As tranquil music plays softly, Michelle McCann sits among a small group of Reeves Elementary students.
They are taking relaxing breaths as they lay face-up on yoga mats.
“Feel the space between you and every breath you take,” McCann instructs the students. “Pretend you are a rainbow.”
Students focus on relaxing their calves, their shins, their knees. They are mindful of their breathing – filling up “like a balloon” and exhaling.
“Feel your heartbeat. Your chest is open. When you are breathing down your throat, feel the breath.”
When it is time to do so the students, all third through fifth graders, sit up and place their hands on their knees. They wrap up their exercise with McCann.
The term “namaste” is a traditional greeting used by yoga participants.
On April 22 students engaged in the last day of their four-week yoga program McCann organized for the three grade levels. The class met every Tuesday after school.
It was the second yoga session for Reeves Elementary. The first one started in January and was offered to kindergarten through fifth grade students. McCann said when she began promoting the yoga session she ended up receiving 100 applicants.
McCann is an assistant kindergarten teacher at Reeves. She is trained to teach children’s yoga through Kids Yogaverse, and is also certified through Holy Cow out of Charleston.
She calls her little yoga participants “yogis.”
As far as McCann knows Reeves has been the only school to offer yoga, and so far she is enjoying it – and so are the kids. McCann said she has seen her students become better at balance and develop an understanding for their own wellbeing. She is also impressed with the kindness her students exhibit.
“You don’t realize how much they really do absorb what you’re doing,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
McCann said yoga is beneficial for students in a multitude of ways. Yoga has been known to increase test scores, self-esteem, concentration, strength and flexibility, all while decreasing stress and anxiety.
“The poses teach you to breathe through the tense situations in your life,” she said. “It’s supposed to be enjoyable, even for the adults.”
Parents have enjoyed the impact yoga has had on their children as well. Annette Boatwright’s daughter Gabrielle, who is in fourth grade, just finished the most recent yoga session.
“I think it benefits her a whole lot,” Boatwright said. “She’s taught me a few moves at home.”
Boatwright said at home they are starting a new workout regimen, so the yoga sessions have been great for her child.
“This is calming, especially after work,” she said. “I can’t run anymore so this helps.”
Gabrielle has taught her mom moves like the “downward dog” and the “cobra.”
“I like the poses and the moves,” she said.
Kevin Bassett’s daughter Lily, who is in kindergarten, participated in the first session that began in January.
“She enjoyed the moves,” Bassett said. “It really resonated with her, and it was a real treat to watch her do this on her own. Mrs. McCann is one of her teachers here, too, and that was a real treat.”
McCann hopes to do a summer session in the near future as well. Camille Crocker, whose fourth-grade daughter Jenna also previously participated, said she found yoga to help her daughter with her motor skills.
“It helped her balance, and yoga kind of helps the head,” she said. “I found it very helpful.”