Elementary school students use yoga to manage classroom stress

Students with behavioral issues benefit learn to handle emotions

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – Yoga and meditation are common techniques adults use to manage stress. Now, those same techniques are being taught to students at Altamonte Elementary School.

Behavior interventionist Isabel Carlson's classroom looks more like a yoga studio with dim lights, yoga mats and affirmations on the walls.

"Our kids have a lot of challenges and they range -- some are academic and some are home life, but we have a lot of kids who just need a little bit of extra support," Carlson said.

Carlson's room is a peaceful space where students can come to work through behavior issues. As the behavior interventionist, Carlson is called when a student's behavior is disruptive.

"And when I arrive, I don't look at what's happening. I look at the child. I look at what they're feeling and what they might need to overcome. I think that really helps them understand that I'm not just coming to get you in trouble. I want you to work it out. I want you to be here and we're going to do that in the right way," Carlson said.

Carlson guides students through yoga poses and encourages them to talk about the highs and lows of their day. She stresses that all feelings are OK.

"Kids get in trouble for feeling angry, and they don't understand that I'm feeling upset, and yes, I may have done something that maybe wasn't the best thing to do, but being able to talk about it and get through it," Carlson said.

Gerald Williams Junior, 9, began practicing yoga last year. He said it has changed his life.

"My anger is, like, out of control. If I just, like, do our highs and our low and talk about it, she gives me the strategy to calm down about it. Yes, I love it good," he said.

Carlson described Williams as her star student.

"We've come a long way. He's a completely different student this year. We've spent a lot of time together and not always in a positive way. I'm so proud of him," she said.

Carlson said just in the past few weeks, all students have been offered weekly yoga classes. The sessions are about 25 minutes long and end with guided relaxation.

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