Louisiana charter schools use yoga as therapy for young students

CNN
Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 12:43pm

A pilot program at some New Orleans schools is getting rave reviews for giving kids a release from stress and helping them deal with anger issues.

An ancient discipline dating back 5,000 years or more is brand new to kids at Arthur Ashe Charter School in Gentilly.

For two months, they've practiced deep breathing, meditation, and poses through yogo power play, a pilot program that empowers kids ages 9 to 13.

"The fact that they have tools outside of yoga class to know that this is how I relax myself by taking a couple of deep breaths knowing that they have access empowering themselves through breathing and through movement," said Executive Director, Laren Darnell.

Darnell says yoga helps kids relieve stress and calm down, she shares a story of a little boy who was recently sent to the principal's office.

"He went into the office and he just said I just need to sit in the corner and breathe for a couple of breaths and I'll be okay...I feel better," said Darnell.

"It makes you really calm and relaxed, if you're angry, you'll calm down."

School leaders say that 98 percent of students participating have never been exposed to yoga.

"I feel calm, and I get all the anger out of me."

Jamari Metoyer, 10, says that before yoga power play she was always angry.

"I would be stressed out and I'd punch something."

"They need a place to calm down, they feel overwhelmed. They feel things are happening and they can't stop it," said Lawrence Crocker College Prep Principal Amanda Aiken.

Aiken says that so many students come from high crime neighborhoods and need help dealing with stress at home.

"The kids don't actually know they're getting therapy, they focus on the play. They're excited they are going to P.E. and trying something new," said Aiken.

Something new that is changing young lives for good, cultivating ease off the mat, and creating a space ion the mind and body that wasn't there before.

Principal Aiken says that yoga isn't offered to children in title one schools, but she hopes the program will continue and be expanded. Organizations such as Son of a Saint are utilizing the program. 

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