Getting Started

Why Yoga Helps You to Manage Yourself and Your Classroom Better

Mindfulness programs that involve the secular practice of yoga and meditation are increasingly more common in schools. These programs align well with state and national social-emotional learning standards, health and physical education standards, universal design for learning, classroom management, school safety/anti-bullying programs, and wellness/anti-obesity initiatives.

Yoga in Schools supports teachers in learning self-care techniques, and provides them with tools for engaging, focusing, relaxing, and energizing students in their classrooms. The same techniques associated with improved student behavior could help to prevent teacher burnout and build resiliency. 

Invite Us to Your Classroom

The Yoga in Schools program provides training and coaching for districts, schools, and classrooms. Our staff will help you to plan brain-based, yoga-supported academic lessons and social and emotional development activities. 

Here's What One Local Teacher Told Us:sisk_1575.png

Andrea Sisk leading 9th & 10th Graders in Algebra 1 in a quick yoga break

Andrea Sisk, teacher at Woodland Hills High School, shared this experience with yoga educator Barbara Pane of Yoga In Schools regarding how her use of yoga skills in the classroom opened up new creative outlets for her students:
“I did yoga for the first time today with my mixed class. This is a class of students who failed Geometry during the first semester, so have to take it again now. Half of the kids are mine from the first half of the year, and the other half came from other teachers. My kids have been asking for yoga for a while, while the other kids were scoffing the whole time. (I later came to find that a student of mine from first semester who was passing and, thus, moved to a different class, asked his teacher today when they were going to do yoga, because he missed it.) We had some time today, so did yoga. I was just going to do balance and breathing, but one of my kids asked for stretching, so we did that, too. So we did tree, triangle, and gorilla poses. A lot of the kids didn't want to put their shoes on their pants, but they were okay once they took their shoes off. They don't want to get their pants dirty, but their socks are okay. Some people had neck or back issues so they sat out gorilla. Then we did bunny breath, which ended in laughter. Then I put on some music and read ‘special place’ and ‘animal friend’ to them. I told them to close their eyes. While some of them don't like to do that because others are looking, I realized that it's okay if their heads are down so that no one can see their faces. So I told them to put their heads down. After I read, I let them keep their heads down with the music playing for the last five minutes of class.

This is where it gets exciting, but I have to first provide you with some background. I went to undergrad at Duquesne University, where I was lucky enough to room with someone who is now one of the leading music therapists in Washington, DC. There were Friday nights when she would have to lead a drum circle instead of whatever we were going to do. So I went with her. Everyone from the Hill District came down for this drum circle. Usually, when my kids start to pound on the desks, I quickly tell them to stop. But someone was tapping during the music. And I thought, "We're really trying to reach these boys. And the people from the Hill LOVED drum circle in college. I need to give this a shot." So I encouraged them to tap, pound, whatever. I'll need to lay the groundwork better next time, but I fully intend to try again.” 

Summer & Winter Intensives

Learn fun and effective ways to design and present yoga to children at home, school, studio, and beyond. This training offers a template for how to map out class series and build individual lessons that transform yoga practices into playgrounds of self-discovery. Inspire and support kids in the development of important life skills such as mind-body awareness, connectedness to inner wisdom and resources, physical fitness, emotional stability, authentic self-confidence and the ability to internally self-regulate through the playful exploration of yoga themes such as breathing, alignment, focus, flexibility, kindness, teamwork, resilience, finesse, and so much more. 

Next Winter Intensive is January 22-24, 2016, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Click here to find out more and for registration details.

Stories of Personal Transformation

Yoga in Schools’ Health & Physical Education Teacher Training Program for Pittsburgh Public Schools 2009-2010

Participant Portraits

Felicia Lane Savage and Katrina Woodworth with Andrea Hyde, PhD.

“Yoga is everywhere. PE is now reflecting the cultural shift.”
is empowering effective teachers.”
“The kids love it; that’s what’s important.”
“This was one of the only programs...workshops that gave us the whole curriculum with training, materials and support.”

---Reponses from HPE teachers at the June 1, 2010 PPS HPE Teacher Training, Carnegie, PA.

