Yoga summer program teaches mindfulness in South Jersey

PINE HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Pine Hill Middle School teachers Lisa Short and Maria Casciotta are also registered yoga instructors who lead a yoga club during the school year.

Using a grant, they organized a free, three-week summer program for around 25 students, focusing on yoga and mindfulness.

"We talk about being mindful so that we can maybe be reflective instead of reactive, and helps all of us - not just kids - maybe calm down, deal with some anxiety," explained Short, who is a math teacher.

Each pose and each moment are opportunities for reflection. The calm and quiet allow students to recognize their emotions and be purposeful in the behavior they choose.

The program is called Practicing Awareness and Wellness for Success, or PAWS for short. The acronym alludes to the school mascot, the Panthers, and also the importance of taking a pause.

"You feel like everything's happening. All this stuff is coming together at once, and we learn to take the time to be," said 13-year-old John Ekar.

Cell phones are deposited in a box at the door.

Students begin with quiet activities like journaling, Legos, and puzzles, as they take a break from technology.

Casciotta who is also a Language Arts teacher elaborated, "The fast-paced technology, and the social media, it is so easy to just put and blast out there something that you're feeling or that you're responding to, I think we all as a society need to take a moment and really think about how we are interacting."

"I've actually learned how to calm my emotions and live in the moment rather than worry about things in the future, " 13-year-old Sarah Massey told 6abc.

14-year-old Emily Williams added, "I normally use it when I have very bad anxiety, and I just focus on my breathing and it calms me down."

This program could be particularly significant for middle school students.

Guidance counselor Brittany Adams said, "It's such a critical, critical age that we work with here in middle school, and to be able to foster that development of that identity, help them figure out what's important to them, what their values are."

Not every moment will be quiet, but the idea is to apply pieces of their breathing techniques and mindfulness, even amid chaos.

"We rush through life, and we don't take the time to notice, and I think that's really what we're asking," summed up Short.

Namaste.
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