One Program Supports Many Goals

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By Heather Sandine, Teacher and CK team member


The girl pictured is balancing her brain with a mindful technique called cupping.  Cupping helps to create a positive visualization image in the mind, supporting a Positive Mental Attitude.


You’ve probably heard the words social-emotional learning (SEL), self-regulation, mindfulness, and executive functioning lately.  2020 has created a climate where these topics are important to discuss.  However, for many, these phrases are so much more than current buzzwords hurled at our current national mental health crisis.  Schools and parents have struggled to teach these skills effectively for years.  Whose responsibility is it to teach kids these skills anyway?  Parents?  Teachers?  Do children innately develop them? Here’s what you need to know. The current COVID climate and school closures have made it more evident than ever that our children and students (and often ourselves) need these skills explicitly taught.  Where do we start?

There are myriad programs available that offer curriculum in supporting each of these skills.  Those programs can be helpful, but what do we do when access to them isn’t available or they are cost prohibitive?  What about parents and other community members who need a thorough and inexpensive way to teach these skills to their children?  


I took a CALMING KIDS(CK): Creating a Nonviolent World training about three years ago.  At the time, I was a special education resource teacher and had a significant number of students with self-regulation and social-emotional difficulties. Students frequently exhibited outbursts of work refusals, destroying other people’s property, and hitting and yelling.  These kids felt a lot of frustration and didn’t know how to cope with it. 

I had used other programs to teach coping and self-regulation skills.  They worked by teaching the kids about how their brains work and to recognize their thinking patterns.  These are important skills, but my students needed concrete techniques that they could use independently and quickly after learning them.  CALMING KIDS strategies provided this.  CK’s research-based curriculum teaches mindfulness, relaxation and body-awareness strategies to support kids’ self-regulation abilities.  Parents and teachers can also use CK curriculum to support executive-functioning skills when it is used in combination with other supports.  

What We Did

I knew it was important not to overwhelm the students by teaching too many strategies at once.  I began guiding the kids to do the CK “check in” by doing a simple body scan and then used their feedback to help them identify and communicate their emotions.  The students worked on body awareness and deep breathing using visualization techniques.  I guided the students to relate their spines to slinky toys to help encourage proper posture.  We imagined that our lungs were like a balloon expanding and contracting inside a basket that represented our ribcage.  This helped students to understand the importance of breathing deeply and expanding the diaphragm down into the belly area.  I used a Hoberman sphere to model controlling the rate of the breath.  My students then learned yoga poses to help manage and process specific emotions. 

The goal of all of these strategies was to help students recognize their emotions and to process them in a healthy way.  It didn’t take a lot of time to teach the skills either.  I was able to teach all of these strategies during transition times or sensory breaks.  

The Impact

The positive impact of these skills on my students amazed me!  Before CALMING KIDS some of my students were needing a 5-10 minute calm down break in my classroom every hour.  Those students were able to reduce their breaks to two 5-10 minute breaks during the entire school day after learning the CK strategies!  To put that into perspective, that’s up to 40 minutes of missed class time per day that I was able to help students gain back by using CK strategies.  These effects aren’t short term either.  Most of these students are now able to participate in their general education classrooms for the majority of their day.  Some students are successfully participating in online remote and hybrid learning as well.  

Effects of Mismanaging Emotions

What does my experience with a small group of students have to do with ending our national mental health crisis?  My students’ previous limited abilities to self-regulate was apparent in their frequent outbursts, but most people don’t have frequent outbursts.  Instead many develop maladaptive coping skills and habits.  Some “stuff” their emotions while others turn to drugs or alcohol.  Long-term mismanagement of emotions like fear, anger and anxiety (and even emotions that are seen as positive, such as excitement) can lead to both physical and psychiatric problems like depression, poor digestion, high blood pressure, chronic headaches, fatigue and more due to the body’s release of stress hormones such as cortisol.  The effects of long-term exposure to stress hormones is well documented in medical and psychological research.

