Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia teachers learning yoga to curb problems in class

More than 50 educators from across Canada are gathered in Halifax to pose and stretch their way to better classrooms

Nova Scotia school teachers learning how to help kids combat anxiety in class by saying om

More than fifty educators from across Canada are gathered for the Yoga in Schools conference in Halifax. (Allison Devereaux/CBC News)

More than 50 educators from across Canada are gathered in Halifax to pose and stretch their way to better classrooms.

The teachers are learning to use yoga in their schools, hoping to improve students' behaviour.

Junior high teacher Jackie MacLellan says she noticed students attending after-school yoga classes showed increased confidence and a willingness to try new things. 

"Some of the kids' anxiety levels have started to decrease," said MacLellan, who teaches at Wagmatcookewey School.

Yoga 11, a course for students in Grade 11, is a credited class in almost every high school in Nova Scotia.

"It's not a perfect fix," she said. "I'm not going to say it's 100 per cent they're cured of any anxiety — but I've definitely seen a decrease."

Blair Abbass and Jenny Kierstead founded the Yoga in Schools program. They say they've trained closed to 200 educators in Nova Scotia to use yoga in the classroom.

Kierstead says yoga helps students with self-awareness, self-regulation and can help curb anxiety.

"We have to make sure there's no religious connotation, because yoga at its core is a way of life, a way of living peacefully and harmoniously with ourselves and others," said Kierstead.  

She said they also have to keep the exercises age appropriate, so they're not over-taxing young, developing bodies. 

Catherine Rahey, a consultant for Autism and Learning Centres with South Shore Regional School Board,  helped to develop training manuals for yoga instructors teaching students with autism. 

"It's portable. It's with you," said Rahey. "I could be in the middle of a restaurant and realize I need to breathe, I'm getting anxious. I don't need to be removed from the restaurant."

Rahey said those skills help ensure students with autism can take part in activities with their peers. It's a skill she'll be teaching the yoga teachers from across the country to take home from the conference. 

Half of the group are teachers with no yoga training. Once they finish the course they will have some foundational training that can be applied to yoga certification.

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