Grade 6 students at Stratford Elementary school in Stratford, P.E.I. are adding some yoga, mindfulness and meditation to their studies this fall.
"I've been wanting to teach in the schools for some time now," said Samantha Sambrooke, director of Maritime Yoga College based out of a yoga studio just up the road from the school.
"The sooner you can learn aspects of the yoga practice the better. It's really great to have these tools to use at your disposal as you go through life."
The six week program is funded by the Arts and Culture Committee of the Town of Stratford, which spends $12,000 annually on an artist in residence program.
Sambrooke applied for one of three positions in 2017 and was successful.
'It will calm them'
Town councillor Gail MacDonald, who chairs the committee, said she hopes getting kids started early might make a positive impact later on.
"Get them to know and appreciate yoga so they may continue using yoga in their adult lives," she said.
"In this fast paced world that we're all living in, that it will calm them."
Sambrooke teaches the students yoga poses, but also meditation and more.
"Breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques and I even weave in some yoga philosophy," Sambrooke said.
"Because it is a part of their Grade 6 curriculum to start seeing how they fit in with their community and start to understand their impact on the environment."
There are also themes to the classes, such as non-harming and truthfulness.
"Sometimes the words we say about ourselves to ourselves can be harmful so today we're trying to turn that around and come up with a personal mantra or saying that is more positive," Sambrooke said.
"Hopefully they're taking these themes and noticing them off the mat as well."
The lessons seem to be having an impact.
"She's been talking about how to focus in on everything and not harming yourself," said Grade 6 student Sophia Stephens.
"I've learned deep breaths and taking everything slow," added student Malorie MacNeill.
"That you can do it literally anywhere and relax —not when you're driving obviously —but you can relax and think about everything and just calm down."
"They were very focused on balance and their bodies and it just seemed to be something that they weren't used to doing," said Stratford Elementary principal Janet Cameron.
"They were trying at the same time to be more focused which is sometimes very difficult for a student in Grade 4, 5 or 6."
"I have noticed a difference, I have to say, with their focus and I do hope they keep up with it and they practice because that's when they will really reap the most benefits," Sambrooke said.
"What I hope I've done here is just plant some seeds so that if a student ever finds themselves in a situation where they're stressed out or they're feeling anxious or they just need to focus, they can go back to something we did in class."
Sambrooke will be offering a yoga program for kids through Maritime Yoga College next year so more yoga instructors, teachers, parents or anyone working with kids can learn how to teach it.
She also hopes to be back in Stratford schools next fall.
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