Elementary students learn yoga, mindfulness

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - We all know there are benefits to staying active and eating right, but what about handling stress properly?

Students and teachers at Darden Elementary School in South Bend are staying mindful and learning yoga through a new program that is teaching skills that will last a lifetime.

"MindfulU is a program we founded because we're passionate about bringing this to school communities," said Rachael Von Eschenbeach, co-founder of MindfulU.

"We've really been trying to find a way to create a culture at Darden that students and staff are really incorporating mindfulness," Darden Principal Patty Karban explained. "We want to increase students' focus and make them more resilient. We feel by incorporating the yoga and mindfulness activities daily, we're going to see some success and, hopefully at the end, see some nice peer relationships."

Once a week, second-graders are led through yoga and mindfulness sessions by Von Eschenbeach and Mindi Dugard, who co-founded MindfulU.

"Yoga and mindfulness have many researched benefits," Dugard said. "From a learning perspective, helping children to increase their focus and their attention, allowing them to learn how to have self-control, paying attention to, listening to instruction."

Mindfulness doesn't just help children slow down and take a break from phones or video games but work on their reactions to stressful situations as well.

The instructors teach the children to use an imaginary pinwheel when they get upset, angry or stressed.

"When I was playing with my cousin, he punched me and I got mad," second-grader Sanai Pickens said. "So, I pulled out my spinning wheel and closed my eyes and breathed and [blew] on it."

The classes are free for students to participate in and are provided through Title I funds.

Karban hopes to expand the program in the future to teach more students at different grade levels.

To learn more about the benefits of mindfulness or learn more about MindfulU, click here.