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The Little Yogis at Patterson International Elementary

The Little Yogis at Patterson International Elementary
Posted on 03/14/2018
Patterson International Elementary student Cici Beck takes a moment to work on her breathing during her after-school yoga club. Kids on mats in common yoga poses; this is what you might think was going on once you heard there was an afternoon yoga club at Patterson International Elementary, but you’d be wrong. There’s more play, than Namaste. That’s by design. For seven weeks, instructor Mark Rutan, who’s also a Patterson International parent, starts these little yogis, including his own daughter, Kiva, on a mix of high energy games in the school gym all to drain away.

“The wiggles and the giggles and the shiggles. We get their bodies moving so that their minds will calm down a little bit. As soon as you get the wiggles out, then their ears open up, and their eyes open up and everything,” explained Rutan.

“We do red light, green light, and fun games like that,” added a group of students.
Once the calm takes hold, Rutan leads the students through a basic series of yoga poses tailored for first- and second-grade understanding.

“Usually we focus on things that they know; things in the world. Can you be a rock? Can you be a frog? Can you be a tree? Then build from there,” said Rutan. “When we’re in our smallest position is it hard to breathe? When we’re in our biggest position, is it easy to breathe? Simple things so they can be in their body.”

And the students have really taken a liking to it.

“I love cat pose because I have a cat. I love dog pose because I have a dog,” said Camila Sanchez.

“My favorite pose is eagle. It just somehow calms me and makes me feel relaxed,” added Aliyana Delgado.

Rock. Child’s pose. Because I can just go like this, and go into my mind and say ‘well, you can do this at home when you’re annoyed,” explained Cici Beck. “Once you start meditating, you’ll be calm, and you’ll be in your mind and you can imagine and stuff like that. Once you go back into the real world, you can try it again and you’ll go back into your mind.”

Mindfulness is a big part of these yoga sessions, even with the gym’s fluorescent lights and noisy distractions nearby.

“It’s when things aren’t ideal that yoga becomes so key,” said Rutan. “If we’re only practicing in a dark room where we’re quiet, and we’re comfortable, we may be practicing yoga, but we’re not effectively practicing it in my view.”

Students say the class has helped them find focus and peace, especially when Rutan gently guides them in breathing and meditation.

“It’s very calming, relaxing. It’s fun,” said Alayna Gordon. “If they’re having a rough time, they can do one of the yoga poses to calm them down. “

“Yoga really helps you with the noise. You need to move away from the noise when you need to and find a place that’s calm enough and be your own self over there,” added Kiva Normand. “Once you’re done, it won’t be loud anymore. You can be calm for the rest of the day.”

That’s what Rutan truly hopes these students take away from yoga lessons.

“I think that speaks to how sometimes we don’t give kids enough credit. They’re really adults in small bodies, just trying to figure it out. They have big emotions, they have big problems. Sometimes it’s just your brother poking you all the time, and that’s big in their world,” said Rutan. “Finding an effective way to get through that experience with some grace I know will last them a lifetime.”

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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