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Incorporating yoga into second grade

The Spectator - 3/15/2017

SWANSEA — Hoyle School teacher Laura Gustafson started a program in her second grade class where students are doing yoga a couple of times during the school day and then doing shavasanah once.

Gustafson said the yoga and shavasanah, which is when the students lie down and listen to music, has benefited students with autism and the other students in the class, so she said she also went forth with a more sensory friendly classroom. She has lamps instead of overhead lights, quiet zen music and lavender essential oil in the room. Gustafson also provides quiet down time when the students can color or do other things they like to do and gives them Fidget toys to hold in their hands..

Gustafson said she provides these types of activities 30 to 40 minutes a day which can help to reduce the stress of the students and center them.

"I truly do believe that it makes a difference," Gustafson said.

Hoyle School Principal William Courville said social and emotional learning is at the forefront of what the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is focusing on.

Courville said the students have charts on their desks that say how they are feeling and what they are thinking. He said he believes in what Gustafson is doing in her class wholeheartedly.

"They have a great time with this and as students, they feel this helps them to relax, focus and be calm for the day," Courville said.

Gustafson said she learned about the impact that such activities can have on students in a graduate class that she was taking with the University of Phoenix.about the foundation of autism spectrum disorder.

At the Swansea School Committee meeting on Monday night, Gustafson and her students gave a demonstration of what they do in their classroom. They did yoga movements to a song about sun salutations, did the shimmy and ended laying down on the floor as they listened to music that had the word namaste throughout.

"I think it's a great way to start off the day and a great way to refocus during the day," Swansea School Superintendent John Robidoux said of the activities that Gustafson does in her class.

Gustafson said other second grade teachers saw the benefit of what she was doing in her class and started doing it with their students. She said they are looking at doing the same thing in the other grades in the kindergarten through grade two schools in Swansea.

"It's a good focusing activity," Gustafson said of yoga. "It's a movement. It's a way for them to be centered throughout the day."

Gustafson said she has been practicing yoga for about 10 years and her 6-year-old daughter has done yoga since she was an infant.


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