YoKid yoga instructor Erica Montoya (center right, facing camera) leads a group of Henderson Middle School (Richmond, Va) students through a 45 minute after-school yoga class. Photographed Monday afternoon, February 13, 2012. (Skip Rowland Photography, Inc., Chicago Tribune)
On any given day at Coconut Creek Elementary school in Florida, it's likely that you'll find the children in an unlikely position: downward dog.
They lean on their hands with their bottoms in the air, swaying and breathing and centering themselves. Then, they curl up into child's pose and listen to their breath while steadying their heart rates.
In the coming weeks, their yoga practice will intensify to help the children deal with No Child Left Behind testing in March.
"There's a lot of high-stakes testing for No Child Left Behind, " said Deborah Collins, a Florida-based school psychologist and co-developer of the yoga program. "A lot of the decisions are based on how they do, and the test is administered once a year. It creates a lot of tension."
To prevent the students from becoming too stressed — and to help them focus before the big day — schools throughout the country are counting on a technique that adults have long employed to deal with demanding work and home situations: yoga.
A study by California State University researchers in Los Angeles found that practicing yoga helps students' academic performance, overall health and behavior.
And teachers and parents are hoping this new yoga fanaticism in schools will help foster calmer, saner, healthier children.