Bullying Can Be Stopped With Yoga
This is an interview with Dee Marie, MA, CYT who has been practicing yoga therapy in clinical settings since 1986 and instructing classes for students comprised of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. In the middle of a professional dance career she suffered a freak accident, after which she was forced to look for therapies to help counteract the news: “You will never walk again.” Therefore she decided to train in classical yoga therapy with Sri Swami Rama of the Himalayan Institute starting in 1990, received a master’s degree from New York University in Exercise Therapy, Child and Motor Development in 1993, and studied with Mukunda Stiles in Structural Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda from 2003 to the present. Today, she is able to dance, ski, and hike in Boulder, Colo.
Rob Schware: What motivated you to start Calming Kids (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World? Where were you in your life at the time?
In 2004, I attended the annual meeting in Denver of the American Medical Association Alliance, which is a division of the American Medical Association that implements community-based health care programs addressing aspects of the nation’s well-being. The alarming rise of bullying in the schools was the focus of the meeting, which inspired me to address bullying with an educationally-based yoga program during the school-day curriculum to teach ahimsa — nonviolence to self and others. In 2004, yoga was not as mainstream in the schools as it is today.
Is there evidence that what you are teaching kids works?
Yes. I set up a pilot study to determine if yoga would result in a decrease in bullying. And it did. I spent four years gathering information while teaching 4th and 5th grade students during the school day. The students were surveyed before and after my instruction period. Statistical evaluation of the questionnaires addressed topics related to bullying as well as interpersonal relationships, stress management, and concentration abilities, and showed a dramatic decrease in violent behavior. I also interviewed the teachers and the principal to determine the effectiveness of the program. They enthusiastically endorsed the changes observed in the students.
The CK curriculum was created after the first year of research, because our pilot study [indicated] that children taught to relax, self-regulate, communicate, and have compassion for others could dramatically increase their abilities to manage their anger.
[See four-year research study results here.]
Is it an adult idea that kids should practice yoga?
No. There is a huge need for this type of education for kids. With the constant advancement in technology, kids and teens are continually bombarded with external stimuli. But their communication skills are often lacking, self-awareness is difficult, and relaxation/centering techniques are nonexistent. Therefore, Calming Kids: Creating a Non-Violent World definitely works for kids and teens.
Students of all ages love yoga. It is fun and very relaxing. The CK system teaches children how to balance their lives and how to communicate effectively. Students do not ask for asanas (yoga postures); they do ask for relaxation, concentration or conflict resolution scenarios. It is the lifestyle of yoga that sparks their interest. Yoga is an enjoyable way to learn self-reflection, introspection, and relaxation, which most children greatly appreciate. It helps them to counterbalance their reaction to the busy world they live in.
Nowadays, everyone is teaching “kids yoga.” Please compare and contrast what you teach with the way it’s being taught by more-recently trained instructors.
Many of the current children’s yoga approaches become just another movement experience in childlike form — “Be a tree, jump like a frog, stand like a flamingo.” All of this has its place, and children respond joyfully to the animal imagery of yoga asana. Addressing the physical body is a way into the energetic and emotional bodies, but what about the student who cannot walk, has a special need, or just came back from soccer practice, or the teen who does not like to sweat? How do we reach this population? Calming Kids yoga looks at a deeper aspect of managing one’s life by giving techniques not only with exercise, but with a traditional approach to yoga education by teaching practices for the body, the breath, the mind, and nonviolent communication strategies.
Yoga used to be a practice to prepare the body for meditation. What is it you are teaching kids? Is there anything spiritual about your teaching or is it strictly about stretching and breathing?
The spiritual aspect of Calming Kids emphasizes to the students how to have positive social interactions with their families, peers, community and world.
CK is taught within the school-day curriculum. And it addresses more than stretching and breathing. CK explores five out of the eight classical Ashtanga limbs. Since students learn in different ways, the CK system addresses all learning styles by presenting yoga education in a variety of forms: visually, physically, orally and intellectually. The CK program introduces how the regulation of involuntary breathing will create a comfortable body and a focused mind subsequently developing compassion for oneself and others.
What is your vision for yoga with the kids you are trying to serve? What would you like to see happen?
To have yoga education mainstream in every school nationally by 2020, in order to offer school-age students an alternative to sex and guns as communication techniques. I want the schools to teach ahimsa (nonviolence to self and others). And this would certainly not be an exercise system, but rather the ability to relax and communicate effectively in stressful situations. To take a few moments to breathe, center, reflect, and gather one’s thoughts before reacting in a violent manner.
What continues to motivate you?
