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Yoga Helps Students Listen and Focus

Pat Lavey taught for 35 years in Manchester before retiring five years ago, but is now back in our schools introducing elementary students to yoga and the benefits of what she calls “mindfulness.”

It is not a discipline program or methodology, she says. “It’s a way of life.”

Lavey, who has been practicing yoga for more than 10 years, spends most of her week these days at a school in Hartford bringing yoga to youngsters, but on Fridays she visits Washington Elementary.

Last Friday, she visited 13 classrooms, spending 10-20 minutes in each. Students sits in a circle with her, and she leads them in a series of calming exercises - mostly involving breathing. Various yoga poses are incorporated into the lessons, as well. She uses books, music and many props to conduct each session.

Yoga, a practice that started in India thousands of years ago, is becoming increasingly popular in the United States..The word “yoga” means “union” in Sanskrit -- referring to the coming together of mind (thoughts and feelings) and physical body. People often say they feel an overall sense of well-being when doing yoga.

Advocates say that children, especially, can benefit from yoga in many ways. For example it helps to increase student focus and concentration. There is also raised self-awareness and understanding of others. Yoga/mindfulness can help students self-regulate and de-stress. For full benefits in the classroom, teachers are encouraged to practice “mindful minutes” throughout the school day.

While at Washington last week, Lavey said a para educator shared an anecdote that was uplifting.

“The para said she was with some fifth-graders in a (specials) class and they were pretty wound up,” Lavey recalled. “One of the kids said, ‘We all should slow down and breathe.’”

Lavey has been at Washington since just January, so she said she is especially heartened to hear stories like that, knowing that some students are applying healthy techniques already.

She often ends her visits by having students repeat a word she has taught them -- “Namaste.”

“The good in me, honors the good in you,”  she says, and the students say the same.

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