“My kindergarteners are incredibly stressed. They’re anxious, just like me and it’s sad that at such a young age they feel so much anxiety and worry. Looking at what has helped me cope with stress and anxiety- being yoga asana and breath work, I came up with the idea to do yoga with my students. We started doing “morning mindfulness” and practicing a little bit of yoga. Right away, the impact that it made was incredible!
My students made improvements and were more empathic towards each other, compassionate, and they had a greater ability to control their emotions. Once they were able to control their emotions, they were able to focus better, identify what they were feeling, identify their friends’ feelings and treat themselves and their classmates with love and kindness.
In the very beginning of the school day, I lead yoga class in “morning mindfulness”, breathing techniques and how to identify our emotions. We start with ringing the bell three times and they all sit criss-cross with their hands up if they want to receive good energy. We all roll our shoulders and take three deep breaths.
I have one boy this year who had some pretty bad outbursts. When he would start to cry or hyperventilate the others little boys would go over and say:
Hey, remember how to breathe; remember your breaths.
He is now able to breathe, calm down, and rejoin the group. They help each other out now and they remind each other of our mindfulness tools. In kindergarten, you don’t normally see that. I feel so lucky to facilitate this change and help instill self-awareness in them at such a young age.
We know the impact yoga and mindfulness has on young children. It strengthens their prefrontal cortex by teaching problem solving skills, emotion regulation, empathy and compassion.
Focusing on young children’s social and emotional development should be the whole point of early childhood.
Supporting the development of emotional intelligence is put on the back burner because now, only academics are pushed. Every year, the standards and expectations for where we as teachers need to get our kids keep going up. We’re rated and graded and assessed in little snapshots of only thirty minutes. Evaluators look at our students’ scores but not at our students’ backgrounds. It’s hard; it’s so much…and all of the teachers are exhausted.
My fellow teachers started witnessing the work I was doing with my students and how much it helped. I now train them how to teach yoga and mindfulness in their own classrooms and also I hold a yoga class for them once a week after school It’s pretty incredible, it makes me want to cry!
I feel so inspired because there’s so much more work that can be done, which motivates me to keep doing it and finding new, different strategies.
Recently, our wellness coordinator for Denver Public Schools wrote a grant for 20 teachers to attend Breathe for Change, a yoga training for teachers. It’s a huge movement to get yoga and mindfulness in schools- training teachers, so that we are able to show up for our students in a good space and then pass it forward. It’s a huge next step because yoga asana, breathing, and mindfulness really does help. I’ve seen it my classroom and in my co-workers’…the effects are truly amazing!
I learned so much at my first yoga teacher training about who I was and what it meant to be in the presence of others who are passionate about spreading this work to the world.
One day, we went around and spoke about something we had been struggling with and I mentioned anxiety and perfectionism. The instructor said to me:
I’m sorry if this is out of line, but there’s no such thing as perfectionism. It’s low self esteem; it’s low self worth and you need to go in deep and find out what that truly means for you.
At first I objected, but then I came to realize that it was true. It was difficult and challenging work to dive deep and begin to heal myself, but I know that it will, and always does pay off. When we heal, we are able to help others heal and that drives me.
Through my passion for teaching and supporting children and teachers who struggle with anxiety, depression, perfectionism and other conditions or mindsets, I’ve felt SO MUCH manifesting energy and inspiration to go, and move my work forward! I will continue to do the inner work, to bring yoga and mindfulness to schools and to spread daily reminders to take time to breathe.” – Kayla Pohlabel
Follow Kayla on Instagram: @taketime2breathe
Check out our other inspiring stories of everyday yoga practitioners and please, #ShareToEmpowerALL ! We strive to empower others to get vulnerable, and be inspired to start a yoga practice of their own to bring in hope & possibility.