Yoga classes are transforming the lives of young people at one school in the Taranaki region.
Waitara’s Manukorihi Intermediate has been running a programme called “Being Me - Kia Maia” through New Plymouth-based Kids Yoga Pod since just before lockdown last year.
It proved so successful that the decile 3 school applied for Tū Manawa Active Aotearoa funding through Sport Taranaki to enable more students to benefit from the experience.
With funding approved, Manukorihi principal Fiona Low is excited her school, with its roll of 240 with 63 percent Māori, can now extend the programme.
“The kids coming to us now, they’re not like the kids of 22 years ago when I stepped into the classroom. Their needs are different and we just need to think outside the box a little bit, so offering yoga is a no brainer,” says Fiona.
“Our mindfulness, our mental health and wellbeing needs to be addressed in many other ways than just your traditional sport. Yoga has the physical, the mental and the emotional elements and that in itself has been a game changer for our children.”
Yoga teacher Lisa McCarron takes small groups of students for an hour-long class each week for six weeks.
During that time they develop strength, co-ordination, flexibility, balance and breathing techniques while having fun but, unlike adult yoga, they also undertake group poses and games to come together, collaborate, work as a team and build trust.
“We strive to create a fun and engaging space. Our children can come together in unity to grow self-esteem and empower our children to be the best they can be,” says Lisa.
The Manukorihi classes also align with the school’s values around self-worth, resilience and goal setting.
“The thing they tell me they love most is the mindfulness at the end where Lisa takes them to a nice quiet place to tune out,” says Fiona
“Kids’ lives are so busy that having that little bit of calm they don’t often get is really important to them.”
Fiona can’t speak enough of how much of a positive impact the classes are having on her students’ health and wellbeing.
In all cases she’s noticed students have become more confident, settled, interactive, happier in themselves and they’re even walking taller.
“They come back and they’re saying ‘I feel better now I have learned how to manage myself and my emotions’ or ‘I can use the breathing techniques in class if I get upset’ or ‘Nobody knows I do this in class but I have way more control over myself’.”