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BETTENDORF, Iowa (AP) — First-grade students at Neil Armstrong Elementary School file into the school gymnasium, but there is no raucous game of kickball or other high-energy activity on the agenda.
Instead, the students arrange their beach towels on the floor as mellow, new age music plays softly in the background and they prepare to strike a pose.
The first-graders are taking yoga lessons as part of a program initiated by school counselor Shelley Klaas, who said she got the idea after attending a yoga workshop last summer in Minneapolis.
“I came out of it feeling quite calm and thought, ‘This is a great idea for kids,’” she said.
Klaas received a $380 grant from the Bettendorf Community Schools Foundation to pay for curriculum.
and materials for a series of six yoga lessons for the school’s first-graders. The lessons are taught by Pat Kirkland, Shelley Chambers and Joan Marttila, volunteers from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bettendorf.
Klaas said research shows that yoga can help young children learn skills such as focus, relaxation and self-control. They can use methods they learn in yoga in the classroom or at home.
As the class begins, Chambers reminds the children about how to do “bunny breathing,” an exercise where they put their hands on top of their heads like bunny ears and then take three breaths in through their noses, then a long exhale through their nose. In-in-in-out.