Yoga 4 Classrooms®

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Yoga 4 Classrooms Blog

Mindful Activity of the Day Series...Learn, Practice, Share!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

I’ve never done this. And honestly, if it were not for all of your requests, I might not have thought of it. But, I'm so glad you did! One of the underlying gifts of the pandemic (I know, gotta dig deep for those right now) is that I suddenly have the asset of time...and the opportunity to serve creatively during this unprecedented time of school closures. As such, I'm thrilled to announce the launch of the...

Mindful Activity of the Day Series:
Keeping Yourself & Your Students Active, Engaged, and Stress-Free During the School Closure

How it works and what you need to know:

1)  Each day, for the next several weeks, I will be sharing my favorite mindful activities from my Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Cards, Yoga for Children book, Yoga for Children-Yoga & Mindfulness Activities for Kids Cards, and other sources to encourage movement, mindfulness, and stress reduction. Each email will also include links to the previous activities in the series shared such that you can easily refer back to them to use, as needed. 

2)   If you are a classroom teacher or other school-based professional (counselor, OT, administrator, etc.), you have my full permission and encouragement to responsibly SHARE the content with your school/district colleagues and families via email, social, Google Classroom, etc. without concern of copyright infringement. Simply credit the source exactly as it’s provided with each activity.

3)  Because I’m strongly encouraging EVERYONE to pause to take a mindful moment each day, the series will go out to our entire community list (subscribe here!). If you are not interested, I humbly request that instead of unsubscribing (which will remove you from ever again receiving an email from us), that you simply delete the daily email as it comes in. Better still, use the ‘forward to a friend’ feature or the ‘View this email in your browser.’ link at the top to grab the URL and post on social. Thank you for helping to share calm and mindfulness during this time of uncertainty!

 Subscribe here if you aren't already receiving our e-newsletter. 

Watch your inbox at Noon(ish) each day starting tomorrow, March 19th!

In the meantime, read our latest article...and get outside if you can.

With peace and positivity,

Lisa Flynn
Founder, CEO: Yoga 4 Classrooms

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Seven Ways to Find Grace and Alleviate Suffering During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Friend,

I know this feels hard. I know it's unsettling. You may have already have had a personal melt down or feel one coming on. I get it. No, really. Mine was Sunday morning. A full blown couldn't-catch-my-breath blubber festival during which I texted a jumbled, woe is me ramble to to my sister-in-law...except that it went out to my entire 18-person extended family group string (on my husband's side). Of course I didn't realize this until I got the first reply back.

"mom. oh my god, stop.

Right. A little snarky, but right nonetheless. I needed to...STOP. I immediately grabbed my sneakers and headed out for for a grounding nature walk, my time-tested antidote to anxiety. It worked. It always does. And with a much more clear and calm mind and heart, I then wrote down seven ways to find grace and alleviate suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are strategies we can implement anytime, but I hope they serve you and your family particularly during this time of uncertainty.

1) Focus on the positive.
Each of us has the power to choose our response to curveballs. We can let them bonk us in the head or we can mindfully choose to navigate them with grace. Though I forgot all about this for a few moments on Sunday, I know finding grace is made easier when I focus on the positive. Going forward, I'm intentionally choosing to pay much closer attention to the all the generosity, goodness and kindness happening all around us right now. 

2) Practice compassion.
Today, I received more calls and emails from a school administrators regretfully postponing their PD day scheduled with us in the coming month and beyond. I thoughtfully replied with encouragement and understanding. As I did so, I felt my heart fill with genuine empathy, compassion, and even love. Powerful stuff. And feels a heck of a lot better then despair and worry. 

3) Uncover the opportunity.
As I hunker down at home like you, away from the structure and routine that tends to help me feel safe, I choose to uncover the opportunity. For the foreseeable future, my college and high school age children are home...and they currently have rap music blasting upstairs with the base up so high I wonder if my brain matter might come out through my ears. But my heart is also bursting wide open with gratitude. My children are home. My family is safe. All is well. The opportunity in this case? Well, they don't know it yet, but they'll be cleaning and organizing our mudroom tomorrow. ;)

4) Stay connected.
Implementing physical social distancing is a MUST, but that doesn't mean we should isolate ourselves completely. Stay in close touch with your friends and family via phone or videoconference. Check in, share your feelings, support and be supported. Ask for help. Offer yours. Use social media to find positive messages and people and follow them. Find ways to stay involved in the communities that 'fill your bucket' whether that means joining the conversation at your yoga studio's Facebook page, or 'attending' your church's weekly mass that is now held online. 

5) Get outside.
Getting sunshine, fresh air and movement into your daily routine, particularly if you can do so a natural setting, is good for your physical and mental health. Period. It's grounding, cleansing and can be an incredible mood booster. Mindful walking elicits the relaxation response as we notice, smell, feel and interact with the natural world. It's also free and relatively safe. Just do it. And don't forget to nourish yourself with healthy food and rest, too!

6) Write Down 5 Things for Which You are Grateful.
Are negative thoughts threatening to overwhelm your positive mindset? Grab a notebook or Post-it and write down 5 things for which you are grateful in that very moment. It could be the snuggle time you had with your child earlier in the day, the running water in your house that is safe to drink, or maybe it's the the 30 minutes you were finally able to carve out to write this blog post (oh wait, that's mine!). Write them down and post them up every single day where you can see them - I recommend Post-Its on the frig or your bathroom mirror. Invite your family to join you in this practice - an especially great activity and discussion for winding down to bedtime.

