Reading, writing, arithmetic, and yoga? You probably don’t think about yoga when you think about what kids need to learn in school. But you may be surprised to learn that yoga is an evidence-based way to support students’ mental health and social-emotional development. And it’s easier to incorporate into classrooms than you may think. Listen in to hear from Brynne Caleda, cofounder of Yoga Ed, about the many benefits of yoga not just for students’ wellbeing but for their teachers’ wellness, too.
Learn more about Brynne Caleda and Yoga Ed at: https://yogaed.com/
You're listening to The Voices In Education Podcast, powered by Securly, where we hear from new voices and explore new ideas about how we can reimagine education to support whole student success. Education is at an inflection point. As we grapple with complex challenges like funding and enrollment, as well as diversity, equity, and safety, we also have an opportunity. An opportunity to reimagine education. Now more than ever, we know the importance that students' overall wellbeing plays in their success. They need to feel supported, and safe, and connected to be able to engage in their learning and achieve to their full potential. Join your host, Casey Agena, a former teacher turned instructional coach and technologist as he interviews inspirational educators, school leaders, wellness professionals, and more to amplify their voices. You'll learn about the innovative work they're doing to support student safety, engagement and overall wellness. And who knows? You may even spark a new idea of your own. Ready to reimagine education? Let's go.
I'm your host Casey Agena, and in today's episode, I am excited to be talking with Brynne Caleda of Yoga Ed. Her work is impacting thousands of students across the country, not only in terms of understanding what yoga is, but the impact that she's had on social-emotional learning and student mental health. Listen in as Brynne and I discuss her work, the growth of yoga education, and ultimately the why. Why it's so important for students, teachers, and families to engage in yoga education, social-emotional learning and being mindful of their own mental health. Brynne, glad to have you here.
Hey Casey, thank you so much for hosting and having me here.
Well, we had some really great conversation earlier today and definitely in the past with our work together. And you have a really unique perspective on student wellness and SEL. Tell us a little bit more about Yoga Ed, the work that you do and the K-12 space that you work in.
Sure, absolutely. Thanks for that introduction Casey. So Yoga Ed, as you mentioned, we're a just over 20 year old company. And what we have been doing over the past two decades is providing evidence based, trauma informed, SEL aligned yoga and mindfulness training, and more recently, online classes to school communities worldwide.
When you talk about the K-12 space, this spans our youngest all the way to our oldest at the end of the spectrum. And I'm assuming that it's different for each one. At the same time, how challenging is it for our educators to use, work with and engage the students in their classroom around yoga?
Yeah, that's a really great question, Casey. And it's something that frequently comes to us, especially when we get to the implementation point with teachers over their wonders, curiosities, and maybe even worries about how do I make this relatable and connected to the learners that I'm working with. Something about Yoga Ed is we actually go pre-K. So we do pre-K-12 and something that I always find so fascinating about the work of the Yoga Ed is that the yoga and mindfulness tools that we use, we have four baseline tools that we use, which is reading exercises, yoga stretching or poses, brain breaks, as well as relaxation techniques.
And so you might have something like balloon breath, and balloon breath is balloon breath, whether you're teaching balloon breath to a preschooler or a fourth grader or to a high schooler. But what you'll see and where the differentiation comes is how you deliver the teaching of the content then shifts to be more developmentally appropriate. And that's something that we've really worked hard at here at Yoga Ed, getting our learners to understand like where children are at developmentally and then how they need to modify the yoga that they're teaching to their learners to meet those developmental needs.
So let me preface this. I'm going to ask “why yoga in schools?” The caveat to that is particularly over the past 24 months. I mean, we've dealt a lot and we're still dealing with it even today with our challenges. And a lot of that does fall on the teachers in the classroom. Why yoga? Why now? And yeah, I'll leave it at that.
Yeah, it's a really good question. And let me start with the why yoga, Casey. Because I think that this is a twofold answer. First and foremost is I think when folks think of yoga, they think of postural yoga and what yoga has become in the West. And so this might be fancy yoga mats that are really expensive and really nice yoga clothing that teachers can't afford and expensive yoga passes and hot yoga studios. That is a way to do yoga. And it's certainly not the yoga that we're introducing to classrooms. So one of the huge focuses that Yoga Ed is that yes, we have a mat, yoga [inaudible 00:05:55] that meets national PE and health standards. And it's great for physical educators, even lower elementary kinders like to use the mat yoga after school clubs. But the huge focus of our work has been accessibility over 20 years.
