While sitting on the ground with their eyes closed, a group of students at Union Intermediate School imagined holding a flower in one hand.
“I want you to close your eyes, breath in and smell that flower,” said Tanya Robinson-Freeman, health and physical education instructor.
In the other hand, they blew out the candle and slowly took more deep breaths before exhaling. Next, she asked the students to share what they were grateful for since Thanksgiving is coming soon. Some of their responses included family, parents and God.
Monday’s meditation lesson is one many yoga techniques being taught at Union Intermediate. The school received a grant from Yoga Foster, a nonprofit program that provides training to teachers with a goal of bringing movement and mindfulness to the classroom. Its founder, Nicole Cardoza, traveled from Seattle and spent time speaking to children about the discipline widely practiced for health and relaxation.
“In this practice, you may notice that you feel different and move differently than other people,” Cardoza said. “But it’s really important to be an individual and celebrate what makes you different.”
Cardoza, a 2017 Forbes 30 under 30 awardee, also spoke about entrepreneurship and the possibilities of being a business owner. Cardoza started Yoga Foster about three years ago, following experiences as a volunteer yoga instructor. She provides training to teachers through her education in mobile and web development.
In 2016, Union Intermediate received yoga mats and lessons plans through a grant from Yoga Foster. Robinson-Freeman showed appreciation for the grant and for Cardoza taking time to visit Union Intermediate.
“The kids are really enjoying it,” Robinson-Freeman said. “I did not expect the excitement they all had.”
With more education, Robinson-Freeman expressed how she’s becoming better at teaching yoga to students and anyone else who wants to learn.
“Not only for the students, but I find that after we do the yoga classes, I needed it more than they needed it,” she said.
Students Stephanie Ventura and Ruth Serrano enjoyed moving around and learning different techniques.
“It makes me feel happy,” Serrano said.
During the visit, Cardoza answered a lot of questions about business and inspired a lot of students to become entrepreneurs. Ventura is thinking about becoming a veterinarian and Serrano is thinking about working with animals too.
Along with setting future goals, Cardoza expressed how she wants students to use yoga techniques in the class. Yoga Foster support teachers in 39 states throughout the United States. According to their data more than 93 percent reported increases in physical aptitude. More than 88 percent of educators said it improved academic performance.
“We always tell kids to pay attention, but we never teach them how,” she said. “Yoga is a great way to build awareness and help foster a sense of self-regulation. It’s understanding how you’re feeling, your emotions and tools to cope.”
Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.