I live in one of the largest yoga-populated cities in America: Boulder, Colo. Yet there are still so many individuals here — children, teens, young adults, seniors, families, brain-injury survivors, wheelchair-bound students — who cry out for the knowledge to calm down, relax, focus, release, and communicate effectively. What motivates me is helping to address these cries, to help those who want to learn a lifestyle of freedom within their body and mind. I am continually motivated to help the youth who have nowhere else to turn in order to learn svadhyaya (self-study) and ahimsa (nonviolence to self and others). There is clearly an intense need to offer solutions in response to the loud cries because of the number of shootings we have in Colorado.
I’m interested in your thoughts on service, and the types of service that come from a yoga practice. What kind of service opportunity does a yoga practice offer to a teacher in a place like Boulder?
Typically we start our journey into yoga for self-satisfaction and balance, and after many years of practice we attain a comfortable, confident, balanced attitude within our own lives. We can then turn to helping others who are struggling. Yoga is for everyone. When we say, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear,” it means that if we are ready to serve in any situation, the opportunity will present itself.
Besides training youth providers and children nationally, Calming Kids is developing an online Children’s Yoga and Bully-Proofing Training for elementary-age youth professionals, as well as, a Spanish version of our CK Training Manual.
Editor: Alice Trembour
Are you a yoga instructor giving back to underserved or un-served populations? Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in being interviewed for this series. Thank you for all you do in the name of service!
Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans Coping with Trauma, a collection of simple but effective yoga practices developed by Suzanne Manafort and Dr. Daniel Libby through practical and clinical experience working with veterans coping with PTSD and other psycho-emotional stress. While benefiting trauma patients safely and comfortably, the practices can be used by anyone dealing with stress.
The Give Back Yoga Foundation is making this manual available free to veterans and VA hospitals. It is also available on the GBYF website, if you would like to purchase the book and support free distribution to veterans. This practice guide includes a supplement (poster-size) of the yoga practices.
Join us at the Yoga Service Conference at Omega June 7-9th http://yogaservicecouncil.org/?page_id=5
For more by Rob Schware, click here.
For more on yoga, click here.
SAVE (Stop America’s Violence Everywhere) Colorado representative, Dee Marie has been a Masters Certified Yoga Therapist for 28 years. She’s worked with kids and adults from all walks of life and has dedicated her practice to preventing violence in schools. Designed for educators, health care providers, all youth facilitators, yoga teachers and parents, the Calming Kids Yoga teacher training teaches adults how to implement an award winning yoga curriculum that reduces bullying, improves anger management, concentration and relaxation in pre-school through high school age students.
Through four years of research in conjunction with American Medical Association, Boulder County Medical Society Alliance, Harvard University, and Boulder’s Heatherwood Elementary, Calming Kids proved that a 4.5 hour exposure to yoga over a period of two weeks has been shown to result in up to a 93% decrease in aggressive behavior in 4th and 5th grade children as well as improved concentration and relaxation. Since its conception, teachers from Cherry Creek, St. Vrain, Denver, Summit County, Boulder and Ouray School Districts have participated in the Calming Kids training and have been joined by educators throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Canada.
Yoga in schools is not a new concept—it’s often incorporated into PE curriculum as a form of exercise. Though staying physically fit is indeed a benefit of yoga, the Calming Kids program initiates yoga as a way to reduce violence and anxiety in schools and improve concentration. Boulder Valley School District has engaged Dee Marie to create a district wide curriculum for middle and high school Physical Education and health teachers for 2013.Share
4Kids.org is a cool place for kids to go and learn stuff.
Ask Amy is a popular column that kids might check out and in this case, learn about health or other fitness ideas in general.Share
Children often have a hard time being quiet in the classroom. Since yoga is a very silent activity, it can help them to learn that being quiet does not have to mean being bored. If they become comfortable with silence outside of the classroom, they may not be as likely to chat during a lesson in school.
Howard Gardner is famous for his theory of multiple intelligences, and yoga can help children to better understand some of the theory’s concepts. For example, children who are well versed in achieving the delicate movements that yoga requires will be working on their body/movement/kinesthetic intelligence. Additionally, children who are introduced to yoga as a spiritual and/or reflective movement will be working on their intrapersonal intelligence skills. They will be communicating with themselves and learning more about themselves as a result of the quiet, reflective moments that yoga provides to them. Children can see that intelligence does not come in a “one size fits all” package.
Anyone who has practiced yoga certainly knows that it is no easy task. Yoga requires paying careful attention to the structure of the poses, since the poses are at the heart of a yoga session. By taking part in a session or series of classes, children will quickly learn how important it is to pay attention to the
exact movements that the instructor is doing. The instructor will most likely walk around and help them to achieve these poses. Such precision can help children in school. As a result of yoga, they may wind up paying more attention to the exact way in which the art teacher uses a technique or the math teacher
solves a problem.