How do we take those simple practices, the breath, the poses, the relaxation techniques off the mat, into the chair and make it accessible to the everyday teacher who's like, "Hey, I'm not flexible. I don't know how to do yoga." Well, that's perfect. That's why we're here to work with you. We are working with educators to teach them how to use yoga and mindfulness tools, not with the assumption that they're already yoga practitioners, or yoga trainers, or even mindfulness folks. So I think that's one part of the question to answer first and the why yoga, is the accessibility.
The other piece is super simply said — and I'm very well aware of hard earned practice — which is how healthy and well our teachers are affects their ability to teach. And how healthy and well students are affects their ability to learn.
I'm not talking “six pack ab, green smoothie” wellness. I'm talking just like holistically, generally showing up to school and feeling okay. How do you as an individual feel okay, day to day? And really the way that we feel in our body, the way that we feel in our mind affects that ability to teach, be in relationship with our students, students' ability to learn and be in relationship with other students as well as teachers. And so why yoga for us has been a conversation for 20 years. Yes, more so even after the pandemic, but it still doesn't change. It's still the same conversation that wellness isn't a separate part of education. It's a part of the puzzle or a part of the fabric. And it's a necessity in order for us to meet the goals that education has for us to achieve as educators and as students.
And there's a lot of, I think, inputs that students are receiving, whether it's their relationship with their classroom teachers, their parents, their after school baseball coach or ballet teacher. I mean, all these adults that are around them. They too, to your point, the adult piece of wellness is alive and well. It impacts the students in terms of how they feel. I think we are all kind of looking for those particular solutions that one, overtly address that. And two, underlying that is those behaviors and those relationships manifest in different ways, positively and/or negatively. So how does that come up in terms of your work and answering those types of questions with folks, those decision makers who are looking for solutions within their schools?
Yeah. This is a great question Casey. And it perfectly serves me for the reason that we're here, which is talking about social-emotional learning within education. So we're so externalized as adults, as students to be so externally focused. And the first pillar that castle has of the five competencies of social-emotional learning is self-awareness. So this ability to understand who and how I'm being, whatever's going on in my inner landscape is affecting the way that I'm behaving, not only for myself, but also for others that are in space with me. And so what a practice of yoga and mindfulness does is it gives us that opportunity to go from the external, to the internal, both as educators and students, what you said. Like it's a nuanced play between teacher as well as student that we're continually taking the time to pause throughout the day to check in. Who am I? How am I behaving? What are my behaviors like? How is this affecting the classroom and my teaching? Or from a student's perspective, how is this affecting my ability to learn? Other people's ability to learn? That's like the first piece of the work.
And then when we have that ability to come into awareness, how our internal world is affecting our external relationships, then we can move into the self-management piece. That's the second piece of the social-emotional learning that castle states, which is who and how do I want to be and what are the tools and resources I have to shift into that? And that's where yoga and mindfulness comes in. So I can recognize that this morning was very stressful before this podcast. There was a COVID case in my son's school. All of a sudden, my whole mornings turned around, and I'm anxious and I'm white knuckling at home, I'm going to be late for my podcast. But I'm able to take the pause and be like, okay, I can recognize my anxiety right now.
And so where's my management? Where are my resources? It's a deep brush for me. It's that sitting up tall, taking a deep breath in and being like, okay, I'm going to come into this moment. I'm going to calm my anxiety so I can be present for this. A similar concept happening real time for teachers and students in the classroom. So the first layer is self-awareness, then really looking at how we can leverage and utilize yoga tools to support us with self-management.
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And now back to the interview. To your point, that self-actualization, self-awareness, it's not just about the just now stressors, but it's even in different environments of, if I learn this about myself now, how might I be able to help self-regulate myself in different places?
It is a challenge though.
Absolutely. It's a challenge. It's a process.