There’s Hope

We all know that eliminating stress isn’t going to happen, but we can learn how to manage it.  It is critical that we begin prioritizing teaching, practicing and living healthy coping strategies.  My classroom impact may have helped only a small number of students, but imagine if we taught these skills in homes and schools across the country.  Imagine the positive impact we could see: improvement to our mental health, an end to bullying and school violence, less domestic violence, fewer attempts at and incidences of suicide.  All of these things are possible.  But we have to start by helping students to learn to process and communicate their emotions in a healthy way.  And we have to start doing those things for ourselves too.

Tech and the Developing Brain

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By Dee Marie and Rachel Zelaya

We have all been deeply impacted by our current state of social distancing, and we won’t know any time soon the effects of COVID-19 on all aspects of our society. Students are home, and school districts are developing and implementing online learning programs in lieu of face to face education. While this might be better than interrupting the school year completely, what will be the impact of further increasing the time that young people spend on a screen?  Over the past several years, researchers have focused on technology and children, and there is reason to be concerned that technology could have a negative impact on child and adolescent brains. It is so important that we begin to understand the potential links between emotional well-being, mental health, and physical outcomes for students growing up with technology. For instance, studies have shown that if digital devices are used more than seven hours per day, this leads to changes in the developing brain. These hours can accumulate quickly when students are using computers for online learning, cell phones to connect with friends, and then watching television with the family to unwind. Even when used in moderation, the quality and quantity of technology has both positive and negative effects on children.

For instance, “young children who get more screen time than doctors recommend have differences in parts of the brain that support language and self regulation,” according to a 2019 study at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. A NIH study found that children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests. Developing brains are more malleable than adult brains, and kids who use screens for more than seven hours per day show physical changes to the brain in the form of premature thinning of the cortex. The National Institute of Health informs us that cortical thinning is a typical developmental milestone for adolescents, yet high level technology usage at this age promotes premature thinning which influences specific cognitive performance such as: verbal learning, memory, visual spatial functioning, spatial planning and problem solving. 

The avoidance of screen time for children under 18 months is advised except for “video chatting,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2018, the French Ministry of Health suggested that there be no screen time for children until the age of 3. In fact, children under the age of 3 should not even be in the same room as a television being viewed, as there may be adverse effects impacting cognitive outcomes later in  life.

On a more positive note, researchers note that time spent watching educational programming may promote literacy, mathematics, problem solving and science skills as well as pro-social behavior in preschool children. Educational activities on devices such as attention training games have also been linked to improvements in executive attention and intelligence. Therefore, the quality of programming is essential.

In teenagers, screen time – specifically gaming – affects regions of the brain associated with impulse control, sensorimotor coordination and an increase in the amounts of dopamine or reward pathways. This is related to craving and typically associated with substance addiction. This addictive propensity has recently been added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is known as “Internet Gaming Disorder.” 

Yet, once again there is a silver lining. Playing educational games, especially those that are interactive, or playing games that cause physical activity and interaction – can be positive. An increase in visual-spatial skills, attention, and processing speed have been observed, as well as enhanced reading outcomes in dyslexic children. However, even the games that involve physical activity should not be substitutes for standard fitness routines.

Social media use, especially at night, has been correlated with poor sleep quality, low levels of anxiety, and even depression amongst the teen population. The blue light emission from screens decreases melatonin production, which delays and shortens sleep patterns. Teens who interact with Facebook have been shown to increase cortisol levels which prepares the body to react to a stressor, the “fight or flight” response. It has been shown that those who engage in social media at night wake up with higher levels of cortisol. This is associated with a decrease in well-being and reduced physical and mental health. 

Certainly, at this time, research on children and adolescents is still in its infancy stages regarding the long term consequences of technology on the developing brain. For example, media multitasking called “screen-stacking” (using multiple devices at one time) is relatively new and understudied. It seems likely that this behavior could impact attention, cognition, neural structure and academic outcomes. 

This 21st century lifestyle is taking more of a toll on students than we are able to currently pinpoint. The sedentary behaviors increase body weight along with postural imbalances. Sleep disorders and free floating anxiety which are typically adult problems have begun to haunt the developing child. Although there are some benefits associated with high quality programming in terms of neural maturity and improved verbal skills, all research points to the conclusion that learning from a live source leads to better outcomes for children.

