Early to bed, eat a good breakfast and then sit for hours penciling in small circles while trying not to twitch.
Then gym class.
They lifted their backs like cobras, building strong spines and then roared like lions, releasing all the angst that built in their bones from sitting still against their wills.
“This program is so kid-friendly,” said gym teacher Donna Moore.
It takes yogic concepts and transforms them into animal shapes. Kids breathe through their bellies, the influx of air calming the mind, and those test-day nerves jiggling a little less.
“It makes me feel more concentrated and focused afterwards,” said fourth-grader Crystal Kubby.
Mikaela McGuire agreed. “It makes me feel really relaxed,” she said.
Every year for the past four years, Moore has taught her Julia Randall Elementary School students yoga during the two weeks they take the standardized Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards.
Moore isn’t an avid yoga practitioner herself — she prefers the Stairmaster. However, she says the practice helps the students concentrate during long hours of testing.
AIMS results are pivotal for schools. Results largely impact the performance labels that the state assigns. If enough students test “excelling” on the test, a school can win the coveted “excelling” label.
Also the results are used to gauge a school’s progress from one year to the next. The outside world seizes upon test scores, using them to opine on a school’s success or failure.
These two weeks are very important.
The first year Moore taught yoga during AIMS, JRE achieved the “excelling” label from the state. Moore said she jokes with Principal Rob Varner that yoga catapulted the school to the highest achievement label possible.
Cause for success or not, Moore says the yoga is another way for her to instill a love of movement in kids, and help them to relax.
“I never realized how stressed out kids are,” she said.
The program she uses is targeted to kids. At first, she taught adult yoga to the older children, but they didn’t like it.
“It stretches them so hard and you want them to love it,” said Moore. So she researched and discovered the Little Yogis program by Wai Lana.
Wai Lana gears her language and movements to a kid level. To teach breathing from the belly, for instance, she tells them to fill their stomachs like a balloon.
Deep abdominal breathing helps to increase concentration, promote a state of calmness, increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and detoxify inner organs, according to Rutgers University Counseling Center.
Moore says the kids use these tools for calming outside gym class. “They know how to transfer the skills into their testing,” she said.
Some of the kids are even teaching their parents yoga poses.
Moore’s goal is to inspire a love of movement in children — whether it’s dancing, yoga or throwing a Frisbee in the back yard. The key is that kids are transferring skills learned in gym class to their daily lives.
“That’s my goal,” said Moore. “I see it as one of those lifetime activities.”