Calming Kids Through Yoga

by Dave on August 22, 2009

by Paige Lauren Deiner

Sitting in a lop-sided circle ten women and a man began to sing.

“Namasté. Namasté.

We are here toooo say.

I am light. You are light.


Hey. Hey. Hey”

The tempo grew frenetic. Hand motions punctuated each line. The participants in the Calming Kids: Creating a Non-Violent World workshop moved more like head-bangers than yoga students.

A few minutes later, the singers moved as if encased in Jell-O as the song’s tempo slowed. The energy in The Yoga Studio, located in Peddler’s Village on Route 24, shifted from wild and crazy to slow and relaxed as the participants breathed deeply and purposefully at the end of each line of the song. People smiled, visibly relaxed.

Frenetic to peaceful was the message of the three-day training, in which participants learned how to help children become “Peaceful Warriors.” The program is based on the yogic principle of ahimsa, which means non-violence toward self and others. Children, educators and caregivers learn life skills to help them stay balanced “in mind, body and love” through the six-day program, said Dee Marie, the founder of the program and a 20-year Certified Yoga Therapist based in Boulder, Colo.

Schools in Colorado have been using the six-day program with impressive results since 2004. A pilot study in 2005 showed that at participating schools there was a 94 percent decrease in hitting at school, and a 61 percent decrease in children feeling angry for no reason. In 2007 students reported that they were less distracted by other students and better able to focus on their teachers.

A group of yoga enthusiasts hope to bring the program, or components of it, to Delaware schools this year. Andrea Kennedy, a 20-year yoga veteran who owns The Yoga Studio, sponsored the workshop, which was taught by Marie.

As the workshop progressed participants learned breathing exercises, meditations and yoga positions to help children come into harmony with their bodies and their school community.
At one point participants sat in a circle staring at a lit candle. Little by little the world melted away as people’s intention became focused solely on the flickering light. During another part of the workshop people practiced Sun Salutations and learned how the series of moving poses could be modified for different age groups.

Angela McMillon, a Lewes-based personal trainer and fitness and yoga instructor, found the moving postures and balance poses to be the most interesting part of the training.

“I liked how she did the balance poses,” she said. Marie taught participants how to link balance poses, which are generally done in isolation, flow. People learned to move from Warrior III (which looks like a spiral in ice skating) to Half Moon (which is the same pose just with one hand on the floor) back to Warrior III.

Like many people who participated in the workshop, McMillon believe that introducing young children to yoga would help them as they get into their teens.

“I feel that if children start learning yoga in elementary school that it will help them get through their high school years more easily,” she said. “I would really like to see this work. I think for the majority of people it will.”

Marie believes that great change can occur in schools when one entire grade learns the program.

“It starts the trickle down effect,” she said.

She dreams of the day when the Calming Kids program will be a part of the curriculum across the country.

“I would love it to be in school systems across the country, nationally, and internationally as a program that decreases violence and bullying and increases community to help our next generation with their lives,” Marie said.

This article first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, July 16, 2009.

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