Yoga, mindfulness reap big benefits for Philadelphia elementary school

Students say it calms them, while principal says it has reduced disciplinary problems

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Thursday, December 7, 2017
Phila. elementary school adds yoga to daily curriculum
Philadelphia elementary school adds yoga to daily curriculum. Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5pm on December 7, 2017.

NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia charter school is piloting a different kind of elective: yoga and mindfulness for elementary school students.

First Philadelphia Prep Charter is one of the only schools in the city with yoga as part of the regular curriculum.

Many of the students Action News spoke with say it helps them throughout the day.

Teachers and administrators are also noticing the benefits.

Mrs. Ambrose's 3rd-grade students are practicing calming their minds and bodies with yoga.

Former teacher Mairin Matthews is now the Yoga and mindfulness instructor at First Philadelphia Prep. Charter School.

This is the second year yoga has been part of the curriculum.

"So just like students would receive music, art, gym, one of the special areas is yoga," says Matthews.

So far, it's been a hit with the kids.

"I think it's fun and it helps you calm down," commented one girl.

"Start to slowly lift your leg as you find your weight behind you," said Matthews as she led the students into a balance pose.

Matthews tailors the sessions specially for young students.

A movement piece gets their blood flowing.

The mindfulness aspect teaches kids to slow down, focus and gives them tools to control feelings and behaviors.

"It just helps me feel better and if I'm upset and come into the yoga room it's just so nice and so cool," said Reggie Moore.

C-E-O of the school, Joseph Gillespie says since starting the program, they've noticed a positive impact.

"There's fewer suspensions, fewer referrals for disiplinary actions and we are directly tying it to what the students are learning," noted Gillespie.

Each bi-weekly session ends with a relaxation exercise, but Matthews says the effects continue throughout the day.

"It kind of restores our energy so when we leave the classroom and go back to academic work we're ready to get going again," she said.

The yoga program runs 14 weeks and it's for Kindergarten through sixth grade.

And teaching yoga at a young age helps to create healthy habits that are more likely to stick as kids become adults.