7) Be Generous.
Being generous is FUN, a wonderful way to serve, and is so very contagious! It's also empowering as it provides us an opportunity to be a good citizen and community member by doing something positive and impactful for others. Ask, what can I do in this moment? How can I be useful and supportive? There's always something, even it's simply making meaningful eye contact with a stranger (from a minimum 6 ft. away, of course) and offering up a genuine smile. 

We've been thinking a lot about generosity. As you know, our primarily focus at Yoga 4 Classrooms is providing professional development, tools and resources to schools and school professionals interested in supporting whole child wellness, student success and positive climate by weaving in mindful moments into the school day. As the majority of schools have moved to virtual learning, we're offering a few free and significantly discounted resources we hope will support you: 

Mindful Activity of the Day! - Take your own mindful moment each day and share with your students! Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the emails! 
40% Discount on the Online Course: Yoga & Mindfulness in the Classroom - Support SEL, Student Success and Positive Climate 
20% Discount on the Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Cards 

Let us know how else we can support you during this unprecedented time. And please, take care of yourself. We've got this!

With positivity and gratitude,

Lisa Flynn
Founder, CEO: Yoga 4 Classrooms

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Funding Yoga, Mindfulness and SEL Using ESSA and Title IV Grants

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

It can be challenging to keep up with changes to national education policy. Here at Yoga 4 Classrooms, our intention is to keep school and district administrators, educators, parents and other key stakeholders informed about policies that can have a beneficial impact on the health and well-being of students, staff and schools as a whole. Today we’d like to share some recent changes to Title IV funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as these changes offer a much-needed opportunity to potentially provide funding for yoga, mindfulness and social and emotional learning (SEL) initiatives in schools.

What is Title IV of ESSA?

The ESSA is the main federal law for education in public schools covering grades K through 12. The ESSA was signed into law in 2015 when it replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and took full effect during the 2017-2018 school year. The main difference between ESSA and NCLB is that states now have a bigger role in holding schools accountable. The good news is this bigger responsibility provides states and school districts with increased flexibility in terms of how to spend federal funding. For a detailed description of the similarities and differences between ESSA and NCLB, check out this article from

Title IV, Part A of ESSA (also known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) recently combined several smaller programs under the such as the math and science partnership, safe and drug free schools, and counseling into one flexible block grant for states. Combining these smaller programs resulted in a big funding increase, with congress authorizing up to $1.1 billion for Title IV grants for fiscal year 2018. This means that these grants will begin coming into effect during the 2018 – 2019 school year.

This new funding is allocated to districts from state education officials using a Title I funding formula, which means that states with more Title I schools will receive more funding. Using this formula, it’s estimated that all districts in the United States will receive a minimum of $10,000 with this Title IV program, but many districts will be eligible for much more than this. Check out this article from Education Week to get more details about ESSA’s Title IV spending pot as well as this comprehensive guide on Title IV and this list of ESSA resources from the U.S. Department of Education.

How Can Districts and Schools Spend The Title IV Grant Money?

The new Title IV grants authorize spending in three broad areas:

  1. Providing students with a well-rounded education. This includes programs related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as well as music, art, civics, social-emotional learning, and physical education.

  2. Supporting safe and healthy students/schools. This includes programs related to promoting students’ physical health, mental health, violence prevention, and school counselors.

  3. Supporting the effective use of technology. This includes funding for technological equipment/devices, professional development related to technology, and digital content.

Districts or schools that receive an allocation above $30,000 must submit a needs assessment to their state department of education to receive the funds. These districts/schools are required to spend a minimum of 20% of their funding on well-rounded education and 20% on safe and healthy students. The remaining 60% of the funds can be spent on all three categories, including the effective use of technology.

Schools or districts that receive an allocation below $30,000 do not need to submit a needs assessment, but they must spend their funds in at least one of the three categories above.

Where Does Yoga, Mindfulness and SEL Fit In?

Two key points make the Title IV block grant ideal for funding yoga, mindfulness and SEL in schools. First, these new grants give districts much more flexibility with regard to how to spend their money. Second, the first two categories of these grants are highly focused on promoting student health and well-being through initiatives that support mental health, physical health, and social-emotional learning. In fact, the ESSA grant guide for Title IV funding specifically lists “schoolwide positive behavioral interventions” as a fundable activity under category number two.

A large and growing body of research suggests that school-based yoga and mindfulness programs support safe and healthy students as well as provide a well-rounded education. For example, school-based yoga and mindfulness have been shown to have positive effects on student mental health by enhancing coping and resiliencereducing test anxiety and lowering stress. These programs have also been found to reduce problem behaviors such as hostilitysuspensionsbullying and disciplinary referrals. School-based yoga and mindfulness can also have a positive impact on social-emotional outcomesacademic performancestrength and flexibility, and physical well-being (read this article to learn more about how mindfulness and social-emotional learning can work together in the classroom). Finally, yoga and mindfulness support safe and healthy schools by enhancing educator well-being and promoting a positive classroom climate.

This research makes a good case for using Title IV funds to support the implementation of school-based yoga and mindfulness in the interest of providing a well-rounded education and promoting safe and healthy schools. For more information on evidence-based benefits of yoga and mindfulness implementation at school, visit

How Can I Encourage the Use of Title IV Funds to Support Yoga & Mindfulness Implementation at My School?