Some solutions are to turn off devices when not in use, switch off screens an hour before bedtime, and design “off limit” times and places for technology use, such as the dinner table and the bedroom. Other important things to consider for the child’s well-being include online safety, cyber bullying, exploitation, and viewing age inappropriate content. 

In conclusion, moderate use of educational and recreational technology is ideal, and can even enhance some developmental skills. It seems best to continue to promote physical activity, offline leisure activities, and other amusement options – outdoors, and in places other than the screen.

Build Your Self Healing Toolbox

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Do you ever feel insecure? Like you lack creativity? Or are easily irritated with others? What about affectionate? Chatty? Imaginative? All of these qualities, and many more, lead us towards energy centers in our body called Chakras. These energy centers, when they are functioning well, help us to feel balanced, strong, and positive. When they need a tune up, we notice that because we feel overwhelmed, emotional, or lost. Those feelings are our clue that it might be time to pause and practice some deeper self care. One beautiful and simple way to practice chakra self care can be found in A Chakra Guide Book, by Dee Marie, Creator of Calming Kids. This simple yet informative workbook is also a coloring book, giving you the opportunity to slow down, absorb the color of the chakra, and contemplate the qualities that you embody when the chakra is in balance – as  you color the beautiful shapes of each chakra.

The book also includes several simple yoga series, breathing meditations, and sound vibrations you can use to engage your whole system, or to focus on a particular chakra.

Do you have a color that you are drawn to? Is there a particular issue that keeps showing up in your life? Is there an area of your body that experiences injury, pain, or illness? These questions can lead you to a particular chakra that needs some attention. As you deepen your awareness of these energy centers, you can heal yourself through color therapy, sound vibrations, movement, and breath. Although you may or may not notice an immediate shift, as you work with the subtle energy in your body, your life begins to change. Negative patterns dissolve, habits shift, and you cease recreating the same unhealthy situations. You learn to notice more quickly when you are out of balance, and you build your toolbox for self-healing. Learning about the chakras, and knowing simple tools for healing them, can bring peace, strength, and empowerment.


October is Non-Violence Month

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CALMING KIDS (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World was founded on the principle of AHIMSA, which means respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards oneself and others. CK believes that fostering peace by training young people in techniques proven to promote harmony, nonviolence, and positive interactions will eventually phase out violence from our world. October is Non-Violence Month, and it is kicked off by the UN International Day of Non-Violence on October 2, which is Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. For Gandhi, AHIMSA meant non-injury, nonviolence, non-harm, the renunciation of the intention to hurt any living thing, the abstention from hostile thought, word or deed, and compassion for all living creatures. Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.”

CK promotes nonviolence in young people, but it was inspired by violence perpetrated by and against young people – the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Our children are a barometer for the health of our world, and CK’s primary goal is to promote a positive, peaceful attitude leading to calm and effective communication among members of the school community. Since 2004, CK has impacted countless students, teachers and schools, sharing this “greatest force” that Gandhi spoke of with the people who will lead the next generation.

As we enter Non-Violence Month, you might contemplate ways that you are promoting harmony through the things that you think, speak and do. When you have an impulse to speak with anger, can you pause, breathe, and remember your intention to refrain from hostile thoughts, words, and deeds? What happens in your own body and mind when you think about speaking or acting in a way that would harm another being? And how can you practice AHIMSA – compassion – towards yourself? Black Elk said, “All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves.” Perhaps in that brief moment of awareness before word or action, we can remember that if we think, speak or do something harmful to another, it very likely will bring harm back to us. It is especially obvious when it involves our spouse, child or student, and perhaps less so with a stranger, but the harmful impact on ourselves is just as real.

Martin Luther King Jr, who firmly believed in nonviolence as a means for social change, said, “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love.” This month, practice your commitment to the way of love…even and especially when that is difficult. Let the “greatest force at the disposal of mankind” give you the power to be the change you wish to see in the world.

And see HERE for a free lesson plan on bringing non-violence and communication skills to young people!

