When I was in grade school, I suffered through exhausting gym classes that included tetherball (clearly this game was made up in the Midwest — a ball on a rope, tied to a pole…riveting), four square, kick ball and a favorite amongst teenage girls…dodgeball.
So you can see why I am a little jealous that fifth graders at PS 217 in Brooklyn are practicing yoga as opposed to dodging thick rubber balls being thrown at their face.
More than 15 million people practice yoga in this country and it’s therapeutic benefits are well-documented. And so it was no big stretch to get kids involved, which is what happened through a partnership with the not-for-profit Pencil Organization and a public school in Brooklyn.
“Sometimes children in an elementary school aren’t able to express themselves clearly when they’re frustrated, when they’re tired, when they’re stressed,” says PS 217 Principal Franca Conti. “We wanted them to find a way for them to release the stress in a very healthful way and that was thru yoga.”
Conti says yoga has helped her students be more focused and calm in class. The program was an immediate hit with the kids.
“It’s good to have yoga after school. You could get all the problems and things out of your head and just be calm and relaxed,” says fifth grader Doma Gurund.
Added Doma’s classmate Zain Iftikhar: “It can show my flexibility and it can show how brave I am.”
Yoga instructor Sheila Brody, who owns the clinic, Greenspa, says yoga is a great way to keep kids occupied and not stuck watching TV or playing video games.
“In this day when there’s computers and TV and radio and that’s where they’re putting their energy into a lot, this is a time that they have to connect with themselves,” she says. “Yoga itself is a non-competitive sport, so it brings the children back to work together to work out problems together and they don’t have to be competing all the time.”
The yoga program has been so successful at the school that they’re adding more classes and hope to be expanding it further in the future.
“Developing this discipline will make them better and healthier people, better citizens, and better able to cope in this very demanding world we live in today and that’s why we chose yoga,” said Conti.
Pencil is not-for-profit that puts schools and businesses together for student programs.