Title IV funds could be used in a variety of ways, such as to support professional development for classroom teachers to implement yoga and mindfulness at their school, as well as for learning materials and props such as yoga mats, mindfulness apps, and yoga and mindfulness activity card decks.

Here are a few ways that you can get involved in using Title IV funds for yoga and mindfulness at your school:

  1. Get informed about your school and/or district plans for ESSA Title IV funds. Make contact with key stakeholders at your school and/or district to find out if your school has a plan for spending ESSA Title IV funds. You can also visit your state Department of Education website to read more about the ESSA plan that your state has submitted to the Department of Education (DOE).

  2. Be proactive with the needs assessment. If your district/school is being allotted more than $30,000, your district or school must conduct a needs assessment. Ideally, this application/needs assessment should be part of a district-wide planning process that includes input from teachers and parents (see this example planning and needs assessment template from the state of Utah). Classroom teachers, school counselors, specialists and others working with students every day are often on the front lines in terms of what is actually needed in their school. Make your voice heard by contacting your school administration and/or participating in relevant planning and school board meetings.

  3. Use science to make the case for yoga and mindfulness in schools. All of the scientific findings that we cited above (and more) fall squarely within the Title IV funding categories of using yoga and mindfulness to support safe and healthy students and providing a well-rounded education. If you’re interested in more research, check out the evidence-based benefits summary and the related free Research Repository: Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness for Children, Adolescents and In Schools, sponsored by Yoga 4 Classrooms. This repository is a comprehensive reference list of peer-reviewed, published studies on yoga and mindfulness in schools, with links to abstracts and full-text publications.

The bottom line? If you’re interested in implementing yoga and mindfulness at your school to support whole child health, SEL, academic success and positive school climate, the time is now. There is funding available for the 2018 – 2019 school year, with districts submitting ESSA plans and applications for funds in spring/summer 2018, so make sure your voice is heard in the decision-making process. You might still have time to add yoga and mindfulness to your district plan this year, or you could start planning to add it next year. It’s our sincere hope that these new Title IV grants will be used to promote safer, healthier students and schools across the country. Contact us to let us know if we can support you in this endeavor.

Need more funding ideas? Download our free tips and resources here.


Bethany Butzer, PhD is a research consultant for Yoga 4 Classrooms®. She also teaches, writes, and does research in the field of positive psychology, which emphasizes the development of human strength and potential. She received her PhD in psychology from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Bethany has worked in the corporate world and in academia, and she has also spent several years as an entrepreneur. From 2013 to 2015 she was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School, where she studied the effects of yoga in school settings. Bethany currently lives in Prague, where she is teaching an undergraduate positive psychology course at the University of New York in Prague and continuing to study yoga and mindfulness for youth. Learn more about Bethany at

Lisa Flynn is the founder and CEO of ChildLight Yoga® and Yoga 4 Classrooms®, nationally-acclaimed programs specializing in professional development training for educators, counselors, yoga teachers and allied professionals who support the physical, cognitive, social and emotional well-being of children and youth. Lisa is author of the Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Card Deck(2011); Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises, and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children (2013); Yoga for Children-Yoga Card: 50+ Yoga and Mindfulness Activities for Kids (2018); and contributor to Best Practices for Yoga in Schools (2015). She is a national presenter and was recently honored as an Influential Businesswoman of the Year. Lisa’s work has been featured in notable media including Fox News, ForbesEducation WeekParenting, and Yoga Journal.

About Yoga 4 Classrooms:

Yoga 4 Classrooms is a secular, evidence-informed yoga and mindfulness program for schools that promotes social, emotional and physical health and wellness, learning readiness and a positive school climate. By providing training and resources to support sustainable, school wide implementation, we empower schools to meet improvement goals while preparing students for a lifetime of success.

Interested in integrating yoga and mindfulness at your school? Attend an upcoming workshop near you, take the online course, or host an in-service training for your school staff. Contact us to learn more.

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5 Ways Schools, Teachers Can Make a Difference Following School Shooting | VIDEO

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dear Friends,

At one point last week, in the aftermath of the most recent school shooting, my own teenage children and their friends were in my kitchen discussing it, along with the the ever growing epidemic of depression, anxiety and even suicide among their peers. Eventually, they were all shouting - not at each other - but rather outward at the world and to the adults running it, as they reflected deep sadness, as well as feelings of frustration and powerlessness. What else could I do but listen and try to hold back my own tears? While shoveling snow the following morning, I had a few thoughts about how we, as individuals and school communities, really do have the power to elicit change. Still in my jacket, I came in and recorded this video. I hope you'll listen/watch, then check out the resources below.

1. Give your students an opportunity to organize and be heard.
Providing older students with opportunities to gather together to voice or demonstrate their concerns and opinions gives them a sense of purpose and cultivates connectedness between them, while also being extremely educational. There are several nationwide and local events being planned that schools could join or simply use as a starting point to plan a version that makes sense for their own school community. For example, check out this piece on a Maine school in which students organized an inspiring peaceful protest on Friday or this one about students in Andover, MA. For additional inspiration, listen to the shooting survivors themselves talk about the nationwide march they are organizing to take place on Saturday, March 24. This article just released by EdWeek provides insight on what district and school administrators are doing across the country amid walkouts and protests on gun violence, including the school walk out scheduled for March 14th. I encourage school leaders to meet with student leaders to brainstorm best and safest ways to allow their voices to be heard. In the end, it can have little effect on the school day, but a tremendously positive effect on student morale and civic engagement.