Chances are, children are not going to get every single yoga move correct the first time that they do it. One of the wonderfully motivating aspects about yoga is that instructors are generally very patient and focused on helping their students week after week. As long as the child is actually trying, the instructor is going to provide constructive feedback in a non-judgmental way. Yoga is a way for children to realize that they do not have to be perfect, but if they keep trying with a lot of effort, they can completely succeed in certain disciplines. Clearly, yoga has a number of benefits for children, two of which are increasing the child’s understanding and potential for intelligence and determination. These two qualities are important for children to learn about, since they can absolutely and directly affect the success and levels of achievement that the child has in the educational setting.
Milo Hunting writes about parenting, fitness & finance.
On the elementary school playground the new girl, Katie, who had just moved in from out of state gets isolated by a pack of girls. “You wear such strange clothes,” “Yeah, you look so weird,” “Why don’t you go back to where you came from” are just a few of the comments from the crowd. The more Katie gets laughed at and ostracized the bigger the crowd gathers around her, even boys stepped in.
Katie has to make a quick decision, break down, and slump into a defeatist posture and or run away to tell a teacher. Or even worse, put a lid on her voice and escape to a bathroom to cry it off only to be terrorized by those girls again another day.
But having had yoga bully proofing training at her previous school, Katie knew which choice to make. She stood firmly planting her two feet flat onto the earth, straightening her back and broadening her shoulders. Standing in Tad asana, mountain pose, the first posture she learned in yoga education, and then Katie took 3 deep breaths before replying to the mob.
With confident body language, Katie spoke in a strong voice, “I feel good when I wear these clothes. Sorry if you don’t like them, but I never asked your opinion. This is how the cool kids dressed at my old school. Maybe you could help me learn your style so I can be as cool as you!”
The crowd went silent. No one knew what to say. Katie’s confidence shined through and the slight flattery towards the group shocked the onlookers. Finally, a soft spoken girl from the crowd said, “Sure, we can teach you a lot of what we do here.” Almost unanimously the others chimed in, “Yeah”, “OK”, “We’ll help you.” Finally, the leader (the bully who started it all) spoke, “I can show you, I even have some magazines in my backpack we could look at together for current fashion ideas.” The spell was broken. Katie proved in that moment that she would not take abuse from anyone.
The other students got it and never approached her again in this way. One definition of a bully is someone who intentionally hurts another person physically or verbally. Research shows that bullies are typically insecure within themselves and often come from a troubled family life, they are sometimes even victims of bullying within their own family dynamics. Thus, they carry this to school and put down or torment others.
Often times the school systems are preoccupied with disciplining the bully or trying to change the bullying behavior. This approach misses the point and is not working. Just look at what kind of shape the nation’s schools and colleges are in today regarding violent issues.
Often parents come to me and complain about the schools approach to intervention. They tell me that the school blames their son or daughter because they are an easy prey to the bully. The support is just not there within the schools. Seeing this I realized it was time to jump in and help the families of victimized students.Share
Children’s Yoga in School for Bullying Prevention
“Jivatam Jyotiretu Vidyam,” “True education (self-knowledge) enlightens human life,” according to Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar the founder of the international Neohumanist Education System and the Ananda Marga Schools.
“If we wish to create lasting peace we must begin with the children” Mahatma Gandi
There is a growing concern throughout America regarding the increase in childhood stress, bullying, and violence. Living in Colorado, we are haunted by the incident at Columbine High School when two students felt the need to take revenge and take action in a violent manner leaving 15 dead and creating fear and sadness in the hearts of students and parents. This was the first wake up call that affluent, suburban schools were not always safe places. Violence and bullying continue to escalate according to statistics. Seventeen states across the United States report having instituted laws to reduce or eliminate bullying in schools.. In Colorado, each school district is required to have a bully prevention policy and program. This paper will discuss a classically based yoga program incorporated within an upper elementary school system in Boulder, CO. The main hypothesis of this project was to evaluate whether yoga training would effectively decrease bullying and increase anger management for 4th and 5th grade students. The rationale for this hypothesis was based on the first vow of raja yoga, ahimsa, that one vows to be non-violent to self and others.
The yoga curriculum was presented for six, 45 minute sessions during the academic school day for 101, 4th and 5th grade students in 2004, repeated for 108 students in 2005 and reviewed again for 105, students in 2006. The children learned yoga philosophy, practiced yoga postures, learned breathing and concentration techniques, as well as, traditional conflict resolution strategies and dialogues. Through the use of pre and post questionnaires the program was evaluated and statistics obtained. The program proved to be successful and effective. Boulder students’ self reported a decrease by 60% in their own bulling behavior and a 42% decrease in regard to being bullied by others at school A comprehensive yoga program can greatly reduce violence and bullying, but, the long term lasting effects are still unclear. The results of this intervention acknowledge yoga as an effective method for increasing anger management skills and decreasing physical outbursts of violence for upper elementary school age children during the time of implementation. Click the Download link to read more….Share