The participant-researchers who composed this collection of portraits are professional yoga educators Felicia Lane Savage and Katrina Woodworth. During the 2009-2010 school year, they visited every school where Yoga in Schools has trained a Health or Physical Education (HPE) teacher. In the course of this work, Felicia and Katrina became personally acquainted with the program participants/HPE teachers as they observed them and conversed with them in their practice environments. At the end of the year, it seemed appropriate to convey the results of this collaboration as a series of individual portraits (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Hoffmann Davis, 1997). In addition to supporting teachers in their practice, Felicia and Katrina gave written and verbal feedback and evaluations to teachers, provided additional classroom and fitness area resources and bestowed personal affirmations of work well done. Dr. Andrea Hyde, a qualitative researcher and yoga educator who consulted on this project, checked these participant portraits against successive iterations of the participants’ self-reported data and can corroborate details from observations and note taking during the final teacher training. For many PE teachers, the experience of this year-long training program was the first time in many years that they had received specific and professional instructional feedback and have reported feeling recognized and valued for the important work. Many are working under very challenging circumstances and yet they do their jobs with amazing skill, compassion and effectiveness.

  Darin Stanard: Darin started off this year with the correct attitude. Last year he was so resistant. In fact, he apologized for being so uncooperative at the HPE teacher in-service the year before. He, as well as a few other teachers, talked during most of the time during their initial training and were unengaged. Darin shared that he needed to make a personal commitment to a fitness regimen to get into better shape. During the school year he has incorporated bicycling into his weekly fitness routine as well as going to a local gym to work-out. He looks healthy and has promised to go “power yogaing” this summer with Felicia. When Felicia visited his gym in the fall he had made several CDs to teach yoga warm-ups as well as cool downs and relaxation music. The students were familiar with doing yoga poses; Felicia could tell that they had practiced. When the students played outside, Darin had them cool-down by doing yoga poses. During Felicia’s follow-up visits during the school year, Darin was consistently doing yoga with the students. What a wonderful change in attitude from ambivalence to full cooperation! Darin even offered to be a Yoga Ed teacher-trainer for other new HPE teachers in the fall.

