Those of you who have known us or the program for a while know that Yoga Calm was born out of real world, classroom need.
At the time – right around the turn of the millennium – Lynea was working as a counselor in a rural Oregon elementary school, where, as we write in Yoga Calm for Children, she
began to see a steady increase of students with extreme behavioral issues. Some had been diagnosed with severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while others had been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder or autism. Some came from traumatic backgrounds. As their counselor, Lynea observed how hard it was for them to sit in a group and share. She felt they needed opportunities to manage and direct their strong feelings and impulses – like those of the young boy she saw one day crouch under a table in a fetal position, screaming, “Help me! Can anyone please help me!” This child’s obvious pain touched her deeply. She wanted to help him find peace in his small body. She could see the trauma he physically held, how his instinct to protect himself drove him under the table – a common way for wounded children to self-soothe.
Through her own yoga practice and counseling work, Lynea had learned to listen to the body and the heart to find a path toward healing. When the body opens, emotions can be released, and the body and heart grow strong together. She wanted to help her students experience these benefits. She believed that a practice that was both physically and emotionally supportive could help these children and others like them.
The increase in ADHD, autism and behavioral disorders that led us to develop Yoga Calm is just one set of health issues facing kids today – and one sign that perhaps we, as a society, have been less than diligent when it comes to supporting children’s health. The growing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes tell the same story, as do increases in other mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.
Feeding such health problems are a number of disturbing trends including lack of quality sleep, overexposure to electronic media and violent imagery, sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary habits. Add to these any number of life stressors such as economic insecurity, family troubles, trauma and loss and ever increasing academic pressures.
It says something about the profound resilience of children that so many thrive in the face of so many challenges.
But there is good news. Interest in holistic education is growing, and teachers all across the country are finding ways to teach that develop healthier habits. Yoga Calm is on the cutting edge of this change. We can provide more opportunities for kids to get active, even as we continue to focus on the good things we are already doing. We’re becoming better role models ourselves, and as we begin to make wise life choices, we teach children how to make positive life choices, too.
Our vision of the future is that we will make more time for community, to be active together, talking with and listening to each other instead of zoning out on ever more ubiquitous screens. We can follow the sage advice of Gandhi and be the change we wish to see in the world – and see in our children.
This week is Child Health Week here in the United States. What commitment are you ready to make – or reaffirm – to improve and support the health of our most precious national resource?
Image by RebeccaBoyd via Flickr