Thursday, November 15

Yoga is for everyone

by Katherine Matutes

“Mrs. Matutes, I need to go out in the hallway and breath,” said a frustrated second grader at the elementary school where I worked as an aid.

This particular boy had a rough childhood and was having a very difficult time controlling himself in the classroom. Up to this day, he was so disruptive to the class that he’d often have to be sent out into the hall to try to cope with his personal frustrations.

Around this same time, I had just completed my yoga teacher training and was intrigued by breath-work and the power it could have over one’s emotional state and mental wellbeing. In particular, I appreciated the power of “dragon” breathing, which is breathing forcefully from one’s belly and gradually allowing the breath to become calmer, slower and more relaxed. One’s mood gradually mirrors the change in the breath. It is a powerful lesson of emotional control focused on connecting the mind to the body. If one can consciously relax the body, the mind will follow.

JCC after school yoga
After a recent outburst, I asked my frustrated student to try “dragon” breathing. The day he asked to go into the hallway to breath, I understood my student had begun to master emotional self-management by recognizing that he needed to focus on his breath. He’d begun regulating the process himself.

My student’s experience was a revelation to me that young people need to learn and can benefit from yoga techniques just as adults do.

I witness another version of this emotional transformation with the JCC afterschool care weekly yoga class. As the participants enter class the first thing they ask me is “are we going to do the relaxation thing at the end again?”

The kids are referring to shivasana, or final relaxation, the portion at the end of class where they close their eyes, slow their breathing and connect with their inner stillness. It is a marvel to watch wiggly, elementary school age kids settle into a calm and peaceful state.

They, too, have learned that focusing on the breath can assist one in mentally controlling the body. The fact that they request this quietness every week is a testament to yoga’s broad appeal.

More About Katherine Matutes, PhD

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