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Yoga in Schools Really Works: This is How One Program Helps Students Decompress

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Founders of the nonprofit Konscious Youth Development and Service (KYDS) New Jersey share how their mindfulness program in schools and meditation and open mic events in Ashbury Park are bringing positive change to a community.

Learn how a nonprofit organization in New Jersey brings yoga and mindfulness programs into elementary, middle, and high school classrooms and empowers kids and adults.

In December 2014, yoga teachers Mychal Mills and Rodney Salomon began leading monthly open mic nights at Kula Cafe in central Asbury Park, New Jersey. Salomon, a youth development specialist, and Mills, who was then working at a local food bank, wanted to bring together all generations of their inner-city community. At their first event, 15 people performed for 70 of their neighbors, sharing poetry, music, and other creative forms of spoken word. “The theme of empowerment kept arising,” Mills says. “Open mic is a platform for openness, vulnerability, and healing—connecting all walks of life from 6 to 70 years old.”

Encouraged by the success of the open mics, Mills and Salomon founded the nonprofit Konscious Youth Development & Service (KYDS) to reach more kids. That summer, they hosted a free eight-week youth series called Journey Summer Program for elementary and middle schoolers. It included yoga and mindfulness practices, talks about healthy eating, and art workshops. The goal: to help kids better manage their emotions and give them a solid foundation to become mindful leaders of tomorrow. Then in 2016, Salomon and Mills added meditation and sound-healing events at the café.

See also How to become a leader in yoga service work

The following year, KYDS received a contract to be in the Asbury Park School District full time. KYDS now offers three tiers of programs, all of which are available at elementary, middle, and high schools. All teachers receive Konscious Classroom training to develop their own mindfulness practice and to learn how to bring those techniques to students. The second tier is a Mindful Moment room where children can meet with KYDS staff if they are stressed or anxious. The room is designed to help students decompress through relaxing sights (positive quotes, a Himalayan salt lamp), sounds (water and beach noises), and the smell of lavender from a diffuser. Lastly, KYDS offers an Alternative Learning Lab for students facing challenges in or out of school and those with a history of suspensions. The lab works with the kids twice a week to help increase their self and social awareness. Students journal, paint, or write poems using guided prompts and participate in group activities, such as building bridges, which help them shift from “me, me, me” thinking to “we” thinking, Mills explains.

On top of these school programs, KYDS still holds a free meditation every Monday, free yoga twice a month, and an open-mic night once a month. “Although we focus on kids, we realize it can’t just be the youth, because they are going home to their parents,” Mills says. “We find it more effective when adults are learning the same techniques and tools to embody change.” 

See also 3 Truths About Anxiety That Will Help You Feel Better, Fast

KYDS

Founders: Mychal Mills & Rodney Salomon

Website: konscious.org

At a Glance:

  • 3,000+ youths reached in the 2017-2018 school year
  • 13 school districts served in 2017-2018



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8 Times Presidents Sounded Like Yogis

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B.K.S Iyengar or J.F.K? Yogic wisdom can inspire a class – and a country.

Being a yogi requires patience, perseverance, and passion. So does running a country. This Presidents Day, reflect on these 8 quotes from past Presidents that encourage people to challenge themselves.

See also How to Lead in Challenging Times

 



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9 Healthiest (and Trendiest) Places Every NYC Yogi Loves

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Don’t miss one (or more!) of these healthy hot spots the next time you’re in the big apple.

Planning a visit to the big apple and want to know where to practice, eat, and play? This New York City travel guide for yogis has everything from non-toxic manicures to acupuncture.

Looking to make your next trip to New York City a health- and wellness-focused getaway? Good news: There is no shortage of yoga studios, vegan food options, non-toxic beauty spots, and more to check out in the big apple. If you’re planning a sometime soon, here’s a list of the trendiest spots every NYC-based yogi loves.

See also 8 Most Romantic Yoga Retreats To Take Your Sweetie



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7 Simple Ways to Be Your Own Valentine Today—and Any Day

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When was the last time you treated yourself as well as you treat everyone else?

Flying solo this Valentine’s Day? Here are seven simple ways to show yourself some love, even if you don’t have a significant other in your life to celebrate the holiday.

I used to have a vision board in my living room with the words in huge letters emblazoned across the top: “All of me loves all of you.” This was a non-negotiable in calling in my forever partner. The problem was thatI did not yet love all of me, and as I learned through the years of many Mr. Wrongs, we only attract people who love us as much as we love our selves.

For a long time, I was searching for someone(thing) to complete me, when what I really needed was to learn how to be whole on my own. I am now married to the man of my dreams. (Scratch that, I could not have dreamt him up, because I did not yet know that I deserved to be loved as much as he loves me.) It took a lifetime of personal work and self-love practices to finally understand that a good partner does not complete us—they complement us.

You see, the real love story of our lives is the one we have with our selves.

See also 5 Poses to Inspire More Self-Love, Less Self Smack-Talk

So, how do we remember this when every store and advertisement is blasting the messaging that Valentine’s Day is a holiday for couples? By letting this holiday be a celebration of love. Love of others and love for ourselves.

