Yoga Puts Peace Within Reach
A lone North Side middle schooler struggled to manage his frustrations during the new yoga class offered as part of Extended Day. He lost control of his temper class after class. Cue trauma-informed yoga and the flexibility it uses to help kids rise above.
“For any child to build emotional self-regulation skills, they have to be able to feel safe emotionally dis-regulating,” said
, lead yoga instructor at North Side. “That’s the space we strive to create in our yoga class. We aren’t teaching children to repress painful emotions. We are teaching students how to feel their feelings and still behave in a way that isn’t hurtful or disruptive.”
In the case of our struggling young yogi, an accommodation was put in place. An adult family member began taking the class alongside him. His outbursts stopped. He was able to participate with the added benefit of having a trusted loved one learn the practice with him. “It’s amazing how he has learned,” said Petit. “He is either removing himself before he escalates or he grounds himself with tools he’s been given. I’m really proud of his progress.”
North Side administrators searched far and wide to find the very best yoga instructors suited to serve our scholars. Petit is part of
, a Maplewood based yoga studio owned by
. The studio is rare in that it completely focuses on serving children. Both Dierker and Petit have earned certifications in teaching trauma-informed yoga to children. They have experience instructing children at
Youth in Need
and other nonprofits and schools similar to North Side where trauma is frequently experienced at young ages.
Petit has been practicing shapes–known traditionally as poses–with a select group of middle schoolers three days a week since October. She has support from Dierker who sometimes co-teaches and is there to substitute if needed. This gives the children the comfort of familiarity and reliability to truly build a trusting relationship with these teachers.
Scholars lounge on colorful yoga mats which they’ve decorated as part of their class. “At the end of the school year, the mats will be theirs to take home, thanks to the generosity of our North Side Young Friends Board,” said North Side Development Director
. "Having that sense of ownership, that this mat is going to be theirs forever, that means something to these kids," said Petit. "They've created a whole process, started by one of our students, where they carefully role and put away their mats after each class."
North Side’s first class of young yogis has made great strides in the short time they’ve been coming together. “We are more connected to each other and starting to understand empathy more and how we can show up for each other,” said Petit. “These kids aren’t deaf, they understand about impeachment and war. They are scared of things that scare us. We are providing tools so they can communicate their feelings without lashing out.”
The yoga class embraces activities and techniques far beyond doing poses or breathing exercises. Games and art activities are a regular part of the curriculum, and students learn about leadership skills and communications skills as much as managing their emotions. Yoga will be offered as part of the Extended Day at the middle school through the end of this school year. Plans include being able to offer multiple classes in the future.