Randi Jo Taurel, a Park City yoga instructor, leads students at Trailside Elementary School in a session of breathing and relaxation. Taurel teaches a voluntary yoga course at the school each Monday before school, and she says that students learning how to meditate and relax can lead to success in the classroom. (Courtesy of Randi Jo Taurel)Anyone who has ever contracted a dreaded case of the Mondays knows it can be tough to start the week after a weekend of fun and relaxation.
Elementary school students are no exception. But now, some of them in the Park City School District are learning how to use yoga to shake off the Monday blues and get the week off on the right foot. Randi Jo Taurel, a Park City-based yoga coach, has been holding informal classes this year with students at Trailside Elementary School on Monday mornings before the school day starts.
The classes are called Mindful Mondays, and Taurel instructs the students in breathing and guided meditation. The goal is to get them into a clear mindset, where they are ready to learn and tackle the day.
“It’s proven that with adults and kids, if you can meditate or pause and breath and think positive thoughts, it can help everything,” said Taurel, who also offers short yoga classes during recess on Mondays at Trailside. “It’s going to help these kids if they have a test or a presentation, it’s going to make them more positive with the kids around them. Hopefully there will be less bullying. And they’ll be open to learning.”
She added that students often carry as much stress as adults, and meditation or relaxation can be a great way to relieve the tension. “Some of these kids are up before school figure skating at practice, or they go to school and they have a big presentation they’re nervous about to get in front of the whole group,” she said.
“They go on the playground, and the kids aren’t being so nice. It’s the same as the stress that we have, just in a different place.”Taurel, who has been doing after-school and summer programs with Park City schools for years and does a similar yoga course at Ecker Hill Middle School, said participation in the voluntary Mindful Mondays at Trailside has been steadily growing. Students have embraced the concepts and have enjoyed squeezing sessions of meditation into their school days.
“I know a lot of the older kids, so it’s been fun to work with them, but I’ve found it’s the little kids that were really enthusiastic,” Taurel said. “Some kids come each week, but every week I’ve been getting new kids and more kids. And they come in and are so happy to be there. It’s just amazing.”
Taurel also organizes a morning announcement segment at Trailside each Monday in which a student leads the entire student body in a minute of breathing and relaxation through the schoolwide PA and video system. McPolin Elementary School is set to begin doing similar morning announcements this month, and Taurel hopes to get a grant to begin providing even more sessions for students in the future. “The idea is to have it everywhere and to have more programs and more availability,” she said. “It can even be just a minute of pausing and breathing and ‘Don’t you feel better already?’ That’s all it is. You don’t have to sit in the corner, facing east, with a statue of a god or goddess. You just have to pause at your desk or when you’re walking through the hall when classes change.”
Interest in the yoga sessions has even gone beyond the students. Taurel said that many teachers are hoping to get in on the action, too. “The teachers need relaxation for themselves,” she said. “And they also want to incorporate this into their classrooms. Hopefully that’s the next step, teaching them how to bring it into the classrooms.”
Taurel said that seeing students and teachers embrace yoga has been “amazing,” because she has long used the practice to make her own life better. She wants to share what she has learned with others.
“It’s incredible because I think people are much more open to yoga,” she said. “A lot of adults are actually doing yoga, or their doctors are saying, ‘Maybe you should be open to some meditation.’ It’s happening. It’s out in the world now and it’s acceptable.”