Pre-K class finds peace, laughs through yoga
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2012
11/23/12 at 7:44 AM
Read more: Learn more about Resource Education for Calming, Energizing, Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation, or RECESS.
Yoga for 4-year-olds involves an entirely different set of equipment and terminology than it does for adults. But make no mistake, it's still yoga.
Little lungs can inhale and exhale deep breaths and pint-sized warrior poses build focus and stamina.
Jessica Bond wasn't sure what to expect when she found out a new grant would mean guest yoga instructors once a week in her classroom at Cooper Elementary School, 1808 S. 123rd East Ave.
"It is far better than I ever imagined. My students use the calming techniques they have learned all the time, and we remind them of it sometimes," Bond said.
A nonprofit organization called Resource Education for Calming, Energizing, Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation, or RECESS, sends instructors into a host of local schools to promote health and wellness. It is funded through a grant from the Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative.
The program is based on the national Yoga Ed model and aims to improve academics through fitness, emotional intelligence, stress management and self-regulation, according to Director Elizabeth Barlow.
Cooper Principal Joy Modenbach said the yoga classes are helpful even for young children because it builds coordination and dexterity and teaches them about organized movement.
Once a week, Bond, the classroom teacher, watches from the sidelines as a yoga instructor comes in and takes over her charges for 30 minutes of age-appropriate yoga.
On a recent morning, Cameron Dennis led a session in which the prekindergarteners learned about the meaning of the word "finesse."
Instead of sticky floor mats, students kept their place by standing or sitting on shiny star cut-outs.
Class began the way most do, by focusing on their breathing. Dennis gave the kids a choice between "candle breaths" and "chimes," and most of them preferred both.
"I think some of you raised your hands twice!" she said, laughing.
Candle breaths won out. Students swept their upturned palms high over their heads and brought them together in front of their hearts as they blew long, hot breaths into their enclosed hands, as if snuffing a candle out.
Even though Dennis instructed the students to keep their eyes closed so they could concentrate, a pigtailed, smiling Denise Gomez alternated peeks out of her left eye and then her right.
To demonstrate "finesse," Dennis passed out a long strip of soft, colorful cloth that she called snakes to each child and had them work slowly and carefully to untie and then re-tie them.
"Try to take out the knots, really slowly, using finesse and being calm," she instructed.
But knot-tying turned out to be an impossible task for most in this preschool set.
Dennis made her way around the circle of seated children, assisting each one, save for one.
Macie Gill proudly showed off her tying skills and then did her part to try to pass the trick on.
"Make a circle, then pull it through!" she told her neighbors, while demonstrating.
The "snakes" provided a means of a little alphabet play, too, as Dennis had them form the letter "S" with the cloth strips and then stand up, hold them over their heads and pull the strips taut between their hands so their bodies formed a "Y."
"Now, we are going to learn a new pose - peaceful warrior," she said. "Practice making your best ninja face."
Denise Gomez lost her footing and slid into the splits in the middle of the circle.
"Let's not do the splits! You're probably going to split your pants," Dennis said, inspiring uproarious laughter from the whole class.
The conclusion of the class was evidently Yoskar Boquin's favorite part.
When Dennis called for the standard few minutes of rest by announcing, "Lay on your backs. Make your best starfish body," Boquin exclaimed, "Yea!"
When they sat up, they practiced that calming technique that their teacher sees them use outside of yoga.
Touching the tips of their thumbs to the tips of each of their other fingers with the rhythm of the four words, they chanted, "I am at peace."
Original Print Headline: Pre-K peace
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Yoga instructor Cameron Dennis leads yoga exercises last week with prekindergarten students at Cooper Elementary School. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Pre-K student Edwin Serrano executes a Samurai pose last week during a yoga class at Cooper Elementary School. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Prekindergarten students Alyssa Young (left), Abi Flores and Jazlyn Rodriguez stretch last week during a yoga class at Cooper Elementary School. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Yoga instructor Cameron Dennis demonstrates a pose for prekindergarten students last week at Cooper Elementary School. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World