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Las Cruces Public Schools has partnered with Downtown Desert Yoga (DDY) since 2016 to help students and staff learn about and benefit from the practice of yoga -- a physical, mental and spiritual discipline that traces its origins to India more than 5,000 years ago.
“We offer all staff members access to two free yoga classes a week,” said LCPS Staff Wellness Specialist Ariel Amendola.
“We have also offered professional developments for staff to learn these practices. Teacher, coaches, social workers, librarians and nurses, they all can incorporate mindful movement and breathing for themselves and students in their day,” Amendola said.
The partnership has also created Mindful Movement program for students, families and staff, “where anyone can tune into live-stream sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays according to grade level,” Amendola said. “We will eventually post these recorded sessions to our Enrichment Channel on YouTube for all the LCPS community to utilize at their convenience.
“The social and emotional learning that is fostered in our schools with our staff and students shares principles with yoga,” she said. “Social emotional learning teaches use all how to manage emotions, problem solve, empathy, making thoughtful decisions, maintain healthy relationships and community connections. Yoga helps us pause, breath with our movement, reflect, think about the stretch and if it would feel good for us as an individual to do.
“This is very important because we all have different abilities. Staff and student wellness is meant to care for the whole individual – the mental, physical and emotional well-being,” Amendola said.
Mesa Middle School teacher Renee Loera “shared that these sessions are another form to build connection, community and physical therapy in her classroom,” Amendola said. “She has seen growth with her students’ energy level, balance and coordination, which is connected to developing new neural pathways (in the brain).”
“As children transition back to in-person learning, we want to help them with social emotional skills such as self-regulation and self-awareness,” Loera said. “That is why we are excited to expand our mindful movement opportunities to students and even their families in collaboration with Coleen (Boyd) and her staff. We know that yoga breaks help ease tension, calm the nervous system and get people moving in a safe and healthy manner. Besides the fact that we love to see our students and their families happy and healthy, it makes them better learners.”
“I am just so pleased that we can offer LCPS teachers and kids a way to reconnect and tend to their mental well-being,” said DDY owner Colleen Boyd.
“This is further reinforced in the piece I heard on NPR: ‘… In the U.S., where access to health care — especially for children’s mental health — is inequitable and inconsistent, the difficult work of identifying and tending to the mental and emotional health of this pandemic generation will fall largely on the shoulders of educators.’ This is what LCPS is doing and I believe they are ahead of their time,” Boyd said.