2. Find simple ways take action collectively.
Feelings of sadness, empathy and compassion are prevalent and natural responses to events such as a school shooting, so are the feelings of anger, helplessness and fear. To help empower children (and ourselves) to ease feelings of helplessness, try sharing simple compassionate and connecting practices such as Yoga 4 Classrooms PEACE BREATHwhich involves sending peace and love to the students and families involved, and to the world.This exercise could be done in the classroom or over announcements with your entire school. You can find the script, as well as additional resources on helping children cope with frightening news here. Using world events to start discussions and perhaps even provide opportunities for students to share ideas, write and otherwise brainstorm meaningful ways to make a difference will help them feel empowered and connected.

3. Reach out to your representatives and demand change.
Whether it's gun control legislation and/or more funding for mental health services that you feel is important, don't just think about it (guilty here), but let your reps know where you stand. Right now. You can contact your state senators here (see state search upper left) and your congress representatives here (search by zip code upper right). One person can make a difference, collectively we can have a transformative impact.

4. Make social and emotional learning a priority.
Consider that socially and emotionally healthy children will have less chance of developing mental health issues as they grow up. They will also be more successful in nearly every way at navigating their adolescent and adult worlds. The Every Student Succeeds Act, though still not enough (in my opinion), does encourage more of a focus on whole child education than did No Child Left Behind, which had an inordinate focus on academic achievement. Within ESSA, there is a bit more space and opportunity for schools to focus on professional development that empowers teachers with trauma-informed tools and strategies for encouraging the development of social and emotional learning competencies. Two of the competencies, self-awareness and self-management, provide the foundation for the development of the others which include responsible decision-making, social awareness and relationship skills. The evidence-base is growing in support of yoga and mindfulness education as a means to promoting these skills. And in my 11+ years observation working with schools, it typically only takes one inspired staff member, parent or administator to step forward to get the ball rolling to seeing it integrated. One.

5. Support your own emotional resilience and well-being.
Events like school shootings have a ripple effect to every school and teacher across this country, and yet those feelings must be put on a side burner so that you can attend to teaching and addressing the needs of your students. But as they say, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first in order to sustain your ability to assist others. Making staff wellness a priority is critical to the well-being of the entire school. As well, it can prevent teacher burnout. Awhile back, we wrote An Antidote to Teacher Stress: How Yoga and Mindfulness Can Support Resilience In and Out of the Classroom. Since then, I have continued to be inspired by the reflections of teachers (video) at the schools we've been fortunate to support who consistently share they are more resilient, effective, and feel more fulfilled both personally and professionally following their training and positive experiences with classroom integration of yoga and mindfulness. Even without that, you can pick up a guide like Barbara Larrivee's new book, A Daily Dose of Mindful Moments, right now and immediately start using simple, resilience-building mindfulness tools throughout the day. Try starting your next staff meeting with one of the activities therein to center and connect within, and with one another, and then reflect together on the effect.

Truly, there are no small actions. By taking care of ourselves, by finding ways to connect with each other, by standing up and voicing our concerns, and by supporting our students' current and future mental health in evidence-based, tangible ways, we will be taking collective action toward real and positive change. Though I've shed more than a few tears since Feb. 14th as I know you have, I'm still beyond hopeful that together, we CAN be the change we wish to see in the world. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Yours in peace,
Lisa Flynn

Founder & CEO, Yoga 4 Classrooms and ChildLight Yoga
Author of Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Cardsand Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children

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What We Can Learn from the Encinitas School Yoga Lawsuit: New Study Summary

Sunday, September 17, 2017

In 2013, the parents of two students at a school in Encinitas, California filed a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) claiming that yoga is areligious practice that should not be taught in public schools. The parents were concerned that a EUSD health and wellness program (HWP) that included yoga was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The first trial took place in June 2013, with a final ruling that the EUSD HWP was not religious. The concerned parents appealed this initial ruling, and the case was brought to the California state supreme court. In April 2015, the state appeals court again ruled that the HWP was not religious.

A few weeks after the ruling, researchers from the University of Buffalo, led by Catherine Cook-Cottone, Ph.D., interviewed 32 school personnel who were involved with the lawsuit, including district superintendents, assistants, school principals, classroom teachers, instructors of the EUSD HWP, and University of San Diego researchers who were originally involved in studying the program. In August 2017, the results of their qualitative study were published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.  

The study described a large variety of opinions and experiences of school personnel who were involved with the lawsuit, so a full description of the findings is beyond the scope of this article. However, we want to highlight a few results for consideration by yoga service providers.

First of all, participants were in agreement that the HWP was not religious, however they expressed compassion and understanding about the parents’ concerns, and support of their right to address their concerns in court.

Also, despite the fact that the Encinitas lawsuit received a lot of media attention, it’s interesting to note that very few children actually opted out of the EUSD HWP. According to one health and wellness instructor quoted in the study, only 8 out of around 700 students opted out of the program, primarily for religious reasons. In other words, the majority of parents appeared to be supportive of the HWP.

One topic that came up repeatedly in the study was that there may have been several factors related to the initial implementation of the HWP that sparked parental concerns. Yoga was initially introduced in 2011 to one EUSD school by one instructor. However, the program grew rapidly based on funding received from the Sonima Foundation (formerly Jois Foundation, now known as Pure Edge Inc.). This funding allowed the district to develop a formal HWP and implement it district-wide during the 2012-2013 school year.

