Ever think about the stress that youngsters go through and how they deal with it?
Mindful Movement by TRY (Trauma Recovery Yoga ~ TRY for Kids) classes are offered in partnership with the City of Las Vegas in over a dozen valley schools. Over 10,000 students and staff benefit from these classes, increasing stress relief and improving behavior and grades. The number of classes will increase as TRY trains additional teachers in the method.
The students served by MM by TRY attend designated Title 1 schools. These schools are provided funding by a federal education law that is intended to help economically disadvantaged students to succeed. Many of the children attending the Title 1 schools are low income whose parents are uneducated. They may come to school hungry, lack nutritious food choices at home, live in unsafe conditions, lack sleep, are alone for long periods while their parents work, witness or experience violence, and the list goes on. In addition to these factors, children of today have always in the back of their minds = active shooters. Drills are conducted multiple times during the school year in the Clark County School District, including those specifically for active shooter situations which includes hard lockdowns.
That all adds up to a lot of stress for children, in addition to what they might experience on a daily basis; low self esteem, confidence issues, bullying, fear of failure, and an inability to regulate emotions or respond appropriately to different situations, which could result in behavioral issues.
Mindful Movement classes are taught by caring, empathetic teachers who relate to the children on their level, not as an adult telling them what to do. And even the littlest kids can benefit from Mindful Movement.
I recently attended a Mindful Movement class taught by Ziya. She was given a class of kindergarteners on this particular morning. We were ushered out to the school’s beautiful outdoor garden space; the ground was covered in a nice green turf material. We laid out all the mats for the kids and when they arrived, they chose their own spots. For the next 35 minutes or so, I watched as she led them in various breathing, grounding and centering exercises, which moved on to easy yoga poses from the TRY method. TRY does not utilize any complicated yoga poses. It is designed for all levels, from the beginner who has never stepped foot on a yoga mat, to the seasoned yogi who can balance on one foot while holding a pose.
For the most part, all the kids participated to their ability. They might have been facing the opposite direction in certain poses, but it was clear they were paying attention to Ziya. At the end of class, each child picked up their own mat and helped roll it up and brought it to the cart where the yoga supplies are stored. They did so happily and it was nice to see cooperation and participation by these youngsters.
“Namaste” (nah-ma-stay) is what we say at the conclusion of a class. When asked what they thought this word meant, there were interesting responses from students. One thoughtful child said, “I think it means to keep your eyes towards the light.” Another student said it means “love and light.” And a 5 year old boy told Ziya, “Flowers bloom. To bloom means to grow. People bloom, too.” She confided in me that he had started out as one of the kids who had a hard time listening and following instructions. “Now he is my example for the others. It shows how much Mindful Movement has shifted him. He told me, ‘Yeah. I do it on my carpet at home.'” For a 5 year old to remember doing yoga at school and then to do it at home of his own accord, well, that says something.
When asked the reason for teaching TRY is, Ziya replied, “I’d like to express to you the pure bliss that runs through my entire being when I get to deliver messages of hope, love, empowerment, self- respect/awareness/care to the minds of our school age children. Taking a moment to show young people the light that lives inside of them is a real honor and a blessing. I get to allow them to see themselves through a different perspective. Just for a moment they are reminded of their worth, strength, beauty and innate love. Perhaps they gather one tool, one piece of information or experience one feeling that they can carry with them into a dark place or throughout their lives. And if it makes a difference in even one life, it makes it all so worth it.”
Phoenix Steffen is a teacher of first through fifth graders in a downtown Title 1 school. She started adding breathing, meditation and self affirmations to her classroom time with positive results. During the school’s “Reading Week”, she read a mindfulness book to eight different classes, grades K-5. She shared a loving kindness meditation we use in Trauma Recovery Yoga which says, “May I be well, happy and peaceful, may love come to me, may strength come to me, may harmony come to me. May my family be well, happy and peaceful, may love come to them, may harmony come to them. May my friends be well, happy and peaceful, may love come to them, may harmony come to them. May my neighbors be well, happy and peaceful, may love come to them, may strength come to them, may harmony come to them. May all living beings be well, happy and peaceful, may love come to them, may strength come to them, may harmony come to them. May the entire world be filled with love and peace. The students were very receptive to it all.
I observed Phoenix leading Mindful Movement at a local Title 1 school for two different classes. The second graders followed along well with her directions and enjoyed their time in this activity. The teachers I’ve spoken with during this project are grateful for the addition of this time to help their students with the challenges they face. The majority of students in the fifth grade class participated in the sequence; Phoenix later told me that a boy approached her after class and apologized for not participating. He revealed that several of the girls had been making fun of the boys who did the yoga. She responded to him in a positive manner, telling him that whatever he did on his mat was his choice, and not that of others. One of the most important messages of Trauma Recovery Yoga, for everyone – not just kids – is the power of choice. When you step into a Trauma Recovery Yoga class, you and your body decide what you want to do; even if you choose to just sit or lie down on your mat and breathe, you are doing yoga. He thought about her comment for a moment, and responded in agreement.
Another positive part of this method for these students are the self-affirmation stars that welcome them to their mats before they enter the room. “I am smart”, “I am amazing”, and “I am strong” are but some examples of the self-affirmations. “Superstar” paper stars are placed upon their mats by their teacher as they participate in the class.
Trauma Recovery Yoga classes for all ages and abilities are held on various days and times at the Downtown Yoga and Wellness Co-op. The full class schedule and descriptions can be found by going to https://www.dtlvcoop.com/class-schedule. The Co-op is located at 701 East Bridger Avenue, Suite 150, Las Vegas NV 89101 inside the Driven Neurorecovery Center. Free parking is available M-F 6am -6pm in the underground garage accessed on 8th Street, and on Bridger Avenue and 8th Street after 6pm and on the weekends.