Some people have deemed V-day Singles Awareness Day, which is a great way to take the day back. It is also helpful to do a little digging into history of the holiday. As it turns out, while we have all heard of St. Valentine, for whom the holiday is named, there may have in fact been multiple St. Valentines, and each has a different day of celebration. Translation: While society chooses to honor February 14th as Valentine’s Day, there are numerous other dates in the calendar that could count. What does this mean for us? The date is arbitrary. Everyday can, and should, be a day of love.

So, here’s an idea: How about this Valentine’s Day, you be your own valentine. Give yourself a hug. Hold your own hand. And if that sounds weird, you should be doing these things every single day. Self-love is not selfish or indulgent. When we love ourselves, we are more loving in the world. The kinder we are, the kinder those are around us can be.

Our yoga practice reminds us that we are already perfect exactly was we are and when we can embrace every aspect of our selves, others can, too. Here are some ideas for the perfect self-care day to celebrate self-love this Valentine’s Day, and every day.

See also 5 Poses to Help You Stand in Your Own Power

Positive affirmations are a powerful way to change your view of yourself.

Look yourself lovingly in the eyes. Mirror affirmations are positive statements spoken aloud while looking into one’s reflection. They are a powerful way to change your view of yourself. You receive messaging all day long, whether you are conscious of it or not. Every time a bus passes or an ad plays on TV or you scroll through your social media feeds, you are receiving information. Most of that information comes with the messaging that you are not enough. Hear/read/see this enough and you start to believe it. Positive affirmations rewire your brain. Studies are now showing that this work improves self-esteem and strengthens your ability to combat negative stimuli, such as stress or others’ negativity. My favorite statement comes from the Queen of positive quotes, Louise Hay: “I am worth loving. There is love all around me.”

Go to the water. Water is the element of emotions and feelings—and the strongest and most powerful feeling is love. On this day, it is therapeutic to use the element of water to immerse yourself in love. If you live near the sea or a lake, go to the shore. If you are near a river, find a place along the edge. If you have access to a pool, dive in. If you are unable to get to any of these bodies of water, take a long soak in a bath. Soaking in water is a way to cultivate union with the deeper parts of our selves and with the world around us. When we are sad, we cry. When we exercise hard, we sweat. When we laugh, we tear. Allow the water to wash love all over you.

See also Recognize Your Strength with this 10-Minute Guided Meditation

Take yourself to a yoga class. Yoga is a unique activity in that it can be practiced in a group, but it is also an individualized experience. When you are feeling lonely or in need of connection, going to class is a wonderful way to feel a part of something—even when you’re flying solo. Moving as a collective and being in something together automatically cultivates a feeling of unity. I travel the world alone a lot and generally do home practices. When I am in need of company or craving connection, I go to a public yoga class—even if I do not speak the native language. There is something about breathing and sweating as a collective that reminds us that we are all connected, no matter how alone we sometimes feel.

Get a massage. The benefits of massage are numerous, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving sleep, digestion, and immunity. Often the resistance to getting one is financial, but there is no need to go to a fancy spa to get a good massage. Sometimes a $10 foot massage at your local nail salon can be just as impactful. Treating yourself to something nice also sends a deeper message of being cared for to your unconscious. You are your own caretaker. Just as acts of kindness from strangers can change your day, being kind to yourself can have an enormous impact as well.

Try simple ways of treating yourself on Valentine’s Day.

Buy yourself flowers. When I was 17 years old, my sister bought me my first plant. She said it was going to teach me how to take care of myself. Soon after she gave it to me, I accidentally knocked it out the window of my 3floor dorm room. How is that for symbolic? I felt terrible, but a desire was ignited in me to take better care of my things and myself. Unfortunately, I do not have the best green thumb. I tried having plants in my apartment, but they would always die. I even tried fake plants. After a very hard breakup years later, I wanted to do something nice for myself, so I started buying myself fresh flowers every week. Having living organisms in your home ushers in prana, or energy. You can feel the life force emanating around you.

See also 5 Simple Ways to Fall Back in Love with Your Yoga Practice

Take yourself to the movies. There is nothing I love more than going to the movies by myself. No arguing over what film to see. No one asking questions or chewing loudly next to you, making it hard to hear. And you get to eat allthe popcorn! While it takes courage at first to do things by yourself, it also teaches you how to be comfortable in your own skin. The more content you are on your own, the less likely you’ll be to seek validation from others. It is easy to be swayed by a group. To worry about other’s opinions and to lose sight of our true desires. Without other people around, you learn to hone your own our choices and opinions.

Order in and don’t forget the dessert. Cap your day off by ordering in from your favorite restaurant. Eating alone is a great opportunity to practice mindful eating. When you’re not distracted by company or devices, you can be much more present with the taste of your food. You’re more likely to eat more slowly and chew every morsel more thoroughly when you’re not speaking. It is also nice to journal when dining alone. The temptation will be to reach for your phone and distract yourself with social media or texting friends. Try not to do that. Instead, relish the time to connect more deeply to yourself. Ponder questions like, “What am I grateful for?” or “If I could do anything, what would I do?” Give yourself a compliment by answering the question, “What do I love most about myself?” Just don’t forget the dessert!

See also These Photos of Famous Yogis will Inspire You to Find Your Light



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