A class of Schuster Elementary first graders listened calmly to their teacher as she guided them through yoga-based movements and breathing techniques.
”Inhale seated sunset, exhale seated sunrise,” coach Lalena Flores said in her most soothing voice. ”Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your nose.”
Coaches at Douglass, Zavala, Burleson, Hillside, Milam, Schuster, Fannin, Herrera and Western Hills were trained the stress reduction program in February and began implementing it with their students in the spring.
”The program was developed as a way to provide children with skills that have been shown to minimize stress, lower incidences of bullying and violence, and improve school attendance and academic performance,” said John Adams, director of Health Wellness and Physical Education. ”We are hoping to add more campuses each year.”
Soft instrumental music played in the background as Schuster students moved in and out of poses guided by Flores. Standing mountain, cobra, tree, bridge and triangle are only some examples of the poses the first graders stretched themselves into.
”I have seen them more focused,” Flores said. ”They actually have more energy and their memory is better, too. I am impressed that they remember the sequences.”
The session ends with guided rest, which brings students onto the floor for relaxation and breathing allowing them to become more mindful of their bodies.
”This is time for your brain and muscles to relax,” Flores told the student. ”We are like toys. We wind up and go and now we need to unwind.”
The initial part of the PE class along with the movements and stretches get the students’ blood flowing while the guided rest helps send them back to the classroom ready to work.
”It helps them maintain their focus in the classroom,” Flores said. ”They are awake and alert.”
After the session, Flores affirms what the students learned by asking questions.
”What do we do when someone in school makes us upset?” she asked the class.
Students replied: ”Stop. Take a breath. Observe your emotions. Proceed with awareness.”
”How do you feel?” she asked them.
”I feel happy,” student Raymond Carrera said. ”It helps you think and learn better and focus.”
His classmate, Joseph Campos, added: ”It helps you relax your brain.”
Flores witnessed the positive influence the new program has had on students and how they are putting these new self-coping skills to good use. She was in the cafeteria and saw a student get angry and clinch his fist. His first reaction was to go to a corner and focus on his breathing.
”It teaches them to self-soothe themselves,” Flores said. ”We all get upset but this helps make them aware of their emotions and how to bring themselves down.”