Kids Yoga Teacher Training Lesson Plan FREE

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Kids yoga teacher training for all teachers and instructors PLEASE use the free syllabus HERE guiding you through the proper method to present a 6 Day Yoga program to your Kindergarten or Elementary School classroom ensuring these proven outcomes:

Yoga Mat

  • Kids Yoga Enhances Confidence
  • Kids Yoga Improves Concentration and Focus
  • Kids Yoga Helps Kids Manage Stress Through Breathing
  • Kids Yoga Promotes Inclusivity
  • Kids Yoga Introduces Kids to Mindfulness
  • Kids Yoga Promotes a Healthy Body
  • Kids Yoga Improves Coordination & Balance

Classroom Yoga ~ a solution to school violence and it works!

CALMING KIDS: Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom
2018-2019 Study Results

Students reported: 2018 – 2019
Feeling good about themselves 48%  increase     
Standing up for themselves 48%  increase 
Focusing in school 30%  increase 
Feeling angry for no reason 55%  decrease
Physical altercations in school 38%  decrease
Trouble controlling anger 35%  decrease 

In addition, three times the number of students reported that they could handle others making fun of them in school as compared to before learning the CALMING KIDS techniques (178% increase).
Statistics based on 100 students between the ages of 11 – 13 reporting their experience before and after 6 sessions of movement, mindfulness & meditation training and practice throughout the school year. CALMING KIDS (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World since 2004

Day One – What is Yoga?

The Balance of Body and Mind

Get the 6 Day Curriculum


Day Two – How Do You Breathe?

Practices to Regulate the Breath 


Kids Yoga Breathing


The students start to understand that the connection of the body to the mind is their breath.

Here’s the free full 6 day curriculum

Day Three – How Do You Feel?

Checking in: emotional awareness, communication and anti-bullying

Day Four – Community 

Finding Our Heart 

Day Five – Why Exercise?

The Benefits of Exercise


Yoga Exercise


Day Six – Relationships 

Anti-Bullying – Relationship Games – Bring It All Together

Starting with movement and mindfulness is a great way to start each day!!

Get the full Six Day Free Curriculum HERE


Calming Kids


Allowing 10-15 mins at the start of every day for centering will increase focus, social emotional balance, and positive communication skills.






The CALMING KIDS (CK) Six Day On-Line Kids Yoga Teacher Training Lesson Plans includes:

  • Handouts illustrating all the concepts presented with coloring pages, activity ideas and songs. 
  • Scripts with non-violent communication models for the play acting scenarios.
  • A discussion forum with thought provoking questions and insights shared by other teachers.
  • An easy quiz at the end of each module of learning to review what you have learned.
  • Open access to the online site for reference and to enhance your capacity to teach mindfulness and non-violent education to elementary age students.

CALMING KIDS offers two levels of certification. One is given upon the completion of the online course. Participants are issued a downloadable certificate to hang in the classroom, school or studio. For teachers who would like to receive continuing education credit, CALMING KIDS offers a deeper level certification in order to become a nationally accredited CALMING KIDS Children’s Yoga Educator for Elementary Age students. This is achieved by teaching a minimum of six hours of the CK program to children and keeping a detailed log. This log is submitted to CALMING KIDS for evaluation and certification. A small additional fee is applied. To enroll in the full course please CLICK HERE.


Dee Marie at Yoga International

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Teenage years aren’t for the faint of heart. During this time, there are many physical and energetic changes that cause imbalances. Reactions to external stimuli may be heightened, and teens require rest from day-to-day demands. Relaxation and restorative asana poses are most effective for rebalancing frazzled teens; and tuning in to yoga media, as well as positive, uplifting music, helps them utilize their technologies as a bridge to a more nurturing lifestyle. At the end of the day, knowing where they are and simply being there for them is everything!

Anti Bullying Program: Boulder’s Southern Hills Middle School

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Boulder’s Southern Hills Middle hosts social emotional learning week

By Amy Bounds Staff Writer Boulder Daily Camera

POSTED:   10/01/2017

Learning from anti bullying programAnti Bullying Program

Southern Hills Middle School students learned about yoga, meditation and other mindfulness activities along with participating in team-building activities with Avid4 Adventure. Students took a walk around a nearby lake to learn about mindful movement, learned calming breathing techniques and heard about the importance of a growth mindset during a day of workshops.

