Silence. Stillness. Meditation. These are words that make you want to inhale a deep breath and let it out ever so slowly. You may imagine a yoga studio with clean lines, soft lighting and bamboo floors. Your imagination likely did not conjure up an elementary or middle school classroom.
Yet Citizens of the World (CWC) Silver Lake, a public elementary and middle school charter in L.A., is weaving yoga and mindfulnness into its curriculum, which aims for an intentional focus on social-emotional development. “Yoga is an equitable and culturally respectful way to engage students to practice self-regulation,” says CWC Silver Lake teacher Liz Kleinrock, who is also a certified children’s yoga teacher.
Kleinrock incorporates aspects of her personal practice into the daily yoga routine she does with 24 students at CWC Silver Lake. “It teaches us to find stillness between periods of activity and movement,” she says. In addition to doing yoga, students in Kleinrock’s class keep a mindfulness journal, which allows them to reflect on their yoga practice to raise their awareness.
“We all become more aware of ourselves, and class is more calm and quiet. We think about things we don’t ever think about [when] we are always distracted,” says one of Kleinrock’s students.
While research is scant, the few studies that have been conducted suggest a generally positive effect on decreasing anxiety and increasing cognitive performance, according to a JAMA Internal Medicine review. Kleinrock witnesses the benefits firsthand. “I have taught a student who had difficulty controlling his anger when confronted with a conflict, yet he was one of the most focused during mindfulness and meditation,” she says. “He would often talk about taking breaths and reflect on how he was feeling, and even grew comfortable sharing his emotions with the class.”
CWC Silver Lake is free and registration is now open for students in grades TK through 8 for fall 2018. For more information about CWC Silver Lake, visit http://www.cwcsilverlake.org.