Growing up with red hair and glasses, I was teased, bullied, and called names in school. I was left with feelings about myself that were simply not true. I felt less than. I felt that I was not acceptable or worthy of being included. Both girls and boys made fun of me or antagonized me with physical violence. School felt unsafe. Years later as a mother of two young daughters, the same thing started happening to one of my daughters. I began to wonder, “How could school become safer for our children socially and emotionally?” I started to envision a platform that could help students develop a stronger understanding of their own worth and feel more comfortable in their own skin. From there, I imagined children and teens could settle into themselves enough to begin asking the deeper questions of: “Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the point of it all?”

As an adult, I faced these questions with some consternation while beginning to practice yoga. I learned to dig deep with self-inquiry, listening from within and witnessing my behavior. My teacher, Douglas Brooks, sums it up by saying, “We are the point the universe is trying to make.” 

What I did not recognize then is that I knew my purpose all along and just needed to connect the dots. I want more than anything for young people to start grasping their sense of purpose early and therefore carry more confidence forward into their teen years. Unfortunately, the teen years seem to do the opposite by degrading a child’s sense of self. 

In the words of Ram Dass, the true teacher lives within each of us and  it’s our individual and collective journey that allows us “to all walk each other home.” 

It all begins with meditation. Slowing down our minds is the stepping stone to tolerating stress, regulating our emotions, and maintaining effective interpersonal relationships, all of which helps us align with our bodies, our world, and our purpose in life. I imagine my life at school might have been different if I’d had these capacities available to me earlier on. Maybe I would have been able to endure the teasing better, maybe I would have begun listening more to my inner purpose and less to others’ opinions about me.

I believe these ancient traditions should be accessible to everyone, especially our youth. School is the perfect environment for exposing students to the physical practice of mindful movement, an understanding of the body and brain, and the discipline of meditation. When a child learns to slow down their breathing, they begin to support a steady mind and develop a strong body. Conscious Classroom Yoga allows students to participate in their own wellbeing. The simple act of teaching a student to regulate their nervous system and shift their state of mind changes their world and ours. 

With the love of lifelong learning,