  Kim Franklin: Kim was totally committed to implementing the Yoga Ed curriculum from the beginning of the school year. Kim understood the value of doing “this yoga stuff” with children, though she had no prior experience of yoga either personally or professionally. Kim’s goals were to use yoga in warm up and cool down sections of classes. She specifically wanted to increase strength, flexibility, coordination and relaxation in students. However, Kim teaches at two completely different schools. She teaches kindergarten through fifth grade HPE at Davis Elementary and Baker Elementary schools.  Implementation of the yoga curriculum was a challenge at Davis and a joy to behold at the Baker. Baker was a HPE teacher’s dream school. Kim had the full support and cooperation of the staff, parents and students, so Kim enjoyed her time using yoga to warm-up and or cool-down her students. However, at Davis there were many classroom management issues and behavioral distractions. At Davis, Kim had to shift away from practicing yoga on the mats and focus more on centering activities and poses that can be done on their “dots” (assigned seating for warm-ups). The children at Davis have a harder time with following directions and remaining self-controlled during games and activities. Therefore, Kim kept to a minimum of poses to provide greater structure and repetition. The students at Baker are more focused and ready to learn. Kim has been able to use the mats to teach the Baker students many of the yoga curriculum poses. She has also used several yoga games from the curriculum. She periodically has had students rest at the end of class. Students at both schools have had positive responses to the yoga. They have been exposed to stretching and improving their muscular strength in a new way through yoga. Students have learned how to calm down and experience peace in the midst of a hectic day. The yoga activities have helped students learn to center themselves. Kim has been invited by her Principal at Baker to teach yoga to the staff during all staff meetings. This exposed the teachers to the new yoga activities that Kim has been teaching in her classes. The teachers had a positive response and Kim has been asked to lead more often during staff meetings.
  Lisa Carson: Initially Lisa was on board with doing yoga with her students. She is a very energetic HPE teacher who is aware that she and her students need more rest, relaxation and rejuvenation in their daily lives. Therefore, she has focused on the more calming aspects of yoga (yoga poses and breathing techniques) as a cool-down to her energetic sports-based curriculum. Felicia witnessed Lisa being more relaxed and at ease with doing yoga and the PE curriculum, in general. This calming focus has also affected how the students behave in their regular education classrooms during academic time. Classroom teachers have shared that the students come back from gym ready to sit still and learn because Lisa has allowed them time to exercise and rest in gym class. At the end of the third quarter, Lisa’s principal decided to discontinue gym because the school’s language arts and math scores were so low. Lisa took this decision in stride and realized that she would have to adapt and do exercise with the students as a de-stressor in the classroom. So, frequently, she did yoga stretches and breathing techniques with the students in their regular education settings. Lisa says that yoga is “a calming and centering tool”. Everyone can do yoga. “For those student who are not athletic, it gives them a chance to be successful [in HPE]”.
  Wesley Schaeffer: This year was such a transformative year for Wes. He and his wife have adopted a healthier lifestyle that includes exercising regularly and eating more whole grains, fresh foods and controlling their portion sizes. At the beginning of the school year, Wes was quite skeptical of our yoga curriculum. He truly did not believe that it could make a difference in his or his students’ lives. However, half way through the school year his wife received a very high cholesterol reading so she initiated changes in their home life, and he quickly followed suit. He is truly amazed that these changes in their lifestyle have brought her numbers down considerably. These changes have allowed Wes to be more open to new things such as yoga in gym. He was hesitant at the beginning of the school year but now he gets it. Wes has used yoga poses with his students for “warm ups” and “cool downs”. He also made use of some of the yoga games that we taught him. As he shared with Felicia...”it’s about being educated, about living healthy then taking better care of ourselves”. Wes embodies the Yoga Ed curriculum focus on self-awareness and self-care. He is so very excited to talk about how these changes make him and his wife feel. He is excited to incorporate yoga poses into his classroom (gym) routine because it makes sense to him now.
  Gene Sailor: Gene started the school year engaged with the yoga curriculum. However, as the school year unfolded she was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with all the different aspects of the curriculum that she was responsible for: health, character development, fitness (sports- based skill building) and yoga. She did use yoga as she first stated on her action plan as a cool-down component, however, not as consistently as she planned. Gene also took the initiative to learn more about yoga on her own by watching a video on Yoga for Dummies. Also, Gene teaches HPE at two schools, which is quite challenging. So, during Felicia’s observations/visits she would focus on Gene being aware of her own emotions (She felt frustrated and overwhelmed.). Felicia gave Gene some tips as to how to manage her emotions with breathing techniques, stretching and relaxing (all from the Yoga Ed. curriculum). From Felicia’s observations at the end of the school year, Gene was still feeling these challenges; however, the intensity was lessened by her making some personal changes in how she viewed the situation. In planning for next year, Gene realized that it would be helpful to the students as well as her to do yoga every day. Gene did take advantage of yoga’s relaxation components. She made up stories (visualization exercises) for the students at the end of the class period as they transitioned into academic time.
  Drew Reynolds: In the beginning of the school year Drew was negative about yoga because he had some experience with yoga and at the present time he was not able to perform most of what we were doing in the teacher in-services. Drew has been in chronic pain (mostly back pain) for a number of years. As with a lot of folks experiencing chronic pain, he had become bitter about his life and sometimes resentful of others who were able to enjoy life. Felicia knew from the beginning that Drew was going to be difficult to reach. And so he was. Drew also taught at two very different schools, which for him makes for a challenging adjustment. The students at Coralville are tougher to motivate than those at Kewanee. At the in-services Drew would make negative comments about yoga. Felicia’s response to him that yoga was about the students being better stewards of their minds and bodies so that hopefully they understand health and wellness in their minds and bodies. A breakthrough came during the fall when PPS had an off day and he and Felicia met at the East End Food Co-op. He witnessed first-hand her interactions with the staff and asked me how long she had shopped there. Well, they connected on that day and Drew has since incorporated yoga into his HPE lessons. He initially was very deliberate in his teaching of the yoga poses at Coralville with his index cards of yoga poses. However, Felicia quickly realized that he had been practicing yoga with the students often, since they knew all the poses. Once his confidence was established at Kewanee he began to introduce yoga to the students at Coralville. The students at Coralville enjoyed the yoga warm-ups he put together and Drew was surprised at their positive response. By the end of the school year Drew wrote that he is “imparting wellness” to his students. That is a monumental transformation.
  Sam Milovich: Sam is a very conscientious HPE teacher who truly believes in yoga with his own body and his own children (at home). Sam is health and wellness oriented in his personal life. He bikes to work most of the time. Also, Sam had the honor of teaching at one of the first schools to have YIS teachers to teach his students yoga. So, he had wonderful teachers and he has learned well from them. His class is a joy to observe because he is so much at ease with teaching children yoga infused HPE. He uses yoga to warm-up the students and to cool them down to prepare to transition to academic classes. Classroom teachers who receive the students after Sam’s class have commented to me that they appreciate the calm state that the students are in after gym. But, they do know he works them out. One teacher commented that he (the regular education teacher, not Sam) frequently uses the yoga sticky mats and eye pillows as well during afterschool programming. He admits to using the eye pillows consistently at the end of the day. According to Sam, “the [Yoga Ed] program best served my students by teaching them the value and importance of rest”.
  Madeline Pritchard: Madeline is on board with yoga infused HPE. At the beginning of the school year she made a yoga wall, which has pictures of yoga poses and their names. Also, in her gym she created a yoga poses and breathing techniques “station”. The students have truly learned yoga poses and breathing techniques through her consistent effort and diligence. Madeline has had some health problems, which had her out of school intermittently during this year. However, she has been steadfast and steady in her approach to this new yoga curriculum. In fact, Madeline created her own breathing handout for the students. Madeline has truly taken to the study of yoga. She genuinely understands the relationship between the mental, emotional states and the different poses’ benefits. She has definitely been reading the curriculum. She is one of a few teachers who have spent time reading the curriculum.