For those educators who maybe are not professionals around it. Yeah.
Well, it's disciplinary. So I said, it's super easy in theory, the conversation is a very simple conversation, but in practice it's hard. That's why it's so easy to get away from it because of normal day life. But what's, I think, and this is where the neuroscience little nerd of me comes into the conversation, but there's so much in the field of neuroscience now that points to the brain, the plasticity and the muscle like that it is. And so the more that we practice and do these practices, the stronger they become and the easier and quicker we default to them. So I think that that's like an important piece for us to remember about this. That like we might have a weak muscle at first, but we all have a muscle and we all have the ability to strengthen it. These practices aren't something that we can't do or don't have. We all have them. It's just they might be a little bit out of shape.
You all have been recognized via AT&T as a company that has potential and has potential for growth. And many have recognized yoga education in K-12 in general, but particularly Yoga Ed. Tell us a little bit about that. What has happened within the past year with that piece and how that has impacted yourself in Yoga Ed?
Yeah. Thanks. It's an inspiring conversation to be had Casey, which is that back about a decade ago, Julia, who is our CEO and what we call ourselves second generation co-founders because we acquired the original Yoga Ed as it was. So Yoga Ed was an in-person training and print curriculum company. And when Julie and I took over the leadership of the company, we quickly identified the need for scale and sustainability. And like, how could we do this? And we have a goal to be in every classroom. And how can we do that sustainably and at scale? And so we really realized that leveraging online would be really beneficial for our work. And so we actually took the in-person trainings and put them into the online space. It was at that time that we had clarity that teachers ... It wasn't that teachers aren't interested in yoga and mindfulness. They are, but where their pain was, was then in having to facilitate on their own, after they took professional development and training. It's getting that start that we just talked about.
It's hard. It's like, oh, I totally get it, but how do I get my start? And where do I start? Especially if they're not a background in yoga and mindfulness. So that's where the brainchild of the online platform came was like, hey, why don't we create a comprehensive, what we call a mindful movement program, which is professional development and training to get teachers to understand the accessibility of yoga and mindfulness for them, and their students, and the benefits, and then give them an online platform where they can go in and push and play real time in the classroom.
And this has been really critical for us during COVID because there's the conversation of student SEL Casey, and then there's a conversation of teacher SEL. How are we addressing teacher wellness? And so we solve that pain beautifully. We don't require a lot of extra time. We don't require any extra time. All we need is a teacher to log in, get into the chair and practice alongside their students. And that's what AT&T saw and was really inspired by and wanted to help us bring to scale up our work in a bigger way.
I think that's something that for many of the listeners, what can they do tomorrow? And knowing that Yoga Ed as a potential solution for their school, their district, wherever they're at, it's available. But give us something for many of our classroom teacher listeners who are in, if there's one little nugget you can share with them on saying, hey, I believe in this, like you said, we do. What is one thing they can do tomorrow? When they walk into the classroom, they're waiting for their kiddos, regardless of they're kindergartners or their American lit class in 11th grade? Just to start the class, is there something that you can provide that says, hey, try this and see what the kids' reaction is?
So the resource and the tool that I always go to is the breath. It's so simple and so accessible to everybody and all. It's starting the day, or it's starting the class two feet on the floor, sitting up tall in your chair, full deep breath in, full deep breath out three times. And then just notice the temperature of the room.
I'm really looking forward to folks trying this out. And especially now, I think we're in this home stretch of the 21, 22 school year, and being able to take a small portion of a class period to do that, to start. I think that's key. So I want to highlight a couple of things you shared Brynne helping to give us another perspective on student wellness, mental health, and even a little insight into Yoga Ed and the practices that are aligned with our trauma informed practices that many educators are looking for in terms of solutions. Thinking about that fence that you ride between digital learning and that face to face learning, which is so important as well. And you've been able to kind of navigate that through Yoga Ed. And the last thing, that little piece for all of you to try, we don't even have to wait for tomorrow. Try today just even with yourself, Brynne, I want to thank you for your time, lending your voice to Voices In Education. Thank you for joining us.
Thank you Casey for having me. It's been a great pleasure.
And thank you all for listening. We'll see you for another episode. Bye all.
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