“I was really nervous about trying yoga for the first time because I’ve never done it before.  But then I did yoga and it settled my stomach very nicely – and it was actually really fun!”  Addison, student participant

 At a time when we are striving to provide care and support for each other to live well with pandemic restrictions, students at Centennial Elementary School are using yoga to strengthen their own ability to manage anxiety and fear. Live Strong Yoga is a virtual yoga class being offered to students by local yoga instructor Fran Mir-Robertson.

‘Franny’, as the kids affectionately call Mir-Robertson, has magically developed a rapport with children she has never worked with in person. Centennial Student Support Services Teacher, Andrea Maxwell, coordinates the yoga sessions at the school, “Fran has taken her practice and made it fun for students, using language and tools that are enjoyable for kids. Kids are just drawn to her.”

Mir-Robertson has noticed the reciprocal nature of kindness being explored during her sessions. “I feel so connected to the students. While yoga with adults is more serious, it is so playful with children.” Even though virtual yoga presents technology challenges, she feels that this opportunity has provided her and the students a better understanding of “the need to be flexible in chaos, to be present for ourselves, and how to show up for others.”

“Yoga helped me at home.  I was feeling worried and decided to try some of the poses that Franny taught us.  It made me feel a lot better.”  Charlie, student participant

The weekly sessions focus on having fun with yoga while preserving the practice to provide short term and life-long strategies for managing stress. Students have developed yoga toolkits with Mir-Robertson including a set of cards with poses and a glitter jar to support mindful breathing and thinking. Maxwell added, “ We haven’t sent the jars home yet but one student said that she feels it will really help her to settle herself when she feels worried at home.  We’re planning to create a second set of jars so that they can have one in both their home and school environments.”  The kits will go home with students at the end of the sessions.

“I was upset.  I felt like doing a pose and it made me feel better. I did slow breathing too and it really helped and then I just continued on with what I was doing.”  Taven, student participant

Maxwell noted, “This year our school has focused on student mental health and well-being.This program has worked to support these students by both building their repertoire of skills and practices but also by building a sense of community within the group – which has been lacking due to COVID restrictions.” Additional students have said they are interested in participating in the weekly sessions. Maxwell thinks that there is value in this programming continuing after COVID restrictions have lifted to include additional student participants. Parent feedback is also positive, supporting the need for students to develop strategies to manage fears and anxiety.

Centennial School has a rich history of extra-curricular programming in sports, culture and the arts that offers students a chance to explore diverse interests. Exploration and activity strengthen a child’s sense of self and ability to feel strong in challenging times. Mir-Robertson notes that whether a child is athletic or not, yoga builds a child’s efficacy towards using their body with confidence. Due to health restrictions, extra-curricular programs cannot run at this time. Maxwell stated, “Students aren’t feeling like they’re ‘giving up’ their recess time to participate in the Yoga sessions – instead they seem eager to add this practice into their school day.”

Student success stories of managing difficult moments and Mir-Robertson’s own virtual teaching experience reminds her that “the resiliency of the human spirit… helps us to rise above and still flourish.”

Live Strong Yoga is sponsored by HERO’S Alliance, which is committed to supporting  community and individual well-being with a generous grant from the Lac du Bonnet & District Charitable Foundation and the Emergency Community Support Fund of the Government of Canada.