LFY founder Jennifer Cohen Harper was recently interviewed, along with Traci Childress, by Kelli Love for YogaDork on the process of creating Best Practices for Yoga in Schools, a guidebook published by the Yoga Service Council and Omega Institute. Read these short exceprts below and find the full interview, in two parts, on the YogaDork website.
By Kelli Love -
"As a person who teaches yoga in schools full time, I found the guide to be well organized and a thorough resource for anyone wanting to bring yoga to youth in a school setting. This is the first example of a text from children’s yoga experts who offer what they have found to be effective, but who aren’t marketing their own agenda for a particular kind of yoga practice or children’s yoga programming.
READ PART ONE OF THE INTERVIEW: Jenn and Traci answer questions about why this resource is needed and how it came together, and discuss topics including school/yoga program communication, and the need for secular programming
Kelli: Aside from our legal obligation toward secularism in schools, why does it matter that children’s yoga teachers bring a secular yoga to school communities?
Jenn: Yoga service providers working in schools have an obligation to recognize and uphold the principles of secularism, and respect the diverse religious and nonreligious beliefs of the school community, both in principle and practice. You mentioned that this is a legal requirement, but offering secular programming is also important in order to maximize the inclusivity and accessibility of our programs.
Secularism is not just about complying with the letter of the law and “getting in the door.” It’s about creating a space that is welcoming to all and where everyone can feel fully included. Children can’t feel fully safe participating in practices that their parents and other community members are uneasy with or opposed to, and public school must be a place where all students and families are respected. A commitment to secularism is a commitment to putting children and their communities first, and ensuring that our classrooms are spaces where all kids are safe to engage, learn and grow. In addition, programs that attempt to offer spiritual or religious programming in schools ultimately put all school based yoga in jeopardy, as there is a clear legal obligation, as well as motivate parents willing to challenge yoga programs in court.
READ PART TWO OF THE INTERVIEW: Jenn and Traci answer questions about body image, classroom mangagement resources and ways yoga teachers can stay connected to a larger community and other experts in allied fields.
Kelli: Can you speak to the pitfalls of “being everything” as a children’s yoga teacher and why it’s so important that professionals bringing yoga to youth in schools deliberately build relationships with other experts?
Traci: Education is an interdisciplinary venture; there is no way one person can understand and provide for the needs of every child they work with. If we want to serve the whole child, we have to maintain relationships across disciplines; we need to engage with people in the fields of education, mindfulness, social and emotional learning, transformative education, and psychology and human development. Having professional supports for advice and to support our own on-going education is essential.