Walton Elementary School fourth-graders participate in a yoga class during a recent recess. From left are students Brooke Herbest, Lanaya Smith and Haleigh Wease. The instructor is teacher Jayne Bilodeau. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Yoga lessons for fourth-graders at Walton Elementary School are helping students learn and be calm, teachers and students say.

On a recent day a room full of fourth-graders followed teacher Jayne Bilodeau’s yoga movements.

“Let your head hang. Shake your head,” Bilodeau said as students shook their heads, their bodies were folded over.

Bilodeau and fellow fourth-grade teacher Karen Letourneau, and guidance counselor Danielle McCamish trained to teach yoga to children, leading students for the past few months.

Stretching, focusing on breathing and posture, and holding poses “brings you to a centered and calm space,” Letourneau said. Yoga enhances a person’s body strength, flexibility and balance, she said.

“Any day you engage in yoga practice, the rest of the day is enhanced,” Letourneau said. “As a teacher on the days we teach yoga, the rest of our day is amazing.”

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She and Bilodeau said they’ve noticed a difference in students who practice yoga.

“They all are able to focus better, complete their tasks better. They’re calmer,” Letourneau said. “We saw a significant difference in some children who struggled more in the afternoon, not only with focus but their behaviors.”

A sign-up sheet lists names of  Walton Elementary School fourth-graders who want to take yoga classes. (Bonnie Washuk/Sun Journal)

That’s because, she said, practicing yoga calms the central nervous system. “We know that when kids have activated central nervous systems, they can’t access their learning. This helps with learning.”

Two students taking yoga agreed.

“I play football. It helps me” with strength, said Elliot Poulin, 9. “It helps me learn. It helps me focus better.”

Elliot said his favorite poses are called “pigeon,” in which arms and legs are stretched in different directions. “I like the stretchier poses the most,” he said.

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Launa Albert, 9, agreed that yoga improves her concentration in class. It also helps her feel better physically and emotionally, she said. Before yoga, Launa said, her hands are tired from writing. “After yoga my hands are ready to write again,” she said. “Your brain is a little happy.”

She said she teaches yoga to her sisters at night.

Classes are held in a studio at the school, and outside in good weather and at recess for free for those who want to participate.

Next year Bilodeau and Letourneau hope to teach yoga to to fifth- and sixth-graders, too.

Principal Mike Davis said he would like that.

“It brings students to a calm place,” Davis said. “That’s huge.”


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