“We felt compelled to do this,” said Kristen Kron, a counseling intern at Southern Hills. “With the stress and anxiety students are feeling in this crazy world, they weren’t feeling very present. We wanted to give them strategies to help them be healthy and happy.”

Southern Hills counselors Victoria Valencia and Chris Congedo developed the Boulder school’s first Social Emotional Learning week with help from Kron and Dee Marie, founder of Calming Kids.

“No matter where you go, there’s this constant bombardment of stimuli,” Marie said. “There’s no way to disconnect. To shift to empathy, compassion and higher reasoning, we have to strengthen the part of the brain in middle schoolers that’s not fully developed.”

Southern Hills’ efforts are part of an overall school district focus on social emotional learning. The district previously brought in a five-member team from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning to conduct an analysis.

This school year, the district also hired 10 elementary counselors, two behavioral health advocates and a half-time coordinator. Before, only middle and high schools had counselors, with elementary counselors identified by schools at all levels as the highest budget priority.

At Southern Hills, Valencia said, she’s seeing lots of anxious kids.

“We want them to have tools available to help them cope with difficult situations and emotions,” she said. “We want kids to learn how to assess what they’re feeling and learn how to self-regulate.”

Kron added that the goal is to keep the project going by consistently integrating the practices students learned from the anti bullying program into the school day.

During the week, she led a session on meditation, asking students to sit with backs straight and focus only on their breathing. Then, she had them relax their muscles, one after the other, with music playing and lights dimmed.

“Right now, I just want you to breathe,” she told them.

Some students said they found the lesson relaxing, while others said it was challenging to stay still or not be distracted by noise around them.

Seventh-grader Julia Abboud said she liked that the workshops provided practical advice, but preferred more active ones to those with a lecture format.

She added that she would like the school to add a regular meditation time.

“That was pretty relaxing,” she said.

Classmate Tory O’Brien said her favorite was yoga.

“My mom goes to yoga every morning, but I’ve never been to a class. I was surprised, but I was actually pretty good at it. It was really fun.”anti bullying program for kids

Checking In for Self-Regulation

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Click here for a 2 minute video demonstrating Checking In: CALMING KIDS ~ Checking-In

Checking InThe First Step Toward Mindfulness At CALMING KIDS, we strongly believe that a child who practices nonviolence is also a child who practices self-awareness and mindfulness. Children who are aware of themselves also tend to be more aware of the effects their actions have on others.

anti bullying videoOftentimes, kids who feel frustrated or angry will lash out by bullying or hitting one another before even taking a moment to assess what they are feeling and why they’re feeling that way. We created the CALMING KIDS curriculum for schools to teach children to pause after experiencing whatever it is they’re feeling, so that they may understand it — and themselves — better. As a result, the amount of bullying and violent acts among children is greatly reduced.

The first step to helping children achieve mindfulness is to teach them to “check-in” with their bodies and minds. With younger children, ages preschool through third grade, it can prove extremely helpful to start with an introduction to body awareness.

For children of all ages, CALMING KIDS approaches mindfulness with an exercise called “Checking In.” Children are encouraged to check in once or twice a day, especially when not feeling their happiest. They are taught to observe their postures and breath, which will help bring awareness to which emotions they’re feeling, and the kinds of thoughts that are coming to mind. In checking in, kids are learning how to get in touch with themselves and gain more control over how they express themselves. For a short video tutorial on Checking In ~ click link above

How to Find Calm in a Moment: Getting Out of Busy-Ness for You & Your Kids

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Posted November 2016

Learning how to calm the mind and check in with our body sensations and emotions is a challenge for most of us. Responsibilities and social media tend to keep us running from one task and distraction to another. As adults and teachers, we model to our kids and students the ‘cult of busy-ness’ and then feel frustrated when our kids are glued to screens at every free moment. When I was a school teacher, gone all day and then busy in the evenings with grading papers and planning classes for the next day, my 10 year old son was ‘kept busy’ with his smartphone and computer. Now at age 15, when he’s not at school or sports, he has his headphones on and is on his smartphone, the tablet they gave him at school, or his computer…it’s hard to even get his attention or initiate communication when we’re in the same room!

