One of the big challenges through these weeks of lockdown has been making sure our kids get the physical activity they need – not to mention that we get the activity we need, too. But it’s arguably even more important for children. Their bodies and brains are still developing, after all. Regular physical activity supports their good physical, cognitive, and emotional growth.
One option that more parents have been turning to is what a growing number of teachers and counselors have incorporated into their work, as well: our Empower program.
This video-based curriculum brings together physical activity, mindfulness, and science lessons about how bodies and brains work together through a series of episodes hosted by Mandy B, and her sweet dog Junebug (who has since become popular enough to merit a website of her own, complete with a growing library of kid-centric activities).
“Kids immediately bond with Junebug,” says Vickie Soli-Compton, a counselor for the lower school at Oregon Episcopal School, a college preparatory independent school here in Portland serving students from preK through 12th grade.
Normally when you show a video, you’ll see a few kids in front who are very interested, a few kids in back who are very distracted, and the mass in the middle. That doesn’t happen with Empower. Every child is engaged. And they remember what they learned. They remember the brain science and the brain/body connection.
Movement Changes Everything
This kind of engagement, Vickie says, isn’t limited to the population she works with now, where classroom yoga was a familiar concept, so buy-in was relatively easy. Before this year, she worked as a counselor and child development specialist for 16 years at Parklane Elementary, a school with an extremely disadvantaged population.
Parklane was where Vickie first began using Yoga Calm about 7 years ago, after colleagues inspired her to attend our Summer Intensive. “It changed how I did counseling completely,” she says. Before, the focus was on solving problems – how to handle conflicts, what to do about bullying. There’d be no movement. Now, she explains, mindful movement is integral to her theme-based lessons, whether working with full classes or small groups to reduce stress, build confidence, increase emotional regulation, nurture social-emotional skills, and learn calming strategies.
“One student I have worked with this year,” she says,
is an older elementary student who was struggling with confidence, anxiety, and social connections. She was given the opportunity to teach younger kindergarten students Yoga Calm! She has really flourished in her leadership and confidence.
“The Empower Program Has Been Magical for My Students”
Last year, she decided to give Empower a try, starting with her kindergarteners at the beginning of the school year. Not only did they develop an instant fondness for Junebug, they really loved the follow-along yoga that ends each segment.
“They love rewatching the videos, too – almost like reading a book,” says Vickie. “That surprised me a little, because they always complain if I ever repeat myself while teaching, but with Empower, they want the same experience again and again.”
As with Yoga Calm, the kids eventually become familiar enough with the poses that they can lead activities themselves, which is especially welcome during transition times to help calm the class and bring them into focus. The leadership skills this encourages are a real confidence-booster, as well as another opportunity to work on communications skills and empathy.
“The Empower program has been magical for my students,” Vickie says. “And the great thing is that it takes little to no prep. You can put it in place right away” Because of this, she’s working on making Empower available to all of the teachers in the lower school.
Especially during unprecedented times like these, if your school can give access to this wonderful program, it’s really such a gift, bringing the body and neuroscience together in an engaging way.
“And if you can take the Summer Intensive or even just one class with its creators Lynea and Jim, it could be life-changing for your practice as a counselor or pedagogy as a teacher. Trying out tools like Volcano Breath and the breathing sphere are a great way to enhance any classroom, counseling session, or the entire school!”
And right now, you can try out Empower for yourself for one month for free. Head over to the Empower website to get started…