Some study participants noted that when yoga was initially introduced at EUSD, it included cultural artifacts, such as Sanskrit language, mandalas, Hindu stories, prayer mudra (i.e. bringing hands together at one’s heart), and a poster that outlined the eight limbs of yoga from Patanjali’s yoga sutras. They shared that while the intention of the HWP was never meant to be religious, these cultural artifacts may have been what sparked initial parental concerns. The EUSD responded quickly to these concerns by removing all cultural artifacts from the school environment, clearly explaining to the program instructors that these artifacts were not appropriate, and giving parents the opportunity to observe the yoga classes, but it’s possible the “damage” had already been done.

The results of this study highlight several key takeaways for those of us interested in implementing yoga in school settings:

1)    Take the time to make sure all stakeholders, including school personnel, parents, program instructors, and students are fully informed and aware of the secular nature of the program. While yoga instructors and some classroom teachers might be excited about the prospect of implementing school-based yoga, and want to do it quickly, not all stakeholders will feel the same way. Read this 2012 article Lisa wrote in response to the Encinitas controversy, for tips about informing all stakeholders, including holding information sessions for parents and teachers, as well as sending information letters and regular updates to parents.

2)    As passionate yoga enthusiasts, we need to ensure we practice what we teach. Yes, we believe yoga offers a secular method to enhance social emotional skills and positive youth development, but we need to be extremely thoughtful about how we are approaching schools and delivering programming. While Sanskrit language, mandalas, and prayer mudras might be so common in our lives that we don’t perceive them as anything out of the ordinary, we need to be mindful of the fact that it is practically guaranteed that school community members, including parents, will have experiences that are different from ours. Despite our innocent intentions, including cultural artifacts can actually prevent some students from accessing yoga, which is opposite of our intentions. Respect, compassion and non-attachment are essential.

3)    Another key takeaway is the importance of transparency about the origins and funding of your school-based yoga program (if it receives outside funding). While most school-based yoga programs are not funded by external sources, the EUSD HWP received funding from, and was developed by, the Sonima Foundation, which was formerly known as the Jois Foundation. According to the Jois Yoga website, Jois Yoga “is an institute set up to impart the traditional Ashtanga philosophy and practice developed and taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India since the early 20th century.” Note that the Jois Foundation is not alone in this – other school-based yoga programs, such as Kripalu Yoga in the Schools, are also supported by organizations that have ties to traditional teachers and practices from India. These types of funding situations are the minority, however it is important to be aware of and transparent about the origins of the program that you are teaching. No matter how far removed the school-based versions of these yoga programs are from the traditional origins of these organizations, any parent who does a bit of online digging has the potential to become concerned if these ties are not made transparent from the beginning. In other words, these types of collaborations need to be made clear to parents and school personnel upfront. The most crucial piece here is to provide information explaining that the school-based versions of these yoga programs have been developed in secular ways that are not associated with any particular religious practices or beliefs.  

4)    It’s important that we recognize that controversies and lawsuits such as the Encinitas case can and will be sensationalized by the media. One small error in judgement while teaching yoga in a single class in a single school can be cause for that program to be completely shut down as we’ve seen take place in various instances around the country in recent years. When the media creates a stir, well founded or not, it creates fear which can, and has, negatively affected the current and/or planned implementation of other quality yoga and mindfulness programming in other schools/districts. We have experienced this negative phenomenon first-hand by having had a district-wide contract rescinded before the program even started due to fear caused by media attention generated from a single parent in single school who took offense to a classroom teacher leading mandala coloring and using the term, “Namaste,” with her students. These are seemingly small incidents that can lead to tremendously negative consequences, not just on individual schools and programs, but on the yoga in schools movement as a whole.

5)    Finally, it’s important to keep to the science. Be clear about the reasons why you want to implement a school-based yoga program in the first place. Rather than being a stealthy way to spread religious doctrine, school-based yoga really does help kids. There are several scientific reviews and rationale papers that you can offer your district personnel and parents that explain the stress managing and self-regulating affects of yoga. For a comprehensive reference list of peer-reviewed research on yoga and mindfulness for youth, check out the Yoga 4 Classrooms supporting research webpage.

School personnel at EUSD did the best they could under difficult circumstances, and now it’s up to us to learn from their experiences. What can we learn? In a nutshell: full transparency is necessary, from all angles, before you implement yoga in a school. Go slow and understand the best practices for what and how you are teaching so that you don’t end up with issues later on. Implementing school-based yoga in a mindful, conscientious way will help ensure that students and schools across this country and others have access to programming that has the potential to support social and emotional learning, health and wellness, and positive school climate.


Cook-Cottone, C., Lemish, E., & Guyker, W. (2017). Interpretive phenomenological analysis of a lawsuit contending that school-based yoga is religion: A study of school personnel. International Journal of Yoga Therapy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.17761/IJYT2017_Research_Cook_Cottone


Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
 serves as research advisor for Yoga 4 Classrooms. Bethany received her Ph.D. in psychology in 2008 from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and she recently spent 2.5 years as a postdoctoral research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, where she studied the effects of yoga in school settings. Bethany is also an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Learn more at 

Lisa Flynn is founder and CEO of ChildLight Yoga and Yoga 4 Classrooms, author of the Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Card Deck; and Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises, and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Reslient Children, contributor to Best Practices for Yoga in Schools, and sponsor of the free Research Repository: Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness for Children, Adolescents and in Schools which she developed with Bethany. Lisa contributed to the first published research study to use subjective and objective data to examine the acute and longitudinal effects of a school based yoga intervention in young children. Learn more about Lisa here.

