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Yoga program teaches young learners mindfulness, preventing future substance use

JAMIE DANIELS FOUNDATION
Loudermilk leads a classroom yoga session

At West Bloomfield elementary schools students are learning to cope with life’s stresses in a healthy way; with yoga. 

This January, the Greater West Bloomfield Community Coalition launched a pilot yoga program with preventing substance use disorder at its heart, benefiting more than 500 children with the help of $3,000 in grant support from the Jamie Daniels Foundation.

The yoga program has two goals: improve well-being and build emotional resilience among students by teaching them how to keep a positive mindset when faced with challenging times in their lives.

The idea is that if students are taught yoga in their school environment, they will continue to use yoga and related techniques outside of school, on their own. And when children are taught these life skills from the start they can continue to rely on that skill set as teenagers or young adults, rather than turning to drugs and alcohol for comfort.

“We are planting critical social-emotional and mental health seeds that will continue to grow and give our children healthy tools to navigate life,” said Emma Loudermilk, the program’s yoga instructor. “By pairing yoga and mindfulness techniques, such as breathing and focused listening, we increase student awareness, improve concentration and reduce stress, providing an overall feeling of happiness.”

Now when children experience feelings of stress, depression, and rejection, they will be better equipped to manage those feelings. They can tap into their mindfulness training and coping skills learned in yoga instead of using less healthy ways, such as substances.

In addition, research says the discipline developed by using contemplative practices in yoga can help children learn to deal with complex stressors including anxiety, trauma, bullying, abuse and learning disabilities. As a result, this can mean the difference between failure and success in both their professional and personal life according to the National Institute of Health. 

“Students leave class feeling more connected to themselves and the world around them, which creates a lasting positive ripple effect in both the school and community environment,” said Loudermilk.

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