No Mat Needed: Mindful Movement at the Desk opens hearts at Bob Mathis

Thank you Aquarius Magazine for publishing this article:

Yoga is everywhere, and it seems like everyone is doing it. We see it in movies, on T.V. shows, in commercials, and in ads in magazines. Most of the images presented for mass consumption relating to yoga are generally comprised of white, women, in expensive tights and tank tops, on yoga mats.

In sharp contrast to what you may have seen on TV, at Bob Mathis Elementary school yoga is taught in the classroom at the desk without any yoga mats! Once a week every student in the school, including special education classes, receives 15- 20 minutes of yoga instruction in the classroom. You may wonder how effective this method is given the perceived lack of mobility and small space a public school classroom offers. However, it is remarkable what the students are able to accomplish in such a short period of time, in a limited environment.

I had the pleasure of observing the 4th and 5th grade rotation. Cheryl Crawford, founder of Atlanta Yoga Movement & Co-founder of Grounded Kids Yoga, led me from class to class as she implemented one of the Focus Series sequences in each class. At a school that is 96.1% African American, I wondered how a white woman with a singing bowl teaching yoga in the classroom might be received. Yet as soon as Cheryl entered the room, in each instance, the students perked up. The majority of students were excited to see her, their eyes twinkling with curiosity about what they might do with her today. Some of the teachers were equally excited for Yoga, making sure they put their work away so they could participate with their students.

None of the classes received the same instruction. Each class of students had unique needs, and as a result each class practiced a different sequence. The children were all completely open to the process, they knew exactly what to do. Each group immediately turned their chairs to face the front of the room, grounding through their feet and placing hands on their heart and belly. It was clear that the children not only enjoyed this practice but that they also needed it.

Cheryl led the children in short chair friendly sequences that got them to both sit and stand. Partner poses, Laughter poses, and even the occasional lunge were all fair play! At the end of the each 15 min. session, Cheryl asked the students if any of them would feel comfortable leading the instruction of a pose or breathing technique for their class and 75% of students answered in the affirmative.

The one commonality amongst all the classes was the gracious, open energy demonstrated by all the teachers and students at Bob Mathis. The level of grace and gratitude that was present in the room when engaged in their yoga practice was palpable. Through their open hearts and minds, the students at Bob Mathis have been able to experience the benefits of Yoga with No Mat Needed! The fundamental principals of Yoga transcend the limitations of a mat, studio or clothes. Yoga is truly about connecting with oneself in an authentic and accessible way that utilizes movement and breath. The method of Yoga being taught at Bob Mathis truly embodies the ideals of authenticity, accessibility, and mindful connectivity.

Two weeks from today at 7 PM you can watch a documentary about our yoga program at Bob Mathis Elementary on the AIB Network!

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