US have traumatized many of us. Both adults and children alike are dealing with this emotional response to current events, physical, sexual abuse or even natural disasters. Trauma is ever present but today’s world seems to be riddled with its effects, from PTSD, ADD, to anxiety. Latest research show that childhood trauma increases heart disease, stroke and depression later on in life as well.
The reality too is that public and private schools are the place where a lot of these emotions come out as kids spend most of their time at school.
Practicing yoga is one definite tool that is used to help students and teachers alike deal with these intense emotions and stresses. One of the founders of Yoga in schools’ movement, Lynea Gillen and her husband Jim, have been on the forefront of teaching yoga to children for more than 30 years.
Founders of Yoga Calm, they have devised an award winning, research supported, teacher approved yoga curriculum for yoga instructors, school teachers, counselors, nurses and therapists alike. Their book, Yoga Calm for Children, guides instructors with class room techniques that teach yoga, mindfulness and social emotional learning to kids of all ages.
Lynea found yoga as a teenager when she was needing to cope with emotionally significant difficulties -traumatic experiences- that were life altering. She started doing yoga at 16 and loved it. She then started teaching yoga at 19 to kids while getting her elementary teaching degree, followed by an M.A. in school counseling. Lynea then incorporated asana practice with breath work and social emotional learning techniques to come up with her yoga curriculum, aimed at helping kids process emotions, decrease stress, deal with anger, aggression and learn to regulate behavior.
“My experience not only as a yoga teacher but school counselor and working in juvenile detention settings has lead me to understand that what sometimes kids not only need to find calm but also be able to get the fight out of them to release anger, sorrow, rage, before they can find the calm, “says Lynea. Years of experience have led her to understand that yoga/mindfulness programs in schools work best when school counselors and teachers work collaboratively with yoga teachers as “teachers and counselors are under a lot of pressure in schools. It is important that yoga teachers coming into schools take time to get to know the teachers and the kids, build a relationship with the schools as well and that school teachers are included in the yoga in the planning.”
Lynea and Jim’s Yoga Calm have brought changes and calm to thousands of students and kids over the years. Here is one example of how Minnesota School District 178 are feeling the effects of this kind of emotional intelligence development that nurtures calm and teamwork.