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Youth Yoga Project Brings Yoga Into Schools

Nancy Alkire Nancy Alkire Youth Yoga Project Brings Yoga Into Schools
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“Getting kids to calm down and breathe can be the difference between them staying in the classroom and learning … or not,” says educator Julia Handelman. “Learning to persevere when something is hard, becoming mindful with others around you, … these are skills kids learn on yoga mats. And they have fun!”

Her partner in the newly formed Youth Yoga Project, Lauren Greenspan, agrees.

“I have seen high school kids at the start of the school day practically exploding with noise and energy, but 45 minutes of yoga can get them really focused for the school day,” she says.

These two Columbus natives recently created the Youth Yoga Project, a non-profit organization that brings yoga into schools. They are kicking off with a donation yoga class at Balanced Yoga on March 5 to raise funds and hopefully get some yoga mats.

“We would love to have people donate old mats!” they said. Starting this Spring, 2017, their Youth Yoga Project will bring yoga and mindfulness training into several Columbus schools, including Cedar Wood Elementary and Gahanna Lincoln High School.

School counselor Greenspan notes that, “As educators, we known the challenges that schools, teachers, and kids face. Our Yoga Youth Project meets both CASEL and Ohio Physical Education standards to help kids both physically and mentally. It is really fun to see the boys get into the strength-building poses that are challenging, but it is also about being flexible mentally. Learning to breathe to calm yourself before a math test, for example.”

“I worked with kids and yoga in NYC schools,” said Handelman, a Columbus Public Schools graduate. “I saw very positive things happen there. Some kids bring a lot of trauma in with them. When I moved back to Columbus [for her curriculum job], I knew that getting kids access to yoga in schools would be my passion project. Columbus is a great city, but I realized as I was growing up here that not every kid had access to things, like BalletMet classes, that I did. I want to work to break down those barriers.”

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Yoga is also useful for teachers and other school staff. It is well-known that yoga and mindful breathing can reduce the stress hormone cortisol. In addition to creating programs for K-12 youth, Greenspan and Handelman can also bring their programs into schools for the adults working there.

“We work hard to make it comfortable and accessible to everyone,” says Greenspan.

“One of the really fun things,” says Handelman, “has been connecting with the yoga community here in Columbus. The owners of Balanced Yoga, Bexley Yoga, and Bluespot have all been very supportive. Another fund-raiser for the Yoga Youth Project will be held later this year at Bluespot in Bexley.”

“I was thrilled that Leah Westwater [of Balanced Yoga] agreed to be on our board,” says Greenspan.

The Yoga Youth Project is a non-profit providing yoga and wellness programming for young people to improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being and increase their academic success. Youth Yoga brings yoga programming into schools during the regular school day and for after-school programs and as well as in community settings. A donation class/fundraiser will be held at Balanced Yoga on March 5 from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m., and an adult donation-based yoga class is scheduled at Blue Spot Bexley from 4 p.m. -5 p.m. on March 18.

For more information, visit youthyogaproject.net.

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