As a Unit 5 first grade teacher, Abby Lyons uses yoga and mindfulness to connect with students, educators, and families in Bloomington-Normal. Miss Lyons’s model for yoga and mindfulness starts close to home, with her personal practice. She is committed to her own self-care and wellness so she can hold space and empower others to explore how self-care and wellness can manifest in their lives. In her classroom, Miss Lyons empowers her six and seven year old students, putting the owness on them to take deep breaths (which they practice every morning) when the student starts to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or excited. 

    Miss Lyon’s class uses various mindfulness strategies including breathwork, yoga poses, and connecting activities to pay attention to how big emotions impact themselves and others. When unregulated, big emotions can look like tantrums, aggression, and withdraw in children and adults. When regulated, big emotions can allow children to reflect, process, and communicate what they need. Miss Lyons’s goal is to empower her students with a toolkit of strategies that allow them to self-regulate and explore what they need to be well. 

    Her students are empowered to be responsible for their own well-being have the autonomy to tell the other learners in the community what they need. They are also empowered to be leaders in the school community. One day the class invited an overwhelmed third grade student into their classroom to show him how to breathe and calm his body and brain. Then, two of Ms. Lyons’ students taught a fifth grade class the mechanics of breathing deeply and led a discussion around the purpose of mindfulness. 

    From a foundation of yoga and mindfulness, students have built a deep capacity for empathy and understanding, which allows them to work in groups to problem-solve, create, innovate, and ask new questions. The class recently completed a project called, “Kids Who Tell the Truth,” which is a biographical and chronological study based on the Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits by artist, Robert Shetterly. Students are completing textual analyses of various biographical sources, conducting interviews with family members, and building a comprehensive timeline to explore the complexities of history. On any given day, you will see her students having in-depth discussions about oppression, rights, big emotions, community impact and day-to-day conflicts that we all encounter.