About Yoga 4 Classrooms:

Yoga 4 Classrooms is a secular, evidence-informed yoga and mindfulness program for schools that promotes social, emotional and physical health and wellness, learning readiness and a positive school climate. By providing training and resources to support sustainable, school wide implementation, we empower schools to meet improvement goals while preparing students for a lifetime of success.

Interested in integrating secular yoga and mindfulness at your school? Attend an upcoming workshop near you, take the online course, or host an in-service training for your school staff. Contact us to learn more.

Related Articles:

Yoga in Schools Promotes Spiritual Development and it Has Nothing to Do With Religion (Y4C Blog / Elephant Journal)
Yoga in Schools is Not a Religious Practice - Elephant Journal features our article on the issue (Y4C Blog / Elephant Journal)

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5 Tips for Getting Students Excited About Yoga Breaks in the Classroom

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Danielle, Kutcher, 4th/5th grade teacher & Yoga 4 Classrooms IMPLEMENT™ Leader at a New Jersey elementary school shares her 5 tips to increase student engagement during yoga breaks. Learn Danielle's secrets to getting students to actually ask you for more yoga in the classroom which promotes readiness to learn and the development of social and emotional skills. 

Watch now...

Also, don't miss this inspiring
"Michael Jackson" music video created by Danielle's former 4th grade class, where they share with us what they've learned about yoga and mindfulness throughout the year. A must see!  Watch now.

Danielle was also recently featured in the article, "Mindful Classrooms: Teaching Kids to Cope, One Breath at a Time", published in New Jersey Monthly, January, 2017. Read more.


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4 Reasons School Counselors Should Include Yoga and Mindfulness in Their School Counseling Program

Saturday, March 11, 2017

On a typical day, the average school counselor will encounter a wide range of “fires to put out.” As leaders within the school community, we support students’ academic performance, social/emotional learning, and promote college and career readiness. We also advocate on students’ behalf, support teachers and staff, as well as provide resources for families in need. Yoga and mindfulness practices can be useful tools to assist school counselors in implementing a comprehensive school counseling program. From my experience, I have learned that there are 4 powerful reasons why all school counselors should use yoga and mindfulness to support and strengthen their school counseling program.

1. Closing the Achievement Gap

As a school counselor, one of my primary tasks is to support students in closing achievement gaps. Over the last two years, I have used both yoga and mindfulness to support academic achievement gaps with my students. Last year, I used mindfulness practices to increase math standardized test scores with a targeted group of fifth grade students. My experience and training with mindfulness practices introduced me to the brain-based research that supports using it with students. Studies show that following mindfulness training, the hippocampus, which is critical to learning and memory, becomes more active (Goldin & Gross, 2010) and has more gray matter density (Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J. & Vangel, M., 2011). The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain most associated with executive functioning skills and has also been found to be more activated following mindfulness training (Chiesa & Serretti 2010). When deciding how to develop my intervention, I started with a list of executive functioning skills for the students to strengthen. I also looked at current research in the field of mindfulness. Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl of the University of British Columbia evaluated the effectiveness of the MindUp curriculum on students in fourth and fifth grade and found that 15% of students improved their math achievement scores (Schonert-Reichl, Oberle & Lawlor, 2015).

Taking all of the research into consideration, I developed a "Mindful Math Group" that met once a week for eight weeks. I introduced my students to a variety of mindfulness techniques with the intention of reducing test anxiety and improving executive function skills. We used conscious breathing, focused our attention on the present moment, learned organization and time management skills, and shifted our mindset to encourage resilience. At the beginning of each small group, we spent a “mindful minute” to “check in” with ourselves and the present moment. I collaborated with the math teacher to conclude each group with a math problem in which students would apply the executive functioning skill that was taught that day. Each lesson was tied to the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) Mindsets and Behaviors, specifically, those that were identified as being most needed by perception data collected from the teachers. In the end, 68% of participating students improved their test score from the year before.

This year, I am integrating a yoga practice into Project Based Learning experience that is intended to support all fourth grade students in passing their Virginia Studies Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment. As l disaggregated the data, I found that the students were struggling with memorizing the facts for this particular assessment. At the National Kids' Yoga Conference in October, I heard a keynote presentation by Dr. John Ratey, author of  SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain which inspired me to integrate the physical practice of yoga to help my students memorize their Virginia Studies facts. Using his approach during the second quarter in 2016, I divided all fourth grade students into small groups, gave them a list of facts to memorize, and tasked them with working in a group to create a yoga sequence to retell those facts. The students were highly engaged and very creative with their execution of this project. Although they have not taken their Virginia Studies SOL yet, 44% of students increased their report card grade for works effectively within a group from first to second quarter. The average perception of students’ attitudes, skills, and knowledge also improved following this project.  

2. Improving Student Behavior

Our school district uses Response to Intervention (RTI), which is a common multi-tiered support system for students struggling with academic achievement and/or behavior. Since several studies have examined the positive impact of yoga on behavior in schools, I decided to try it with my students. I began to integrate yoga into my classroom guidance lessons as a Tier One intervention for all students. After identifying a group of students that needed more individualized behavioral support, I created a Tier Two intervention using yoga to reduce behavior related office referrals. I designed and implemented an eight week, small group yoga program titled "Warriors with Self-Control" to help these students with impulsivity and self-regulation. By the end of the eight weeks, behavior referrals were significantly reduced and teacher perception of the students’ ability to use self-control increased by 92%. These results led the teachers at my school to become more interested in these techniques and how yoga interventions can provide behavioral support.