  Lonnie Baker: Lonnie started out the school year at Silvis Elementary with enthusiasm in learning something new and exciting with the Yoga Ed curriculum. In her action plan at the beginning of the school year, she stated that the students would do yoga as a warm-up and cool-down exercise at lunch/recess and the K-1st graders would do yoga for a whole gym period. Lonnie did in fact do most of what she planned. I witnessed yoga integrated into her HPE class for warm-up or cool-down at the end of her classes. However, during the school year she had a health emergency that she needed to attend to by taking time off from school. She was blessed with having Bella, a certified yoga teacher, on site as a support person. Bella was doing yoga in the classroom with Lonnie’s kindergarten classes throughout the year. She would have them doing yoga stretches right in their classroom. When Lonnie returned she didn’t miss a beat. She continued to use yoga as a warm-up and/or cool-down routine. Also, Lonnie led breathing techniques with the students during their bathroom breaks to keep them focused and on task. Also, Bella’s yoga activities included a lot of yoga poses and relaxation time. Bella was asked by Dr. Nichols, the principal, to lead yoga for the 3rd and 4th graders as they took the PSSA test in April. This helped the students to relax and focus more for the test. This activity was such a success the principal is planning to incorporate yoga into their Freedom School summer program. So, between Lonnie and Bella, yoga is a year-round activity at Silvis.

