• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Yoga has ‘limitless possibilities’ in schools

Beginning next school year, Melody Hamilton says she will start teaching a yoga and fitness class as part of her physical education curriculum at Woodford County High School.

Hamilton joined 11 students from WCHS in a class taught by Maggie Yeung at Homegrown Yoga last week. They will earn their certifications as yoga instructors after completing 200 hours of instruction, which is an independent study class for the students.

Before the WCHS juniors and seniors are certified, they will gain valuable experience teaching yoga in elementary schools this school year under Yeung’s guidance. One of her students, Breanna Willis, led sessions of yoga instruction during Wellness Night at Simmons Elementary School Sept. 13.

“It’s really a positive way,” said WCHS senior Payton Baxter-Wilhoit of yoga, “to get kids to think about themselves and their bodies – mindfulness.”

Students of all ages can benefit from learning to control their body movement and breathing by practicing yoga, said Chief Academic Officer of Woodford County schools Jimmy Brehm. He pointed to growing research that shows yoga especially benefits younger students who are just beginning to learn how to control their emotions when they get upset.

Because the demands of life are accelerating for everyone, Brehm said it’s important to set aside time for students to be in control, calm and mindful.

“The studies are showing… when we do that – when we’re intentional about that time for kids – their rest of the day is so much more productive. They’re more attentive. They’re more focused,” explained Brehm.

He said students who are certified this school year through this pilot program, and want to continue gaining experience as yoga instructors, will be paired with elementary schools next school year.

“There’s going to be limitless possibilities, and we’re going to kind of see how our elementary schools want to use it and which model’s going to work most effectively,” said Brehm. “But all of our principals are very eager (to bring yoga into their schools), and they’re eager because they know the potential that it has with kids.”

Yeung said she’ll work with principals to implement yoga instruction programs that work best for a school’s needs.

“I’m excited that the entire public school system was so accepting and excited about a program like this. This is incredibly forward-thinking,” said Yeung, 26.

The curriculum for her instructor’s course, approved by the Yoga Alliance, was designed so high school instructors can teach yoga to younger students, but also to help them deal with their own emotions, she said. “So we’re tackling some of the battles of being 16 or 17 years old and how to cope with those (feelings),” Yeung explained.

The WCHS graduate brought yoga into Woodford County schools as a volunteer before her involvement with the pilot program for high school students, who are also gaining skills this school year to pursue a job or career – like she did.

“Every city has a demand for yoga instructors,” said Yeung. “So whether they go to a small town – like here or Midway – (or to larger city)… there’s a need.”

Brehm said the district spends about $5,000 a year at each of its schools for social and emotional learning programs. A cost of $2,000 per student for the yoga pilot program was paid with those dollars. Hamilton’s training was paid with professional development dollars for continuing education, he said.

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