3. Promoting a Culture of Compassion

Most yoga practitioners have heard the term “taking your yoga off the mat,” and promoting a school culture of kindness and compassion does just that. I use the Yamas and Niyamas, yoga's universal principles, combined with the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors to drive my core counseling curriculum. They provide a valuable framework for my classroom guidance lessons and promote character education. During the last few years, I have used the philosophies of classical yoga to enhance my school’s anti-bullying campaign called Compassion in Action. My classroom lessons have focused on using compassion and empathy to decrease bullying and we have seen great success so far. This year, our focus is self-compassion and we are using a wide range of yoga and mindfulness practices to enhance this focus. Students have also enjoyed learning a new yoga pose every week during our morning news show!

4. Self-Care and Stress Management

Last, but certainly not least, we can all use a little bit of self-care and stress management. Yoga and mindfulness practices provide fantastic opportunities to teach students AND teachers and staff, about stress reduction and burnout prevention. My students learn the benefits of “rest and digest” and how yoga and mindfulness can trigger the relaxation response within their body. They learn to be aware of the signs that their body gives them when their “fight or flight” response is activated and how to use self-regulation strategies that help deactivate the sympathetic nervous system. I have offered PTA (Parent Teacher Association) presentations on the benefits of yoga and mindfulness as well as staff development on strategies to prevent burnout. Yoga and mindfulness practices assist my students in so many ways. AND, they help me be more effective as a school counselor.

As you can see, there are many benefits to integrating yoga and mindfulness practices into your comprehensive school counseling program. In fact, Dr. Julia Taylor from the University of Virginia recently completed a dissertation titled The Experiences of School Counselors Who Integrate Yoga into a Comprehensive School Counseling Program: A Phenomenological Approach. It’s worth a read! In the end, I cannot imagine my school counseling program without these integrated practices!


Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2010). A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations.    Psychological Medicine, 40(08), 1239–1252.
Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-¬based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social     anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83.
Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36–43.
S.Schonert- Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, D., Oberlander, T., & Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social- emotional competence through a simple-to-administer school program. Developmental Psychology, 51(1): 52–66.

Erin Hurley, M.Ed., RYT, RCYT, is the Fairfax County Public Schools “School Counselor of the Year” and the Vice President of the Virginia School Counselor Association. She has worked in public education for eleven years, spending her first seven years as a kindergarten teacher before completing her M.Ed. in Counseling and Development at George Mason University. In addition to her current role as an Elementary School Counselor at Cherry Run Elementary in Burke, VA, she is also a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher and has completed Mindful Schools curriculum training. She presents regularly on the topics of yoga, mindfulness, and social and emotional learning at area school counseling conferences. As a Yoga 4 Classrooms IMPLEMENT Leader, Erin is leading implementation of Yoga 4 Classrooms school wide and is developing a Yoga 4 Classrooms Online Course for School Counselors which will launch Summer, 2019. 

Interested in integrating yoga and mindfulness at your school? Attend an upcoming workshop near you, take the online course, or host an in-service training for your school staff. Contact us to learn more.

Related Articles:

Inner City School Principal Shares Results of School-Wide Implementation of Yoga 4 Classrooms | VIDEO
Scientific Evidence for Yoga & Mindfulness in Schools : How & Why Does it Work?
The Benefits of Meditation for Children | Forbes article
Des Moines School District Reduces Punitive Actions
Yoga for School Kids - YogaGlo features benefits of Yoga 4 Classrooms
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Yoga promotes social and emotional learning in New Jersey classrooms

Monday, January 16, 2017

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and the capacity to regulate emotions is critical for childhood development. Yet, skills such as self-awareness and self-management often take a back seat to math and language skills in the public school setting. Danielle Kutcher, 5th Grade Teacher at Woodland Elementary in Monroe Township (NJ), always felt like a critical piece of the puzzle to educate the whole child was missing. Four years ago, she attended a Yoga 4 Classrooms training which completely changed her whole philosophy on educating children. "It was that powerful," Danielle shared recently with New Jersey Monthly magazine who recently interviewed her for an article on mindful classrooms. 

Once Danielle started implementing what she learned from the Yoga 4 Classrooms program, she immediately saw positive changes in her students. "I saw changes in their self-perception; they were feeling better about themselves... and with this change came a readiness to learn." ....

“Parents are completely surprised that we have programs like this,” says Suleski, referring to Yoga 4 Classrooms. “And they are right…. We’re fortunate here in Millstone that we support this type of thing.”...

In Monroe Township, Kutcher says the feedback from parents has been gratifying. She recalls a class mom who pulled her aside during a school fundraiser. “She had tears streaming down her face and said, ‘I’m not quite sure what this program you’re doing is about, but I want to thank you.’ And she hugged me. I got chills. I asked what was going on. She said, ‘I always had to battle my son to do homework, but now I watch him get up from the table, take a balloon breath, stand in mountain pose for a moment or two, and then he goes right back.’ She said, ‘I started to do it too. I started to take these breaths at work and do methods at my desk, and now my son feels like a rock star, because he’s teaching mom.’”

Whatever the age, the lessons are invaluable, says Kutcher. “This is going to carry them through their lifetimes.”

