Aubree Stevens pointed her toes and held her body up straight and flat like a slide, stretching her neck and looking straight up at the ceiling. Then she rocked back down on her beach towel, put her feet flat together and gently pulled them toward her, mimicking yoga poses of her McFall kindergarten teacher.
“I love it. It makes me feel good,” said Aubree after about 15 minutes of yoga right in her classroom.
Kindergarten classmate Dylan Wallach gladly showed off his strength and balance in a balancing frog pose and Cameron Mancuso said his favorite yoga pose is “the one where we get to roar like a lion.”
Carissa Caskey said she likes the fish sit the best. “I just love how it makes me feel better when we’re done,” she said of the yoga stretches. “I feel happy.”
At least once or twice a week, McFall kindergarten teacher Jasmine Koster has her students practicing yoga in the classroom with a program called “Sing Song Yoga” developed especially for children. Students follow yoga pose instructions given in a sing-song version using music and rhythm.
“We use it in between lessons as a transitional tool. It reinforces concentration and gives students a brain break,” said Koster. “The afternoons can sometimes get long and we just need to have a little break and a little calm.”
Koster said she’s thrilled to be able to combine her two passions - teaching kindergarten and doing yoga. She’s been teaching at McFall four years and been practicing yoga for about six years. She started incorporating Sing Song Yoga in her classroom immediately. She said most of the other kindergarten teachers at McFall also use the program developed by Deb Weiss-Gelmi.
Koster said she sees many benefits to using yoga in the classroom.
“Sing Song Yoga is a great way to transition from one lesson to the next as a way for the students to refocus their attention and concentration,” Koster said. “It has been a wonderful tool to help create a sense of calm within our classroom.”
She said it also helps students realize the importance of caring for their bodies. “I see their flexibility, coordination and strength improving. And that’s really fun to watch progress.”
She said she also loves seeing how proud the students are of themselves when they master a new pose for the first time. “They are so excited and so proud. It just helps build their self-confidence, ” she said.
No students, she said, are ever made to feel uncomfortable during the exercises. She said it’s not a competition in any way and she encourages each student to simply try to do their best, even if they can’t do all the poses.
Koster said her students request to do yoga often, but she limits it to once or twice a week when she feels her students need a break from classes and sitting still.
“We’re not meant to sit still all day. So getting up and doing something physical is important. Yoga involves concentration, but it’s also very calming and a good way to get kids out of their seats for awhile,” she said.
“It’s important for the students to know why we are doing this - that it’s just for fun. It helps draw them back into more self-awareness and has a real calming effect,” she said. “It helps them be better students. I find they are more relaxed and ready to focus again on the next lesson.”
Since using the program in her classroom, Koster said parents have started using it at home as well. “I always get really positive feedback from the families,” said Koster. “Some of them use Sing Song Yoga at home now as a calming exercise before bed or sometimes when they (students) just have a stressful situation at home.”
Koster said she’s very passionate about yoga herself and hopes to earn a yoga teaching certification so she can teach yoga classes in the summer.
Weiss-Gelmi came up with Sing Song Yoga as a way of using music, movement and fun together to naturally help students physically and emotionally. Sing Song Yoga offers the ability to create individualized yoga sequences or choose from one of the 39 preprogrammed sequences already in place. There are preprogrammed sequences designed specifically for brain breaks or test preps.
Koster said the beauty of the program is that anyone can do it and students may continue to find yoga a useful tool in their lives long after kindergarten.
For more information about Sing Song Yoga, visit singsongyoga.com.