  Jake Myers: Jake Myers teaches kindergarten through fifth grade at Westview Elementary School. In the beginning of the year, Jake thought that the yoga curriculum would work only with the K-2 students, but all of the students enjoyed doing yoga, which surprised him. Felicia realized that in the beginning Jake was not comfortable doing yoga well enough to teach it to the students. Jake is a personal trainer and he values the look of fitness. However, yoga tested his limits because it pertains to an area of fitness that he was not as familiar with: holistic health and wellness. Jake’s attitude towards yoga changed considerably from the beginning to the end of the year. As the school year progressed and he attended more teacher yoga in-services, Jake began to feel more confident in knowing yoga in his body. He appreciated us coming to observe and spend time with him and to share our yoga perspective. In Jake’s classroom he used yoga poses to warm-up his students. His gym was very small, which didn’t allow space for him to use the mats or the eye pillows. Jake’s initial goals were to incorporate yoga into his warm-up and cool-down sections of class. He began with kindergarten and then transitioned to the older grades once he felt more familiar with the poses. Jake has focused on integrating yoga into the SPARKTM curriculum rather than using the yoga curriculum on its own for his classes. He had taught students to stay focused, calm and breathe throughout their warm-up and cool-down. Students left his gym class with an overall sense of success and readiness for their academic classes. Jake stated at the end of the school year “yoga added a new aspect to my health/PE curriculum. Both the students and myself benefited.”
  Jaime Arroyo: Jaime teaches kindergarten through fifth grade at Morrow Elementary School. Prior to the September 2009 Yoga in Schools training, Jaime had no experience with yoga. At the first in-service Jaime seemed be not that interested in yoga. However, as the second teacher in-service day got underway Felicia noticed a change in Jaime’s level of participation. He was truly trying to do the yoga poses, but he was smiling as he was doing yoga. Felicia remembers that moment because he was so very quiet and it was hard to read what he was thinking. Observing Jaime’s gym classes was an honor because his students love him and he is so very engaged with teaching them PE. Jaime was not comfortable with teaching yoga to his students initially, but he struggled through it. As he practiced with his students daily, he became more confident in his delivery of yoga. Initially, Jaime introduced yoga poses to his students through the warm-up section of class. He devoted two out of six warm-up stations to yoga. He didn’t call the poses yoga, he just introduced them by name. Students learned and are now practicing and becoming adept at 2-legged cat, plank, dog, warrior one, tree, and airplane pose among others. Jaime also began to use several breaths and affirmations at the end of class to help students transition back to the classroom. His students shared with him that they enjoyed the poses and that they felt good doing them. What Katrina appreciates about Jaime is that he models both self-awareness and self-composure in his teaching, exemplifying both patience and evenness in his classes. Jaime exhibited persistence with the yoga curriculum because even though he was not comfortable with yoga, he did it anyway. He stated at the end of the school year, “I am going to integrate more elements of Yoga into my classes.”
  Celia Holden: Celia teaches kindergarten through fifth grade at Trinity Elementary School. Celia was unfamiliar with yoga when she first came to the September 2009 Yoga in Schools training. Celia planned to start the school year with a unit from the Yoga Ed curriculum, and then to use yoga as a cool down and transition time activity for the rest of the school year. This would allow her to introduce the elements of the curriculum such as time-in, breathing exercises and relaxation at the end as well as teaching poses to students. Celia actually met and exceeded her goals during Felicia’s observation time with her. Katrina discussed Celia’s initial observations with her after the yoga unit, which was two-fold. She noticed that students that struggled with self-control and focus were slower to catch on to the yoga. Second, she observed that the class as a whole was calmer and ready to go back to their academic classes. After finishing the yoga unit, Celia has continued to use elements of the yoga curriculum in each class by either beginning or ending class with some form of calming yoga: slow yoga postures, a breath and quiet time-in, or resting pose. The kids leave her class centered and ready for their next activity. Felicia witnessed her students doing yoga for the whole class period: warm-up sequences with yoga mats, learning of new poses and corrections in alignment, cool down poses and then rest and relaxation with the eye pillows. Sometimes, Celia allowed students to pick poses from the yoga bulletin board and lead the class through the pose sequence. The students have enjoyed both the poses and the relaxation time and have had a positive attitude in gym. The whole school community is supportive of yoga. Students have shared yoga poses with parents at home. Parents and other teachers have commented on student’s enthusiasm toward yoga. Celia has led several yoga activities during staff meetings. Teachers are also beginning to implement some yoga activities into their routines. In review of the year, Celia now sees yoga as an essential aspect of her curriculum. Students are learning self- control through calming yoga breathing and centering. She plays music at the end of class, the sound of ocean waves, which she and the kids love.

