WADSWORTH: The children at Valley View Elementary School in Wadsworth are learning a new way to relax through yoga.
They are taking part in Yoga 4 Classrooms, a movement that is bringing yoga to schools across the country.
Special education teacher Jennifer Griest helped introduce the children to yoga techniques and helped organize a recent Yoga Recess Day. An Earth Fare employee taught the kids healthy eating habits and local musician Zach Friedhof performed during their lunch hour.
For 9-year-old Christopher Earnest, it was all a challenging endeavor.
After demonstrating his favorite yoga pose known as the desk puppy, the third-grader told stories of his experience with Toe-ga. Toe-ga involved the children picking up cotton balls with their toes and putting them into an ice tray.
“It really gave you a challenge,” Christopher said. “You had to really use your mind, because if you weren’t using your mind it wouldn’t go into the right bin.”
Claire Whitaker couldn’t agree more.
The 9-year-old third-grader said the Toe-ga activity was a little difficult, but she managed to get it done.
“It’s harder than it looks,” Claire said. “It was kind of different because I had to walk on my heel and foot.”
Griest said the objective was to saturate the school with yoga techniques.
“I think we put a lot of pressure on them [the kids],” Principal Paula Trenta said. “We just push them from the day they start. The yoga helps them deal with what they’re not mature enough to understand is stress.”
Griest, a certified yoga instructor, took it upon herself to teach yoga to the students in her classroom for relaxation.
“We [adults] know we’re busy but we also know how to take care of ourselves,” Griest said. “We know whether to go for a run, or have that glass of wine, or just sit and read a book.
“They [kids] don’t know how to do that. The job of this program is to give them some tools to understand their bodies and their minds.”
Courtney Fruits, who is an art teacher at Valley View, said the value of the Toe-ga activity was significant.
“The Toe-ga has them thinking and controlling their bodies,” Fruits said. “They need to pay attention because they are using muscles that they usually don’t use.”
During the yoga day, students also practiced poses with Yoga Pose Block Building and teamwork with Hoop Games.
They even got to unwind from the activities by relaxing in a room surrounded by soothing music and the calming effects of ocean waves.
“You have to get them to stop, take a deep breath, and find a focus point and they have to stay in this pose,” Griest said. “That’s really difficult for them because it requires a lot of concentration.”
But the message of concentration and teamwork was well received by 9-year-old Steven Gross.
“Yoga is supposed to be peaceful,” he said. “And if you don’t work as a team you can’t be peaceful and the activity won’t work out.”