Each day as we begin our teaching day, it is something like starting on a roller coaster ride. It starts off smoothly and then the twists and turns begin and eventually, even after feeling as if you were hanging upside down for part of the day, it evens out again. Something that has really helped even out my teaching day and keep the horizon level and in my sights is yoga.
One of the teachers at Cold Lake High School in Alberta, Andrea Farrell, attended a two-week training camp in Jasper in July 2010 and a one-week session in October, receiving her Integrated Yoga Therapist certification. “It was so intensive,” says Andrea of her two-week training in Jasper, “we hardly saw the mountains!” Completing all the paperwork and physical training was part of the two hundred hour Integrated Yoga Therapist course.
The school coordinator was Serena Aurora, a former staff member in the Lac LaBiche area. Andrea was joined in the summer camp by four other Northern Lights School Division staff. “All of us felt it was worthy of the expense and our summer holiday time for either personal and/or professional growth.”
Andrea then started a yoga class for the teaching staff at her school—two sessions a week after school. Along with giving an after-school class at another school, she has been giving sessions for Physical Education, Sports Performance, Drama and Health classes. “Originally, I wanted to take the course so that I could help students with anxiety disorders,” Andrea says. Now this YogaMarm offers yoga to at-risk youth, off-campus and alternative classes, as well as the regular classes. Andrea and fellow yogi Danelle Prescesky teach “Yoga in the Classroom” at teachers’ conferences.
As Andrea is the Special Education teacher, it takes some coordinating of her schedule, donating a lot of her own time, plus finding a space available, but she feels it is all worth it. Not only teachers, but also nimble and lithe teenagers are catching on to the many benefits of yoga’s stretching, strength building and relaxation poses.
Staff and students of all shapes and sizes and athletic abilities are discovering the benefits of yoga. Several staff members have commented on how much they not only enjoy the yoga sessions but how much better they feel overall. Sleeping more restfully, feeling more relaxed, and being more positive are just some of the benefits that everyone is recognizing. Andrea, herself a full figure lady, says yoga has helped her immensely. “The amount of core strength I have now is unbelievable.” Andrea encourages everyone to reach as far as they are comfortably able to for each yoga position or asana, and to remember each of us is on our own personal journey.
In teaching yoga to school classes, she finds that even the most boisterous, attention-seeking students are soon quiet when they realize the core strength, stamina and balance that yoga poses require. Many of the students are amazed that their favourite part becomes the quiet meditative pose, the savasana, at the end. Andrea says, “We sometimes forget how much stress teenagers have in their lives too!”
Personally, I love how Andrea ends the class with each of us thinking of a positive intention for the evening following our class. I feel it carries the positive feelings we have received from the workout into our evening and to once again remind us to look at things on the upside.
Recently, the Cold Lake High School held a Yoga Day for Amnesty International where students and staff followed Andrea through a yoga session and enjoyed beverages and snacks and visiting afterwards. Over fifty students and staff turned out to bend and stretch and “get their mountain pose on!”
Experiencing this ancient practice of traditional mental and physical discipline that originated centuries ago in India is making a huge difference in many lives here in Northern Lights School Division, which is embracing the healthy living lifestyle practices that such activities as yoga offer. We are going from shallow, short breathing and tensed bodies to harmonizing our minds with our bodies while developing flexibility and toning, and building core strength. Roller coaster ride—bring it on!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patricia Coulter has been an educator for over twenty-five years and is currently the Fine Arts teacher at the Cold Lake High School in Cold Lake, AB. She is also an accomplished visual artist and her work has been displayed at various galleries in Canada and Singapore. For more information on her biography, check out her website at www.patriciacoulter.com.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Mar/Apr 2011 issue.