  Angelina Kegan: Angelina teaches Kindergarten through fifth grade at Rock Island Elementary. Her initial goals for using the yoga curriculum were to raise student self-awareness and control and to bring fun and creativity to the fitness portion of class. During the initial yoga teacher in-service training, Angelina told the trainers that she had been in pain for the last three years. She decided not to participate during the first day of the two-day training. However, when she went home she was in so much pain that she decided that it wouldn’t do any harm to just participate the next day. After the second day in which she fully participated she was practically pain free. So, on her way home after the in-service she decided to sign up for yoga classes at Amazing Yoga close to her home. Angelina has been a yoga advocate ever since then. By taking yoga classes herself, Angelina is learning the correct alignment and is able to give corrections to her students. She has experienced an increase in her confidence level with teaching yoga by taking yoga classes. In the Fall, Angelina taught a yoga unit, focusing on six poses. She played the game “Name that Pose” and even invited students to teach and lead others in learning the poses. As she transitioned to a new unit, she kept using yoga in the warm-up and cool-down sections of class. Angelina noted that the poses help students increase muscular endurance and strength while at the same time increasing flexibility. Students enjoyed the challenge of learning the poses and leading one another through them. Angelina thought it added variety to the SPARKTM curriculum. During the second part of the year, Angelina began to teach more breathing exercises and affirmations, encouraging students to learn to center and calm themselves down. She began to implement the mind/body tools in the curriculum during times of transition between classes. Angelina has fully engaged in integrating yoga into her HPE curriculum because of the pain relief she has experienced firsthand. She said that if she is able to spare any of her students from the pain she has endured, her suffering has not been in vain.

  Jessica Bui: Jessica teaches gym to kindergarten through third grade at Wilson Elementary School. She was completely new to yoga in September 2009 when she first came to the Yoga in Schools training. Jessica’s initial goals were to introduce yoga into her warm-up and cool down routines. She began to teach students poses from the curriculum. Jessica’s goals were to promote stress relief, balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility. She also devised a parent letter to inform parents about the new yoga emphasis in gym. Jessica began the school year using the Yoga Ed curriculum. She was eager and open to learn as much as she could during our teacher in-services. While observing her, Felicia noticed she had a high level of comfort with the yoga curriculum; she seemed to have spent time reading it.  Most teachers didn’t seem to have read the curriculum. She and her students were familiar with the yoga poses and a few breathing techniques. In January, Katrina observed Jessica’s class and noted that Jessica had not only taught students several poses such as tree, airplane, boat, and plank pose, but she had designed an entire class around balance, including games and affirmations. Jessica brings a sense of playfulness and creativity to her classes. Katrina watched as she “wiggled and waggled” with the kindergarteners, got stuck to the floor in the peanut butter and jelly game with first grade and sang “All good things rain down on me” with all her classes. The yoga tools in the curriculum have helped her to manage classroom mood, especially to decelerate classes when they are agitated. The students have enjoyed both the poses and the relaxation times, heading back to class with a sense of readiness and anticipation. Towards the end of the year, Jessica started to share her yoga knowledge with other staff and teachers. She noticed the increased stress during PSSA testing week and was able to use several mind-body exercises with various classes. Jessica has expressed the desire to lead the staff through yoga exercises to help them manage and improve their own stress levels. With the support of her principal, Jessica led the classroom teachers at staff meetings through several yoga poses and breathing techniques. On a personal note, Jessica is hoping to expand her own practice during this summer by finding a local yoga class to attend. Jessica understands that personally she needs to be comfortable with her own body and plans to reduce her weight to become an even more effective teacher.

Lawrence-Lightfoot, S., & Hoffmann Davis, J. (1997). The art and science of portraiture. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 



Free Resources

Two minutes of a simple chair yoga practice that can be done right at your desk. Excellent for teachers and children.

The Breathing Wheel: If you don't have breathing wheels (it is an ad-specialty frisbee), then use your hands -- touch fingertips together and move palms in and out. This simulates the movement of the lungs and is a helpful tactile reminder of what breathing looks like.

Quick Guide to Mind Body Tools for Testing.pdf

Breath is Life.pdf