I stood at the front of the room, my breath a bit shallow, a little nervous to look at the sea of young faces in front of me. I am not used to teaching children – a room full of adults is far less intimidating to me. I took a breath and let it out slowly, letting the butterflies in my stomach subside. I held a Tibetan bowl, the one I ring at the end of yoga class.
“I’m going to ring the bowl in a moment. I invite you to listen to the sound of the bowl until you can’t hear it anymore.”
This group of 2nd – 5th graders, some with eyes closed, some with their heads down in their arms, resting on the desk, listened with rapt attention. I firmly hit the mallet onto the copper bowl and the sound of the ring reverberated throughout the room. I rang it two more times, and then let the mallet rest down by my side, as the vibration rang out, expanded, and slowly softened and faded away. There was not another sound in the room, other than the ticking of the clock. It was still and quiet.
I slowly began to bring their attention to awareness of their breath in their belly. Watching the breath expand and fill up, watching as it softened out of them. We noticed other sensations in our bodies, we noticed sounds in the room, and kept coming back to our breath. They sat in this soft attention for about 10 minutes with my guidance.
At the end, I asked them how they felt or what they noticed.
“It felt like the sound of the bowl was raising me up and then dropping me down.”
“I’m calm and relaxed.”
“I feel peaceful.”
I completed my time with this bright, inquisitive group of young people, and then sat in the back of the room, watching the rest of their class. They were as energetic as ever, but there was an easy sense of calm in the room. The power of something as simple as bringing attention to the moment – to the sound of a bell, to their breath, to their bodies – was tangible.
* * *
Last year was a year of inquiry for me. Source Yoga is in its 13th year. I feel confident that we have made a difference in our little pocket of the world. I hear every day from you, the wonderful people that make up the Source community how being a part of the studio has positively impacted you. How the teachers, the classes, and the community of other students have enriched your life. How just walking in the doors of the studios and being greeted warmly by teachers and other students makes a difference in your day to day life.
My inquiry was, how can that difference that we are making have a wider impact? Who can we reach that may not as readily have access to the benefits of yoga and mindfulness? And how do we reach them? How can we expand the difference we are making, how can we give back, while at the same time remaining stable and strong as a business?
I sat with this inquiry for some time, writing, thinking, talking with trusted friends and mentors. I brought it to the teachers and staff in October and had a rich and vibrant dialogue with them about how Source Yoga can make a bigger difference in the greater Tacoma community.
And through this process of contemplation, I hit on what spoke deeply to my heart and my expression, and to the mission and vision of Source Yoga. I got clear that I want to bring yoga and mindfulness to our youth, to our schools. That Source Yoga has the influence and the resources to expand the benefits of yoga and mindfulness to young people who might not otherwise have access to an experience of it.
I began to do some research about yoga and mindfulness in our schools and found a lot of encouragement – many Tacoma schools are already integrating mindfulness into their classrooms, for teachers, staff, students, and parents. Sherman Elementary has implemented a school-wide mindfulness curriculum. Jason Leigh Middle School has Mindfulness breaks during the day, SAMi (Science and Math Institute), SOTA (Tacoma School of the Arts), and iDEA (Industry, Design, Engineering and Art), three innovative Tacoma Public high schools had an elective class this winter, Project Mindful. Source Yoga teachers Christine Hills and Megan Holt volunteer regularly at their children’s schools teaching yoga and mindfulness to students and teachers. I have students that are educators that bring mindfulness into the classroom with them. I know there are other schools introducing mindfulness in small and big ways.
I have connected with amazing teachers, principals, counselors, staff, and parents in our Tacoma Public Schools that are excited and passionate to further mindfulness being offered in the school district. Mindfulness curriculum is directly in line with the Whole Child Initiative which TPS is committed to, which puts equal value of students learning social-emotional skills as well as their academic curriculum.
Mindfulness offers a sense of slowing down and having more awareness of both what’s happening around you and inside of you. Research supports the importance of this slowing down – a calming of our nervous system – for our overall health and well-being. It allows us to respond to stress better and to make healthier choices. It is especially important in the fast pace and over stimulation of our modern lives. And even more essential for young people and the development of healthy brain patterns. We all want our children to have tools to be resilient, self-aware, and able to self-regulate when faced with stress, strong emotions, and overwhelm.
So how does Source Yoga fit into this? My commitment as the owner and director of Source Yoga studios, is to support yoga and mindfulness in our schools in whatever way I can. In the last couple of months, I have personally gone and taught mindfulness lessons for 2 different age groups, observed mindfulness curriculum in action in a local school, and have had countless conversations with teachers, administrators, and parents that are interested in just this.
A few steps I am actively taking towards this:
- Friday, March 23rd, Source Yoga will be hosting an evening of inquiry: Mindfulness in our Schools. Come together with others in our community to discuss how to most effectively bring Mindfulness Curriculum into our schools. Co-hosted by Source Yoga, Anne Tsuneishi (principal, Sherman Elementary), and Celesta Smith (Student in the Mindful Schools Certification Program). Learn more here.
- March 20th, I will be starting the next Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) series.This is an 8 week evidence based Mindfulness program, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachucets Medical Center. I am offering 2 half price scholarships specifically for Tacoma Public Schools educators. Learn more about the program here, and contact us if you are interested.
- Mindfulness for Teens: In May, we will offer our first Mindfulness for Teens workshop. I have had a number of inquiries about teens taking the MBSR course with me. The MBSR program is designed for and researched on adults, but we are currently in development of a Mindfulness for teens program. Save the date for an afternoon workshop for youth 13-17: Saturday, May 19th, 2-4pm. More info to come soon.
If you are an educator or a yoga or mindfulness teacher interested in bringing your skills to education, I hope to see you on the 23rd to further this discussion. I look forward to working with the Source Yoga community to expand the difference we are all making.