Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Yoga class in school teaches students calm

Yoga instructor Haris Lender, right, directs Melrose Elementary School fourth-graders, from left, Queen McGraddy, Shimyra Lavine, and Ashlynn Bryant and their classmates, during their weekly class.


Yoga instructor Haris Lender, right, directs Melrose Elementary School fourth-graders, from left, Queen McGraddy, Shimyra Lavine, and Ashlynn Bryant and their classmates, during their weekly class.


Nine-year old bodies stretch and scrunch into warrior stances, then morph into shapes of other characters or objects. The fourth-graders hold the poses for only a few seconds before quickly contouring into the next.

Teacher Haris Lender reads a story aloud, pausing to let the kids fill in the blanks with the names of historical African-American figures.

"She told her about a famous boxer who would not become a warrior in the Army," Lender reads, "but was the greatest boxer ever, and he said: 'I float like a butterfly and sting like a BEE and my name is …' "

"Muhammad Ali!" the kids call out.

They remain in their warrior poses. In this classroom at Melrose Elementary, the main lesson is yoga.

• • •

A magnet school that exposes students to multimedia studies, Melrose now regularly features yoga.

Jaye Anne Terry, coordinator of the Journeys in Journalism program at the school, introduced yoga last year.

Lender's yoga is directed at children and "provides them wonderful techniques for calming themselves, for finding a quiet place within," Terry says.

Lender, who owns Kidding Around Yoga, has been a yoga instructor for 11 years and is donating her time for the weekly 40-minute classes.

"It feels good to teach yoga to kids who didn't even know what yoga is, and now they have the opportunity to experience it," Lender said.

Each class is made up of eight to 10 students who participate in meditation exercises, engage in yoga poses and play games. Then the students take a trip to their "secret gardens." They stretch out on their backs on the floor, piano music playing softly, the air scented with lavender.

"Peace begins with me," the children murmur to themselves, touching thumbs to fingers in time with each word.

"Secret garden helps you get the bad things out of your mind," says fourth-grader Mahogany McKeever. When you open your eyes, "you have good thoughts."

• • •

The yoga at Melrose began with a few fourth-graders, handpicked by their teachers to go to yoga during their physical education class.

"Most of the students loved it, and wanted more, so Lender volunteered to offer the class on a weekly basis," said Terry.

The students are taking more from the class than just breathing techniques or muscle-strengthening poses, said assistant principal Kurt Wyne.

They are learning how to manage their stress levels, he said. "When the kids leave class, they seem to be more centered, more in control," Wyne said.

Lender also has been training Melrose teachers in yoga techniques. Fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Petures uses it in her class, leading stress relief exercises before a test and the triangle pose while teaching geometry.

Before one recent yoga class, Petures saw one student hit another with a water bottle. She thought about withholding yoga as a consequence, but then she realized, "That student really needed yoga today."

Students agreed: yoga is calming.

"I'm happier than when I came in," fourth-grader Lazarus Whipple said at the end of a yoga class.

"If we're having a problem, (yoga) can make all bad things go away," said fourth-grader Ashlynn Bryant.

Symone Brown is a freshman at Lakewood High and a member of the staff of tb-two*, the Times' weekly newspaper for high school students.

Yoga class in school teaches students calm 05/31/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 3:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  2. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pittsburgh stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32 (left), was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with boss Larry McCabe when he saw three men …

  3. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  4. College World Series title puts Florida Gators in elite company


    The Florida Gators put themselves in rare company with Tuesday night's College World Series national championship victory.

    Florida ace and Tampa native Alex Faedo (21) lets loose with his teammates after they win the Gators’ first baseball national title.
  5. Lightning prospects mantra: You never know when NHL chance will appear

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Brett Howden said he watched closely last season as former junior teammate Brayden Point made an remarkable rise to a Lightning regular in his first year pro.

    Lightning prospect Mikhail Sergachev skates during the Lightning Development Camp Wednesday at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]