The fluorescent classroom lights dim as the kindergarteners scramble to find an open area in the classroom. Mrs. Cook, one of the Kolling kindergarten teachers, instructs her students to grab one of the fluffy blue carpet squares from a bin in the corner. The kids line up to grab one and then spread out, eager to engage in their afternoon activity: yoga.
Every so often, Cook leads her class in a yoga exercise to relax their minds and stretch after sitting at their desks throughout the day. She believes physical stretching is just as important as mental stretching, as it helps them focus better during instruction time.
“Throughout the day we will start new lessons by taking deep breaths and shaking out the wiggles. It’s a great way to transition from one activity to the next,” Cook said.
Cook finds the yoga videos on a YouTube channel geared toward young children. Each of the videos follows a story, and each yoga pose goes along with the characters and plot. These exercises are meant to help kids release energy so they can focus during class.
“Yoga has many health benefits to suit everyone of all ages. Yoga allows students to use their imaginations [and] move muscles in ways that they otherwise might not during a school day. Yoga also allows them an opportunity to take deep breaths, slow down and relax. After a yoga session they’re ready to focus on a task and have energy to work through a lesson. It’s also a chance for them to take a thoughtful break/restful moment during a pretty busy day,” Cook said.
This activity also gives Cook a chance to get to know her students better. She hopes to not only prepare them for school but also make them feel accepted both in and out of the classroom.
“I really hope my students leave our classroom knowing they are loved and accepted for who they are and that they are special just the way they are,” Cook said.