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!
With all the tragedy and violence in our schools today, teaching kids self regulation and stress reduction is more important than ever. Since 2004, CALMING KIDS (CK): is a local Boulder non-profit, has been focused on immediate and direct impact to reduce bullying and increase self regulation in kids and teens.
On February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida experienced one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. This tragedy has left Americans across the country heartbroken, frustrated, and wondering how we, as individuals, can make a difference in stopping this vicious and violent behavior.
CALMING KIDS has been addressing this issue for years. CK, a Colorado 501(c)3, was created after the tragic shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, for this exact reason. For the past 13 years, they have worked with teachers and students in Colorado and around the world to reduce bullying and violence in schools. In addition, to helping develop better coping mechanisms and increasing students’ compassion for one another.
Calling your state representatives and supporting today’s youth in creating safer schools in the long term is undeniably important. But, what can we do right now, TODAY?
If you want to make a positive difference and feel passionately about ending school violence, then the best place to start is in the schools! This is exactly what CALMING KIDS is doing with their classroom programs.
CALMING KIDS has impacted 3,500 teachers and over 40,000 students through their work in schools locally, nationally and globally.
Anti Bullying Teaching Program
There is still so much more to be done.CK is looking to expand its impact and wants to get the word out to as many school teachers and administrators, students, parents, and to those who feel concerned about this issue. We CAN make a difference and help to create a non-violent world, stop bullying in schools and help kids focus.
In addition to classroom programs, CK has also produced a variety of support materials for teachers and students:
including classroom workbooks,
self regulation posters,
and a new pocket sized movement, mindfulness and meditation book, Finding Calm in a Moment. This book guides students of all ages through a variety of simple practices to release stress and self regulate immediately. Get involved NOW! Visit our website to learn morewww.calmingkids.org
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-530-3860.
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.”
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 DoSomething.org, 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.
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.
Courtesy 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.”
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.
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.
Are you a yoga instructor giving back to underserved or un-served populations? Email email@example.com 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
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.
The mission of Calming Kids is “to train and certify educational and healthcare professionals how to teach yoga in the school systems and clinics.” CK addresses and manages childhood obesity, stress, self-abuse, bullying and violent behavior with a comprehensive, nondenominational, classically-based yoga program in the school and healthcare systems. The methods include yoga psychology, breathing practices, concentration techniques, exercise postures, conflict resolution skits to control violence and aggression, and increase concentration. CK targets preschool through high school students, with emphasis on not harming oneself or others, learning to respect personal space and high-level concentration practices to enhance academics and encourage non-violent behavior.
Dee Marie, a Boulder resident and yoga therapist for 20 years, as well as Colorado’s Stop America’s Violence Everywhere representative, created the classical yoga program and booklet under the American Medical Alliance that specifically targets the issues of violence and bullying in schools. Ms. Marie performed a study of 4th and 5th graders in Boulder County, showing a 93% decrease in hitting in school, 68% decrease in feeling angry for no reason, a 57% increase in the ability to control anger, and an overall improved ability to sleep, in only six 45-minute sessions.
The CK program received the Ester Long Award from the Colorado Medical Society Alliance for innovative community health programs in 2005. In 2006, CK received the Health Awareness Promotion Award from the national division of the American Medical Association Alliance.
The CK program has been incorporated into academic curriculums in Boulder, Lyons, Denver, and Summit County, Colorado, as well as in Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware. Dee Marie’s program is also gaining attention globally, with many requests from various other countries with bullying issues such as Canada, Columbia, and Europe.
Jes Lucero currently offers the CK Yoga program to all ages of children; pre-school through high school.