Read the full article, "Mindful Classrooms: Teaching Kids to Cope, One Breath at a Time", published in New Jersey Monthly, January, 2017.

5th grade teacher Danielle Kutcher guides her students into mindful moments throughout the day to assist with stress management, learning readiness. Photo permission courtesy of NJ Monthly Magazine. 

Interested in bringing yoga and mindfulness to your school? Contact us to learn more.

Related Articles:

Inner City School Principal Shares Results of School-Wide Implementation of Yoga 4 Classrooms | VIDEO
Scientific Evidence for Yoga & Mindfulness in Schools : How & Why Does it Work?
The Benefits of Meditation for Children | Forbes article
Des Moines School District Reduces Punitive Actions
Yoga for School Kids - YogaGlo features benefits of Yoga 4 Classrooms

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Yoga for School Kids - Yogaglo features Yoga 4 Classrooms

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As more schools around the country start adding yoga and mindfulness practices to their curricula, there is also a growing stream of positive media attention. Most recently, the popular Yogaglo Blog published an article titled, Yoga for School Kids, written by Alice Walton. Alice is also responsible for recently published Forbes article which touted the scientific benefits of of meditation for children's brains and behavior, a notable read.  

Y4C founder and CEO, Lisa Flynn, first met Alice at the first annual Yoga in the Schools Symposium held at Kripalu back in 2014. As a health and science writer, she was inspired to learn more about the tremendous impact yoga and mindfulness integration at school can have on the health and performance of schoolchildren and educators, as well as on school climate. Lisa had been following her writing since that time and was thrilled to hear from Alice a couple of months ago as she was gathering content for these articles. Her initial question: How does yoga and meditation in school support social and emotional growth and kindness? As it ends up, their communications focused on the seemingly endless trickle-down effects that regular yoga and meditation practices can have on individual students, educators and the school culture as a whole:

“It goes without saying that emotionally and physically healthy kids who feel safe, supported and connected are happier and more successful in and out of school,” says Lisa Flynn, who founded Yoga 4 Classrooms. “A growing body of evidence is demonstrating yoga in schools promotes the development of social, emotional, and physical well-being of school children (and teachers) as it fosters a positive, compassionate school climate, all of which are key for effective teaching and learning.”

When kids are more centered and more attentive, this can open up the way for academic changes to occur. And it’s the potential for academic benefits that may initially prompt the schools to make the leap into offering yoga – but the fuller range of benefits will of course be there as well. “With social-emotional changes in place, we begin to see improvements in the areas of academic achievement, and decreases in behavior referrals,” says Flynn. “These are the areas that may be of most interest to school administrators who are just starting to explore yoga for their schools.”

Read the full article here.

Interested in bringing yoga and mindfulness to your school? Contact us to learn more.

Related Articles:

Inner City School Principal Shares Results of School-Wide Implementation of Yoga 4 Classrooms | VIDEO
Scientific Evidence for Yoga & Mindfulness in Schools : How & Why Does it Work?
The Benefits of Meditation for Children | Forbes article
Des Moines School District Reduces Punitive Actions

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Des Moines School District Reduces Punitive Actions

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

During the 2015-16 school year in Des Moines (IA), black students accounted for 41 percent of all disciplinary referrals, but make up only 18.3 percent of district enrollment. Across the country, minority students receive disproportionately more suspensions and expulsions than their white peers. Civil right activists have drawn attention to the associated social concern of "school-to-prison" pipeline and even Former President Barack Obama has called for changes in approaches to school discipline. Unfortunately, there is little agreement on what that change should look like. In fact, some parents and teachers are raising concerns about the lack of disciplinary action in Des Moines, where school leaders are changing the district’s use of discipline to sharply reduce and eliminate expulsions. 

For years the standard practice was to kick misbehaving students out of the classroom but this often leads to the students falling behind academically and that approach does little to address the underlying issues of poor behavior. One approach that does seem to rally administrator, teacher and parent support is visible at Edmunds Elementary. The approach at Edmunds is actually part of a larger trend around the country -  schools are using yoga and mindfulness instead of punitive actions to address the underlying causes of disruptive classroom behavior which can include stress and trauma and a lack of social and emotional skills such as self-awareness and self-management. In an article titled, The Movement of Meditation Replacing Detention In Schools, Newsweek recently featured a Baltimore School which teaches students ways to manage their anger through yoga and meditation. And, a Forbes article titled, The Benefits of Meditation for Children, followed shortly thereafter. 

Edmunds has seen dramatic results as a result of school wide Yoga 4 Classrooms implementation, including reductions in office referrals from 1,195 in 2012-13 to just 303 in 2015-16. Principal Jaynette Rittman says that suspensions have been virtually eliminated. Fourth-grader Libby Latimore likes to imagine herself alone in a quiet space, away from the noise of school or home. The deep breaths help, especially after being angry. "It helps you forget about it for school," she said. "I calm myself down before I explode."

Read the full article here.

Interested in bringing yoga and mindfulness to you school? Contact us to learn more.

Related Articles:

Inner City School Principal Shares Results of School-Wide Implementation of Yoga 4 Classrooms
Scientific Evidence for Yoga & Mindfulness in Schools : How & Why Does it Work?
Yoga 4 Classrooms Implement Leader featured in YogaIowa Magazine
The Benefits of Meditation for Children | Forbes article
Yoga for School Kids - Yogaglo features Yoga 4 Classrooms

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