Recently, Dee Marie and Gina Kane of CALMING KIDS came out with a new pocket-sized book called Finding Calm in a Moment: 108 Practices in Movement, Mindfulness and Meditation for All Ages. I decided to commit for a few days to taking 5 minutes every morning to practice a super short meditation or two. I was drawn to the two page section on the heart, called “Heart Health.” In it are four simple practices to connect with your heart…two involve putting your hands on your heart and checking in with your heartbeat and breath, and two suggest diving in to your heart with your mind’s eye, visualizing an expedition into the heart, or a beautiful lotus flower blooming on a lake in the heart. All four meditations probably took about 5 minutes total, and at the end I felt refreshed, and connected to my heart and my emotions as well as my breath and the warmth and beauty within me.

By the end of 3 days, I had all four of the meditations memorized, adding them to my personal toolkit of ways to find calm in a moment.

It occurred to me while I was doing the meditations one morning that a child who was being bullied (as I was as a child), or a child who was a bully, would be so helped by connecting with their heart in this way. By practicing self-awareness, by being willing to feel our own warmth and aliveness, we automatically are connected to resources within that we could never get by staring at a screen. Something so simple as putting your hands on your heart and feeling the expansion of your chest for a minute could have such a profound effect on yourself and your day, and the children in our world!

Here’s a quote from the CALMING KIDS website (

“At CALMING KIDS, we strongly believe that a child who practices nonviolence is also a child who practices self-awareness and mindfulness. Children who are aware of themselves also tend to be more aware of the effects their actions have on others.”

Being self-aware leads to non-violence towards yourself and others. It just takes a few short minutes to build a habit of self-awareness that can last throughout your day, potentially making a major difference in your life.

As adults, instead of (or maybe in addition to?) modeling ‘busy-ness’, we could model for the kids in our lives a commitment to taking a few moments in our day to put down what we are doing, and check in with the sensations in our bodies and the emotions swirling through our hearts. Can we get into the habit of practicing self-awareness, especially when we are upset, anxious, overwhelmed, or frustrated? Can we commit to creating non-violence within, first, and then see that spread into the world around us?

For a short and simple guided practice to show teens how to check in with their bodies and emotions, visit

“The Yoga Lady” – CK in the Boulder Weekly, October 20, 2016

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How relaxation and mindfulness are helping kids self regulate, an article by Angela K. Evans in the Boulder Weekly, October 20, 2016:

Often, someone will stop Dee Marie on the street in Boulder and say, “Hey, you were the yoga lady at my [school]. I still remember to breathe when I get tense. I still remember the things we learned.”

As the founder of CALMING KIDS (CK): Creating a NonViolent World, Dee Marie has been teaching yoga in Boulder Valley schools for more than a decade. Centered around the Sanskrit wordahimsa, which she translates as “non-violence towards self and others,” her curriculum is part of a national effort to combat violence in schools. October is designated Stop America’s Violence Everywhere (SAVE) month by American Medical Association (AMA) Alliance. Started in 1995, AMA Alliance members have implemented more than 700 SAVE projects around the country.

As the SAVE representative for the state of Colorado, Dee Marie, a long-time member of the AMA Alliance, started CALMING KIDS in 2004 in response to a growing concern with the increasing number of school shootings taking place around the country.

“We did four years of study to prove that if we teach in the schools, we can decrease violence and help children with relaxation and self-regulation,” she says. 

First Dee Marie trained teachers in the curriculum, but it quickly expanded to teaching the school staff how to practice the same principles of relaxation and self-regulation, as well as conducting classes for the kids with the goal “to try to create the new paradigm in the schools which is (she inhales and exhales slowly) that we can relax,” Dee Marie says. “The schools just need relaxation. Everybody needs the ability to focus, relax, come into their center to help them in all aspects of their life. With children, it’s to help them with test taking and their anxiety as well as their communication with each other on the playground. And with the teachers, it’s to help them with the bureaucracy and to keep going day after day in an environment that is very demanding.”

