Reading, writing and warrior pose? School tries yoga

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In recent years, at IPS #19 or “SUPER School” as it’s now known, unconventional items like exercise balls and ellipticals have had a place in the standard learning day, as school leaders look for ways to encourage and active mind and body.

Now, there’s a another new twist, as yoga has come to the classroom, too.

“And yoga is about breathing, so our muscles relax and are peaceful,” explains instructor Alicia Oksay to her group of fifth through eighth grade girls. “This is a tough age for girls, so we knew this was when they needed to focus on their individuality and doing what’s right for them.”

Oksay works with an organization called Mighty Lotus. The stated goal of Mighty Lotus is to “empower under-served individuals to overcome challenges and lead mindful, purposeful and healthy lives through the development of life skills using yoga, meditation and other awareness practices.

“At first I was scared. I didn’t think it was going to work,” admits Janyia Lloyd, one of the students currently taking the course. Halfway through the year, she has shrugged off those initial worries. “I think it helps everyone. If you’re going through anything, it’ll calm you down.”

That review will please leaders at the school and Mighty Lotus, who say they want the yoga to mean much more than mere physical flexibility.

“For example, today we did some feet-behind-the-head,” explains Oksay, explaining the link between the physical and the mental. “Most people can’t do that right away, and it’s learning to deal with whether you can or can’t do it first of all. Not whether you can do it, but how to handle it if you can’t.”

Sixth-grader Ximena Flores says it has definitely helped her learn coping skills.

“I used to get mad at my brothers because they got into my stuff, but I remembered to calm down and breathe slow and it helps calm me down,” Ximena said.

Mighty Lotus says it’s a tool for children.

“So when they’re faced with confrontation, bullying, any type of issues where they don’t know how to deal with their emotions, they now have a tool,” says Alyssa Pfennig, president of Mighty Lotus.  “A tool they can use. They don’t have to get from anyone else. And they can use all the way through their life.”

Mighty Lotus currently has programs in six schools in Central Indiana with hopes of expanding to more.

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