Presenter Spotlight: [Louise Goldberg, Founder of Creative Relaxation, Co-Author of S.T.O.P and Relax]
What is your background with yoga? How did you get started with your practice?
I started practicing yoga in the late 1970’s, during a transitional period in my life–the end of a long term relationship, relocating to another state, the loss of a close family member. It was the one constant during all those changes. I became certified at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Canada in 1981 and never looked back! I started teaching in the PE department in the college where I was already an adjunct teaching English. Gradually, yoga shifted from my love to my career–and still is my love!
What inspired you to teach kids yoga?
I had been an English teacher and a reading specialist at the high school and middle school level before becoming a yoga teacher. One of my first opportunities–in 1982– was to teach yoga in a hospital for children with severe emotional and neurological challenges. Many of the kids were residents, and it was a sad place to live. On the days my colleague and I came into the school, everyone–the teachers, the kids, even we yoga teachers–were amazed at the moments of calm in the classrooms. The kids were desperate for some peace, and yoga provided that for them. It was transformational for all of us. I worked with that community for many years, and then in 2000, had the opportunity to bring yoga to the autism clusters in my school district. Again, we saw amazing results. Now, that doesn’t mean that it changed the challenges faced by these kids. But it gave them tools for a moment or two of calm. And for some, tools for self-regulation in the face of daily stress. It helped kids interact in playful ways, even those who were very withdrawn. And we saw anxious children slow themselves down. I teach inclusive classes now, for children of varied abilities, as well as for those with autism and special needs. It still thrills me to see the kids respond to yoga, whether working with typical kids of those with unique challenges.
Has yoga connected you to your community in any unexpected ways?
My work with children with special needs has connected me to an entire community that I might never have known. Parents and educators are so grateful to learn yoga strategies to implement in their homes or classrooms. Physical and occupational therapists find these interventions appropriate for many of the children in their care. Through parent/child classes–typical and special needs kids–I’ve seen families bond and connect , often without words, in meaningful ways. Yoga is the great leveler. When we get on the ground with our children or our students, we strip away the boundaries and commune heart to heart. It’s a privilege to be a catalyst in this way.
What is your vision for the future of children’s yoga?
With my newest book, Classroom Yoga Breaks, I’ve put forth a program that facilitates the use of one to five-minute yoga breaks in classes for all ages and abilities. There are curricula for inclusion in math, writing, and art programs, for example. It includes guidelines for using yoga for SEL competencies and RtI interventions or as a complement to PE. My dream is for every child to practice yoga on a daily basis, which is why my book contains brief exercises for use every day of the school year. As a former teacher, I know how difficult it is to take time away from instruction. That’s why I included so much scientific validation in the text, to show that a few minutes of movement and/or breathing can trigger a change that promotes learning. Those of us who practice and teach know that this is true: we can shift our nervous system with one deep breath. To empower our youth in this way will create a more peaceful school environment and a community who recognizes the value and power of yoga.