A large part of the SAVE campaign is combating bullying in schools. According to, approximately 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year and 17 percent report being bullied two to three times a month or more. Bullying can lead to kids skipping school and even dropping out. Moreover, 71 percent of students report that bullying is a problem in their schools and 67 percent say their school doesn’t handle bullying effectively.

CALMING KIDS yoga helps kids process their emotions and create an opportunity to improve their dialoguing skills.

With CALMING KIDS, Dee Marie hopes to change these statistics by equipping kids with personal and relational skills through the practice of mindfulness.

“It’s deep program in a child-like and fun way,” she says. “We’re going after some deep concepts here — how we breathe and how we think affects how we act and how we feel.”

In addition to the physical aspects of yoga, the CALMING KIDS curriculum includes practical role play so the kids can practice dialoguing what they would do in certain situations. The program allows the kids to think about potential situations and how to react to them.

“What do you do in this situation? Is it appropriate to walk away? Is it appropriate to say something? Is it appropriate to tell the teacher? It’s really important to understand the three choices and when to use them,” Dee Marie says. 

Other questions she asks the kids are: “How can I have a compassionate heart? How can I find calmness even though you’re being mean to me? How can I stand up to you and know it’s not about me, it’s about you? Where are you coming from? Where is the other person coming from? Is it good for the community is, it good for you? What are the repercussions going to be?”

These are big questions for all of us, especially kids. But that doesn’t deter Dee Marie from asking them anyway. And, as her research shows, it’s working.

“What we found was that not only did we help the kids that were targeted, the bullied, rise, but the bullies relaxed and started to understand what they were doing,” she says. “… We empower the targeted, we relax and bring some consciousness to the bullies and then we get the bystanders to show up. Bystanders have to chime in and talk, not just sit back and watch or laugh.”

Dee Marie knows from personal experience just how rehabilitative and freeing these principles can be. In the early ’80s she was a professional dancer in New York City, performing mostly modern jazz and theatrical dances. But one snowy night, the cab she was getting into was hit by a truck.

“I was told I would never walk again and I definitely never would dance again,” she says. “[But] I rehabilitated myself through many techniques and the best of them all was yoga therapy.”

Fully recovered from the accident, Dee Marie had found a new passion. She went on to study at the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Pennsylvania and became a certified yoga therapist in 1986.

For the last 25 years, Dee Marie has been in Boulder working with people of all ages and abilities, teaching yoga and offering yoga therapy to people with brain injuries, kids with disabilities and others.

adventure-10-20Courtesy of Dee Marie

Dee Marie first implemented the CALMING KIDS program in Boulder Valley schools, but it quickly expanded into Summit County, Denver, Arvada and most recently Jefferson County. And it’s spread internationally as well. Dee Marie has developed an extensive training curriculum bringing educators from Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Palestine, among others, to train in Boulder.

“My mission is to get yoga to everybody and anybody,” she says. “Yoga is not a system of exercise. In classical yoga we do movement in order to get our body comfortable. We do yoga in order to regulate our breathing. We do mindful meditation and concentrations to focus the mind. In classical yoga, we look at our communication skills and how we’re appearing to the community.”

She’s also written several activity workbooks for children to accompany her classes, the first of which, “Yoga Keeps Me Calm, Fit and Focused” has been translated into multiple languages, and they are being used in schools Mexico, Central America, Saudi Arabia and Palestine.

“The more we get the body, the breathing, the mind in a calmer, more loving and more released place within themselves, the more they can handle anything that is happening in the outer world,” she says. “Negative confrontation will come to us no matter what age we are. It’s understanding just how to have a compassionate heart and the compassion that you can give to others whether they are your friend or enemy.”

Dee Marie says the goal is to make the ideas behind CALMING KIDS mainstream by 2020, hopefully decreasing violence in schools both here and around the world.

“I’ve devoted my life to it and I feel like I make this much (she depicts about an inch with her fingers) of a difference considering where it’s going,” she says. “It’s scary, we watch the media and the type of movies that are coming out, and what they are teaching the kids is to pick up a gun and shoot. So I feel like I have so much work to do.”

The yoga lady

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